Numbers, Baby!

Numbers

If a number is one or two words, or begins a sentence, spell it out. Otherwise, use figures.

Wrong:

For 13 tortuous dates I had to listen to Tiffany’s inane chatter about her ex-boyfriend, her manicures, her hemorrhoids, and I had to watch her light up the hash pipe before we boinked, But those 13 tortuous dates are over. I am free! Free! Free!

Right:

For thirteen tortuous dates I had to listen to Tiffany’s inane chatter about her ex-boyfriend, her manicures, her hemorrhoids, and I had to watch her light up the hash pipe before we boinked, But those thirteen tortuous dates are over. I am free! Free! Free!

A sentence starts with a number. You have two choices: spell out the number or rewrite the sentence.

Wrong:

125,000 parasitic worms were living in my intestinal tract, causing me nausea, weakness, insomnia, and pain.

Better:

Doctors estimated that 125,000 parasitic worms were living in my intestinal tract, causing me nausea, weakness, insomnia, and pain.

Use figures for addresses, dates, percents, fractions, scores, decimals, statistics, exact money amounts, divisions of books and plays, pages, ID numbers, and time.

Addresses: I grew up at 45 Gurley Road, Stamford, Connecticut, a street that dead-ended on the Long Island Sound.

Dates: On September 11, 2001, I witnessed the catastrophe from my rooftop in Brooklyn.

Percents: After my visit to Yankee Stadium, I concluded that 72% of Yankee fans are dicks; the remainder are mentally ill.

Fractions: I added ½ a cup of Coca Cola to the pot roast, a move of such utter genius that my family, some 22 years later, still begs me for the recipe.

Scores: The Mets whipped the Yankees 10-2, whipped their sorry asses so severely that those pinstriped cry babies couldn’t sit or shit for a week.

Decimals: It’s a sad fact that 0.82 of all men who shoot their wives do so after the divorce, while .73 of women who shoot their husbands do so while they are still married. No woman, however, has ever shot her husband while he’s doing the dishes.

Statistics: The average brain weight of a human brain is 3 pounds; average weight of Yankee fan brains is 1.3 pounds.

Exact money amounts: In 2001, I made $42,383.15 after I had my teeth laser-whitened, my skin tanning machine bronzed, and my posture straightened by 30 sessions with an Alexander Technique specialist.

Divisions of books: In volume 8, chapter 1, page 702, I learned that the closest thing to a Japanese wife is a Jewish husband.

Divisions of plays: In Shakespeare’s Othello, act 5, scene 2, Othello says, “I took by the throat the circumcised dog and smote him thus,” just before stabbing himself.

ID numbers: After the fire, all that was left was a tattooed serial number 32455500921, and a stick of Wrigley’s Big Red, cinnamon-flavored chewing gum.

Time: At precisely 4:30 a.m., I pulled my Checker cab onto the Queensborough Bridge, carrying two strippers from Scores, three sticks of dynamite, four tabs of windowpane acid, five filter-less Camels, six xiao long bao dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai Dumplings in Chinatown, seven double cheeseburgers from White Castle, eight AirLight, Rimfire, Model 10, 600 Series. Smith & Wesson revolvers, nine Trojan ultra-ribbed ecstasy condoms, and ten rotten teeth.

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