Writing Style – Starting a Sentence With a Number

Judy’s question: “I was taught that when beginning a sentence with a number it should be written out, regardless of whether it is smaller or larger than nine. For example, ‘Thirteen food handlers successfully certified in our safe food handling course this month.’ Is this still correct? Also, I sometimes see it written as ‘Thirteen (13) food handlers successfully certified in our safe food handling course this month.’ Is this correct or necessary?”

BizWritingTip response: Yes, you are right about the numbers. At the start of a sentence, write the number out. It doesn’t matter whether the number is above or below ten.

Example
Thirteen people certified as food handlers.
Nine proposals were received.
One hundred and thirty-eight people signed up for the conference.

Some style books now allow sentences to start with a year in numeral form.

Example
2012 is a year of unusual weather patterns.
Others advise you to flip the sentence so this does not occur.

Example
The year 2012 is one of unusual weather patterns.

Remember: This is a style issue — not a grammar one. Your organization can choose its own style.

In business writing, never follow a written number with the numeral form or vice versa. It is redundant.

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