When is it ok to use symbol "#" vs. the word "number" in writing? Ex. Vendor # or Vendor number; Job # or Job Number?

  • In normal prose, you spell out words. In technical contexts, like say the column headers of an invoice, or a SQL table, symbols save space and typing, and are commonly used. In informal, ephemeral settings, emails to colleagues, short text exchanges, symbols are also used to save typing. But for formal or otherwise "lasting" works, spell out the words (where local convention doesn't otherwise specify).
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 21, 2018 at 18:30
  • I don’t think there’s enough information here to give a good answer. What are you writing? A tweet? An academic paper? A table for an academic paper? Also, are you using a style guide?
    – Laurel
    Oct 21, 2018 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


It is generally unacceptable in UK English, except where there is not room even to write no. or where this could cause confusion. Of course nothing is stationary and its use is increasing, although some consider this an Americanism. I will let others answer for other varieties of English but please make it clear which variety your answer relates to.

  • 1
    Using a hash sign, "#", in place of "number" or "no." is, in British eyes, definitely an Americanism Oct 22, 2018 at 12:55
  • There seems to me no question that the hash would be understood properly in BrE, in formulations such as "Job #"
    – Steve
    Aug 11, 2020 at 14:18

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