The advice proffered here is meant primarily for standard academic prose. Business and technical writing sometimes goes by a different set of standards, and writers of those kinds of text should consult a manual dedicated to those standards. (The APA Publication Manual has an extensive section devoted to the use of numbers in technical papers. The Chicago Manual of Style [chapter 13] addresses just about every issue that might come up in a technical or mathematical text.)

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  • Consistency is important here!

  • To avoid confusion by running numbers together, combine words and numerals when one number follows another. Generally, write out the shorter number.

  • Avoid beginning a sentence with a number that is not written out.

  • Use figures instead of words for

    Numbered, Vertical ("Display"), and Bulleted Lists

    Writing and reference manuals offer different advice for creating lists. It seems that as long as you're consistent within your document, you can devise just about any means you want for creating your lists, whether you want them as run-in lists (built into the flow of your text) or as vertical lists (indented and stacked up). Technical writing may have its own requirements in this regard, and you should consult a technical writing manual for specific rules. Use parentheses around the numbers (no periods after the number, though) when using a run-in list:

    I have three items to discuss: (1) the first item; (2) the second item; and (3) the third item.

    Use semicolons to separate the items, whether they're expressed as fragments or full sentences.

    For a vertical list (sometimes called a display list), you may choose to capitalize the items or not, and you may choose to put a comma after each item or not. (If you use commas, put a period after the last item.)

    We will now review the following three principles:

    1. fairness in recruiting
    2. academic eligibility
    3. scholarly integrity

    Your choice to capitalize or not may depend on how elaborate your lists are and how many of them you have in your text. If a vertical list contains complete sentences or lengthy and complex items, you may prefer to end each element in the list with a semicolon, except for the last element, which you will end with a period.

    Most coaches conform to three basic principles in recruiting new players:

    1. Look for players first who can fill those positions you will need the subsequent year;
    2. Look for players who are "court smart" as opposed to being merely athletic;
    3. Look for players who are academically eligible and who have an academic purpose in going to college.

    Although the elements in the list above begin with capital letters, that is not absolutely necessary. Notice that there is no "and" at the end of the next-to-last element (although some reference manuals allow for or recommend its use). Although we have used numbers for this list, bullets would work equally well if numbering seems inappropriate or irrelevant. The list below is based on a format suggested by the New York Public Library's Writer's Guide to Style and Usage:

    Most coaches conform to three basic principles in recruiting new players—

    • Look for players first who can fill those positions you will need the subsequent year
    • Look for players who are "court-smart" as opposed to being merely athletic
    • Look for players who are academically eligible and who have an academic purpose in going to college
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    Note that this format does not include a period even at the end of the last element. Most writers, however, want to use some kind of punctuation in their listed items. When the introductory statement is a complete sentence, you can end it with either a period or a colon. Use a colon if the sentence is clearly anticipatory of the list, especially if it contains phrasing such as the following or as follows. A colon is also appropriate if the list that follows will be numbered or will establish a priority order. If the introductory statement is not a complete statement, however, neither a period nor a colon would be appropriate since that would interrupt the grammatical structure of the statement; use either no punctuation or try the dash technique noted above.

    Listing Names in Alphabetical Order

    Putting people's names in alphabetical order is done on a letter-by-letter basis, taking into consideration all the letters before the comma that separates the last from the first name. Omit titles (such as Lady, Sir, Sister), degrees (M.D., Ph.D.), etc., that precede or follow names. A suffix that is an essential part of the name — such as Jr., Sr., or a roman numeral — appears after the given name, preceded by a comma. (Ford, Henry J., III or Pepin, Theophilus, Jr.)

    Beethoven, Ludwig van (The van or von in Dutch or German names, if not capitalized by family usage,appears after the first name; if capitalized, it appears before the last name and determines the alphabetical order.)
    D'Annunzio, Gabriele
    Deere-Brown, Juan (Ignore the hyphen.)
    Deere-Brown, Juan-Poivre
    Dante Alighieri (Some Italian names of the 15th century or before are alphabetized by first name)
    D'Arcy, Pierre
    de Gaulle, Charles (With French names, the de goes before the last name when the last name contains only one syllable. See de Maupassant, below.)
    Descartes, René
    Ford, Henry E., III
    Garcia Lorca, Federico (Use full surnames for Spanish names.)
    López y Quintana, María
    MacDonald, George
    Maupassant, Guy de
    M'Cauley, Josephine
    McCullers, Carson
    Morris, Robert
    Morris, William
    Morrison, Toni
    O'Keeffe, Georgia (Ignore the apostrophe.)
    Pepin, R. E.
    Pepin, Theophilus, Jr.
    Pepino, D.
    Rueda, Lope de (For Spanish names, de comes after the first name)
    Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de
    San Marco, Josefina
    St. Denis, Ruth
    Von Braun, Werner (See Beethoven, above.)