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Using Numbers in MLA Style

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You’ll need to know when and how to write out numbers in your MLA style school essay. The rules are easy to follow as MLA does try to make it simple to write and organize papers in this style.

Student Using Numbers in MLA Style

Arabic or Roman Numerals

Although you will use Arabic numerals for numbers that are not spelled out, you may find you use Roman numerals in certain cases. For example, the introduction in a book may be paginated in Roman numerals, in which case you would use those page numbers as is for a citation.

Other Ways to Use Roman Numerals

  • If you’re discussing rulers such as Henry VIII
  • To format your MLA outline

Which Numbers Are Spelled Out?

If you can spell out a number in one word (or two), write it out.

Example

Six, thirty-two, three million

189, 1, 879, 3 ¾

 

If you’re writing a technical report with a lot of numbers, use numerals

Example

5 inches – not five inches

20 kilograms – not twenty kilograms

6.5 quarts – not six and one-half quarts

 

It’s best to use numerals if you have a large amount of data that you’re comparing or explaining as part of your report. Remember to make it easy for your reader to understand the data, make it as organized as possible. For example, if you are presenting numerical data from tables or charts, use the same format even if the data is presented in different ways. If one research paper presents data in numerals but the other paper you’re comparing data uses numbers, select one way to present the relevant data. That way, your reader can easily understand the difference.

Combining Numerals and Words

If you have a large number such as 18.6 million dollars, you can combine the numeral 18.6 with the word million.

Other Numbering Rules

Use numerals:
In street addresses
With abbreviations
In decimal fractions
Numbered series items

 

Spell out the number if it’s the first word in the sentence.

Street addresses will always use numerals as in 1424 1/2 Sims Drive.

When writing out a series of numbers, use numerals.

Example

Two hundred and fifty people attended the concert last night.

 

Knowing when to spell out numbers or use numerals in your paper, helps keep the information flowing consistently and guides the reader. You always want to make sure the reader can understand the data and thesis as clearly and easily as possible.

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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