5.04 Initial numbers

Spell out a number—or the word number—when it occurs at the beginning of a sentence, as well as any related numbers that closely follow it:

  • Three hundred persons were expected, but only twenty-three showed up.
  • Number 6 was the last in the series; there was no number 7.

Where this would result in a cumbersome construction, recast the sentence. The first sentence above could be rewritten as

  • A crowd of 300 was expected, but only 23 showed up.

To avoid starting with a number, it may be possible to end the preceding sentence with a semicolon or to punctuate in some other manner. Instead of writing

  • But that was now in the past. 1994 was another year.

you could insert a semicolon after past or write ". . . in the past, and 1994 . . . ."

In accordance with 5.10 Quantities and measures, a number followed by a unit of measurement may have to be written in numerals. Thus, to avoid using numerals at the start of a sentence, rewrite

  • 18.3 cm/s was the best result we could obtain.


  • A result of 18.3 cm/s was the best we could obtain.


  • Eighteen point three . . .