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I need to list off a few large numbers (with thousands separators) in a sentence.

The total number of observations, N=55,123, comprises 92596, 51456, 7714 and 2445 from the first, second, third and fourth rounds, respectively.

I've tried structuring it as follows, but it doesn't look right.

The total number of observations (N=55,123) comprises 92,596; 51,456; 7,714 and 2,445 from the second to fifth round, respectively.

Any suggestions as to the best way to do this?

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    Is your audience exclusively US based? If not, you might consider using a thin space instead of a comma,: 92 596, 51 456, etc., as per Wikipedia. Nov 17, 2015 at 22:10
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    @MattSamuel I get that too, but if N is around 50K and it "comprises" something that's 92K, then something's wrong. Or is it just me?
    – deadrat
    Nov 17, 2015 at 23:32
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    If the text is likely to be typeset by someone else, scanned into a text file, or text-processed in some other way, one needs to consider that a scheme dependent purely on spacing is apt to be corrupted.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 17, 2015 at 23:33
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    A workable alternative would be to use a table with two columns, where one column is the index of the observation and the other column is the value. It would likely also be clearer. Nov 17, 2015 at 23:39
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    @user2146441 But if you used the raw data, then the numbers would add up to N, right? To make up for my distracting comments, I feel I owe you an answer. No matter how you punctuate a linear list of numbers, it will be hard to read, especially since the word respectively forces your reader to reparse to align the numbers with the rounds. Consider using a table.
    – deadrat
    Nov 17, 2015 at 23:40

1 Answer 1

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As @Matt Samuel and @deadrat state in their comments, "Consider using a table." Or a list.

[Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Tables] Section 2.1 Appropriate use, Extract: Tables are a way of presenting links, data, or information in rows and columns. They are a complex form of list, formatted into a systematic grid pattern. Tables might be useful for presenting mathematical data such as multiplication tables, comparative figures, or sporting results.

Consider your: The total number of observations, N=55,123, comprises 92596, 51456, 7714 and 2445 from the first, second, third and fourth rounds, respectively.

V.

The total number of observations, N=55,123, comprises of:

  • 1st Round - 92596
  • 2nd Round - 51456
  • 3rd Round - 7714
  • 4th Round - 2445

V.

A table.

From personal experience as soon as more than 3 sets of numerals need to be displayed it all starts to look very messy and confusing. Changing style to a list or a table cleans up the text enabling to the reader to extract the data they need easily.

How you format the numerals will depend on your target audience.

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