10 ways to use numbers in your writing
How many times have you clicked on a story with the headline: “5 easy tips for…” or “10 of the best…”.
Plenty I'm guessing! Especially if you love sites like Buzzfeed. Why? Because people love reading lists! It sparks curiosity and makes the copy scannable.
Body copy can also benefit from the interest numbers can bring.
There are no exact rules to follow when using numbers, but there are some style guides you can follow.
Here are some of my favourite tips I’ve found over the years:
1. Use numbers in headlines to catch the reader's attention.
“10 places to explore this summer”
2. In body copy, spell out numbers from one to nine. Use figures for 10 and above.
3. Always spell out numbers if starting a sentence with them.
“Fifty years ago we didn’t have mobile phones.”
4. Add some context to help the reader visualise.
“He ate 200 calories of walnuts which equates to about 10 individual nuts.”
5. 100s and 1000s don’t need apostrophes. Nor does the 1980s.
6. It’s even nicer if you spell out hundreds and thousands, or decades like the eighties.
7. Percentages can also help readers visualise too.
“Only 25 percent of the population eats breakfast each day.”
8. And yep, it’s better to write out percent (US English) or per cent (UK English) than to use the % symbol.
9. Always use numbers for ages.
“She was 25 years old when she won the Olympics.”
10. Use creative language around numbers to sell your products. Yup, it's marketing.
"Stylish new summer dress from only $65."
Just be consistent in whatever style you decide to follow to help your readers.
Most of these tips are recommended in the AP Stylebook, also known as the copywriting bible.