In AMA style, numerals are used for 1 through 9, but "one," when used as a pronoun, is spelled out. Easy enough. But now I'm looking at a sentence that says this:

Drug A enhances the performance of Drug B when the two are used in combination.

A colleague of mine changed "two" to "2," but I'm not sure that's right. "The two" seems to be synonymous with "(the) both," which is a pronoun.

Given all this, would "the two" be spelled out according to the same rule by which "one" is spelled out?

  • 1
    One might argue that "one" as a pronoun is different from "two" as a pronoun. And indeed, Oxford Dictionaries Online says that "one" can be a pronoun, but says nothing similar about "two" as a pronoun. You could just replace "the two" with "both" or "they" to avoid the issue altogether. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:26
  • @PeterShor Using "both" was what I ended up suggesting, but I'd still like to settle the original issue. Thanks for the input.
    – nomad
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:41
  • I suspect, since they don't mention "two as a pronoun", and the use of "one" as a pronoun for a general person isn't reflected by any corresponding use of "two", that they would want "the 2". I don't like it, either. But dictionaries differ in whether "two" can count as a pronoun. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:44
  • @PeterShor Good point. I guess it's really an issue of strict vs. broad constructionism, whether we're meant to extrapolate from the rules written or just stick to what it literally says. I'm not sure what the preference is with AMA, honestly.
    – nomad
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:53
  • @nomad I have never heard of this protocol before. Is it something unique to the AMA or is it a general practice across medicine everywhere?
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


Your two should be spelled out. I cannot imagine any style editor anywhere demanding a numeral there. It's not a cardinal number in that context.

Use words to express numbers that occur at the beginning of a sentence, title, subtitle, or heading; for common fractions; for accepted usage and numbers used as pronouns;...

AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors (10th edition)

  • Nailed it, thank you. It's bizarre AMA has a separate article about spelling out "one" even though it says right there to spell out numbers used as pronouns.
    – nomad
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 13:52

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