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Unless the style guide I am using says otherwise, I always spell out numbers less than 11 ("We have 7 new customers" = "We have seven new customers") unless it's a percentage or an ordinal number or something like that.

However, I am wondering if there is any rule of thumb for spelling out number ranges when the numbers are less than 11. For example, if I'm proofreading a text and it says:

"We take on 5-7 new customers each week"

Do you think it's a good idea to spell it out, i.e.

"We take on five to seven customers each week"

I know that it depends on the client and the style guidelines in use, but if there are none available, is there are standard for this?

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    There are previous questions on the topic, some are in the 'Related' panel on the right. It's a matter of context too: I would write "3 four-legged animals" which makes it easier to parse using a different style for each number. Jun 16, 2021 at 9:33
  • If the style guide doesn't mention ranges, I'd certainly assume the same rules apply as for other numbers, and use "five to seven" not "5-7". The rule is that you do what you're told unless it states an exception or is obviously bizarre or very hard to adhere to in your particular situation, and spelling out a range in words is not very onerous.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 16, 2021 at 10:12
  • Thanks Stuart F. Jun 16, 2021 at 10:27
  • Weather Vane - I'm afraid you misunderstood the question. Jun 16, 2021 at 10:27
  • The idea is to let the text look like a text, with normal-shaped and -sized words, instead of equations. So the practice of spelling out numbers is usually restricted to numbers or ranges that would appear shorter or longer than a normal word-length without spelling. Thus we write four to five instead of 4-5; seven million, instead of 7,000,000 Similar remarks on lakh and crore for Indian English. Jun 16, 2021 at 15:31

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Usually style guides and editors will default to using numerals for ranges. For instance, the recent MLA Handbook (9th edition) does say that you should write out "numbers that can be written in a word or two" (section 2.127) but gives examples that suggest ranges are an exception:

2-3

10-12

21-48

89-99 (MLA 9, section 2.139)

For APA, APA 6 and 7 don't explicitly give rules for number ranges below 10, but it does list several times when numerals would be used for 1-10, including "numbers that denote a specific place in a numbered series and parts of books and tables" (APA 7, section 6.32). A blog post about APA 6 also seems to excuse the use of a numerical range:

APA Style does not have explicit rules for ranges of numbers, except for when referring to a page range or a range of dates in a reference list entry. Numerous examples in Chapter 7 of the Publication Manual show both numbers in a page range being written out in full, regardless of size, and example 23 on page 204 demonstrates the same concept applied to a range of years. These rules relate to APA Style’s emphasis on the importance of specificity and clarity in scientific writing. Thus, a range of numbers (10–40; 101–109; 5,000–5,025; 90,013–90,157) or dates (1999–2003; 2009–2012) should never be abbreviated. (APA Style Blog)

The Chicago Manual of Style prefers that numbers 1-100 (or 1-10) be written out, but has no issue with ranges using numerals:

Please refer to pages 75–110.

Here are the figures for 2000–2009.

Campers were divided into age groups 5–7, 8–10, 11–13, and 14–16. (Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition, section 9.60).

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  • Does MLA really suggest using hyphens and not dashes?
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 16, 2021 at 16:01
  • @AndrewLeach In MLA, it depends on the format. "In research papers and other manuscripts, hyphens can also be used to indicate number ranges. Professionally typeset publications like this one, however, use en dashes in number ranges." (Section 2.48) Jun 16, 2021 at 16:48
  • Thank you TaliesinMerlin and John Lawler! Jun 17, 2021 at 15:39

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