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MLA Style Guide: Using Numbers

Using Numbers in an Essay

  1. Numbers that can be expressed in either one or two words should be written out. 


  •   one million
  •    ninety-nine
  •    one hundred
  •    fifteen hundred
  1. Numbers that are longer than two words or are similar to the following examples should be typed numerically.


  • 2 ½
  • 8.3
  • 101
  • 1,275
  • $5.50
  • 3 kilograms
  • 4.5 million
  1. Always spell out the number in sentences that begin with a number.

Example: Two thousand sixteen was an election year in the United States.



When Should I Use Numerals?

If you are writing an essay about a scientific subject or any essay that includes frequent use of numbers, like statistical findings, always use numerals. 

  1. Numerals should also be used in front of units of measurements.

Example: 5 millimeters

  1. Always use numerals with abbreviations such as 6 lbs., 4:20 p.m., $9, 2”, 4%.
  2. With dates: Example: April 1, 2014
  3. With decimals or fractions: Example: 9.2


  1. For large numbers, you may use a combination of numerals and words.

Example: 4.5 million

  1. In general use numerals with % signs, however, you may spell out percentages or amounts of money if you can do so in three words or less. 

Example: five dollars, forty-five percent, sixty-eight cents.