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numbers starting a sentence

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 be awkward, rewrite the sentence. The first sentence above could be rewritten this way:

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

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

  • Awkward:
    • But that was now in the past. Nineteen hundred and ninety-four was another year.
  • Better:
    • But that was now in the past; 1994 was another year.
    • But that was now in the past—1994 was another year.
    • But that was now in the past, and 1994 was another year.

A number followed by a unit of measurement may have to be written in numerals.

  • 18.3 cm/s

Thus, to avoid using numerals at the start of a sentence, restructure the sentence so as to place the numeral in another position.

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

Do not leave the numeral at the beginning of the sentence or spell it out.

  • Not recommended:
    • 18.3 cm/s was the best result we could obtain.
    • Eighteen point three was the best result we could obtain.