I have learned somewhere (or maybe decided ) that any number used as a pronoun -- that is, X standing alone to represent the already stated group of X nouns -- should be spelled out, no matter how big the number. Do you know of such a rule? I see no mention of it in the Chicago Manual, which is our house manual.

The sentence I have before me is something like: "From age 54 until his death, he wrote some 271 theological works in addition to the 142 in science." I'm thinking that "142" should rightly be spelled out to give it the physical weight of its thing-ness. Yes?

Note: In this case I will simply rephrase it as "his 142 works in science" rather than spell out so big a number, but still I'd like to know whether this number-as-pronoun rule even exists. Thanks.

  • 3
    I'm guessing this is a rule you made up yourself (perhaps long ago).
    – GEdgar
    Jan 23, 2015 at 1:38

1 Answer 1


If following a 'rule' adds nothing to the clarity or comprehensibility of what is being said — and particularly if it actually degrades these attributes — then what is its value?

Clearly, writing out 'one hundred and forty-two' makes that sentence a lot more inconvenient to write, unwieldy to read, and harder to understand.

Another point: your sentence also includes the numerals 54 and 271. Spelling 142 as 'one hundred and forty-two' in the same sentence introduces an inconsistency of format which is indefensible on any but the most arbitrary grounds.

If I were you, I would simply write '142' and challenge anyone who questions your choice to a) give a satisfactory reason for doing so, and b) cite a reputable authority that is endorsed by your company to back it up.

Your house reference is the Chicago Manual, which you say is mute on the matter; all things being equal, your format decision should therefore prevail.

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