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Using Numbers in Professional Email

Business documents and emails often include numbers. When these are included in tables or diagrams it is usually clear that we should use numerals. But when it comes to passages of text it is sometimes hard to know whether to use numbers or numerals.

Using numbers in a formal letter can be confusing

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We have gathered some simple rules that will help you navigate through your writing:

Spell small numbers out. Spell out the numbers one to ten, otherwise it will look like you are sending an instant message, and not being formal. for instance: I bought two phones.

Use figures for numbers greater than ten like "I have 15 new customers".

Percentages and Fractions. With everyday writing you can use digits, like “6% of the people". In formal writing, however, you should spell the percentage out like “18 percent of our income”.

Spell out simple fractions, for instance: one-half of our revenues are from end users.

Don’t start a sentence with a numeral. Write "Fifteen of my customers asked me for a discount" and not "15 of my customers asked me for a discount". It is also important to be consistent in the same sentence. If my company hired 50 new employees this year, it also has 14 locations worldwide, not fourteen locations worldwide.

Don't use numeral for mixed fractions. A mixed fraction should be written in figures unless it is the first word of a sentence, for instance: "Last year our sales increased by 2 ½ percent".

Rounded numbers and estimation. Rounded numbers over a million are written as a numeral plus a word. Use “About 300 million of our income come from Germany,” instead of “About 300,000,000 of our income come from Germany”.

Ordinal numbers. Don’t say “She was my 1st employee,” but rather “She was my first employee.”