Numbers Exercise (756)

Revise each sentence below to reflect correct usage and style.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: He also worked for New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, running its outreach program, from 2008 to 13.
Correct : He also worked for New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, running its outreach program, from 2008 to 2013.

The second year in a range of years that uses "from" and "two" should not be abbreviated to only the last two digits.

2.
Original: The schooner, with three cabins, offers multiple decks, 21/2 bathrooms, and nautical design elements like porthole windows.
Correct : The schooner, with three cabins, offers multiple decks, 2 1/2 bathrooms, and nautical design elements like porthole windows.
Alterna.: The schooner, with three cabins, offers multiple decks, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and nautical design elements like porthole windows.

When the fraction element of a mixed fraction is typed as shown, a letter space is required between the whole number and the fraction. (When the fraction is styled with one small number directly over the other, the two separated by a narrow horizontal line—this style is known as a case fraction—no letter space is necessary.)

3.
Original: The U.S. stopover is in Boston from May 5–17.
Correct : The U.S. stopover is in Boston May 5–17.
Alterna.: The U.S. stopover is in Boston from May 5 to 17.

Both "from" and "to" are implied when an en dash is used in a number range, so it is redundant to precede the first number in the range with "from."

4.
Original: The average rainfall for December is 4.56 inches, while January and February normally get an average of 4.5 inches each. For all of January last year, there was 0.0 inches of precipitation.
Correct : The normal average rainfall for December, January, and February is about 4.5 inches, but for all of January last year, there was no precipitation at all.

The numbers in this sentence are technically correct. However, in informal contexts, quoting precise statistics is often overkill. The difference between 4.56 inches and 4.5 inches, even when the figures represent an average, is negligible (about one-sixteenth of an inch), and the use of a decimal figure to represent zero is overly precise.

5.
Original: The grandfather clock, which seemed to tick more loudly in the empty room with each passing moment, startled him when it chimed at 8 o’clock.
Correct : The grandfather clock, which seemed to tick more loudly in the empty room with each passing moment, startled him when it chimed at eight o’clock.

The informal usage "o’clock" should be preceded by a spelled-out number (and a number referring to an hour without that word—for example, "He’ll be here at eight"—should also be spelled out); numerals are appropriate for the more precise usage "8 am" or "8 pm." (Style for the abbreviations in that usage varies; some publications capitalize them and/or use periods after each letter.)

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