What I mean is, if I said "Write the number _ ", then you would write "5", "27", etc.

Whereas if I said instead "Write the number _ ", then you would write "five", "twenty-seven", etc.

I'm not just looking for the oft-used expression "write it out"....I'm wondering if there are proper terms for these two options, possibly obvious ones I'm not thinking of.

2 Answers 2


You write the number in numerals or in words. Synonyms for the latter include spell out or write out.

  • 1
    To expand on this you could say "five was written alphabetically or numerically".
    – Ste
    Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 19:35
  • 1
    @Ste The word "alphabetically" means something different. It's not appropriate in this context.
    – ba_ul
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 3:17

One could spell out the numbers:

spell out: 2. to write or print in letters and in full

Both AP and Chicago appear to use this terminology, as does MLA. This means more or less the same thing as write out, but if this is insufficiently specific for you, you could simply say to write numbers using words or to write numbers out longhand, with the additional caveat that longhand in research means the full number as opposed to its scientific notation (e.g. 25000000 instead of 2.5 × 107).

When we express a number using figures, we write with numerals.

numeral: a sign or symbol that represents a number.

If you want to be even more specific, you can specify the type of numerals: Egyptian, Mayan, Babylonian, and so on, though the only systems commonly used in primarily English-speaking countries are "Arabic" numerals (actually Indian in origin, but commonly known as Arabic) and Roman numerals.

Alternatively, you can specify that it be written using digits, or numerical digits if there could be confusion about the type of digit in use.

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