I'm writing a scientific thesis about my program. I want to write the number of responses of a questionnaire that I have developed but I don't know what is the best in this case.

Example 1:

"We received 134/150 responses."

Example 2:

"We received 134 out of 150 responses."

Example 3:

"We received one-hundred and thirty-four out of one-hundred and fifty responses."

Also i'm providing the following figure in the text.

enter image description here

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There are many conventions for writing numbers. As this page notes:

America's two most influential style and usage guides have different approaches: The Associated Press Stylebook recommends spelling out the numbers zero through nine and using numerals thereafter


The Chicago Manual of Style recommends spelling out the numbers zero through one hundred and using figures thereafter

(with various exceptions to both of those rules)

Personally, I would go with the Associated Press approach. Reading large numbers as text is harder than as digits. So use digits for numbers 10 and above.

In terms of the wording, in text I would be explicit and say "100 out of 150". In diagrams, tables or summaries it would be OK to use 100/150.

However, I don't know what "We received 100 out of 150 responses" means. If there were 50 responses that you did not receive, what happened to them? If you didn't receive them, are they really responses? So you might need to clarify the wording of that.

  • 1
    "We received 100 responses out of 150 surveys" (for example) would better differentiate the two numbers. – TaliesinMerlin Apr 28 at 14:41
  • Thanks a lot for your answers. To clarify I'm working with 1 survey which has 6 questions and up to 150 available individual responses from each questions. I'll use "We have received only the 134 out of 150 possible responses". – Loizos Vasileiou Apr 28 at 15:44
  • @LoizosVasileiou That sounds better. But ... "We have received only 134 out of the 150 possible responses" is even better! – user323578 Apr 28 at 15:47


As this is an English Language site, the first thing to deal with is the appropriate terminology for the data you wish to present. What happened, exactly? I assume that you sent out your questionnaire to 150 people (you certainly did not send out responses), but what you received were a number (less than 150) of responses. So you cannot talk about receiving ‘x/150 responses’, or ‘x out of 150 responses’.

Avoiding for the moment the x/150 format (and not writing the numbers out), I see your choice between making the distinction explicit, e.g.

We received 134 responses out of 150 questionnaires sent out

Or, using the widely used term, response rate, which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as “the number of people who answer questions in a survey (= set of questions about a product or service) as a percentage of the number of people who are asked to take it:”

I think that this is preferable as it makes your text more compact:

The response rate was 134 out of 150

And response rate is also suitable as a table heading.

Numerals or Text

I agree with @JamesRandom that numerals should be used rather than text, but the style of the Associated Press Stylebook is generally followed in scientific journals, rather than that the Chicago Manual of Style.

Thus, on p. 16 of the issue of the highly-respected (British) journal, Nature, for 4th April 2019 we have:

“Three massive detectors…officially resumed collecting data on 1 April, after a 19-month shutdown for upgrades.”

And on p.309 in the equally-respected (US) journal, Science, for 26th April 2019 we have:

“For example, polio…has been eliminated from all but three countries, with just 33 cases last year.”

Style of expression of Response Rate

This is largely subjective.

“134/150” seems to me best suited to a table, and jars a little in text because the reader has to switch registers, as it were.

“134 out of 150” seems to me better for text, but too long for a table, where it distracts from the numbers.

“89%” or “89% (150 questionnaires sent out) ” seems to best of all because the reader isn’t required to do the arithmetic himself.

Comment on your Figure

If I were talking to a student I would be brutally honest and say that the figure is really bad. I would then explain why. Why? Because the key data — the numbers — are obscured by the repetition of much less important information, some of it emboldened even though it is in parentheses. And what information are the icons intended to convey? They just distract. I would use a table with column headings to avoid repetition, and just use #1 etc. to designate the six batches (or whatever).

Result Rate Table mockup

An alternative style to put more emphasis on the actual rate is shown on the right.

  • Hi @David, thank you for your logical answer. It makes a clear sense. Although is not matching with my example. Sorry if I gave non clear information. English is not my first lango'. – Loizos Vasileiou Apr 28 at 20:19
  • @LoizosVasileiou — I was on my phone and couldn’t see the question at the same time. I’ll tidy it up on a computer tomorrow. I appreciate the problem of language, but that is often what strikes one more than the particular problem that the student is worried about. (I have supervised a lot of science students in my time.) – David Apr 28 at 22:15
  • Thanks again for your time and effort :D – Loizos Vasileiou Apr 29 at 9:06

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