APA-Style Numbers—Q & A
Client Callie asked me, “Do you have some information you can refer me to about listing numbers throughout a thesis, as in when to use digits and when to spell out? I’m familiar with AP style (not APA).”
This is what I told Callie:
In general, spell out numbers less than 10, and use figures for numbers 10 and greater. But (there is always a but, right?), be sure to use figures
- for numbers in a graphical display of a paper;
- for numbers immediately preceding a unit of measurement;
- for statistical and math functions, fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios, percentiles, and quartiles;
- for numbers that represent dates, ages, scores, points on a scale, exact sums of money, and exact representations of time; and
- for numbers that denote a specific place in a numbered series, parts of books and tables, and each number in a list of four or more numbers (e.g., Grade 8, Table 2, row 5).
Use words to express
- numbers at the beginning of a sentence, title, or text heading (reword the sentence to avoid using a number at the beginning, if possible);
- numbers used for common fractions; and
- numbers used with universally accepted usage (e.g., the Twelve Apostles).
American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
DOI—Digital Object Identifier
If your APA reference has a DOI (digital object identifier), then use the DOI. It looks like this: doi:10.1111/1467-8535.00078. The DOI is a unique and permanent identifier that will take the reader directly to a document regardless of its location on the Internet.
Sample reference with a DOI:
Davis, B., & Simmt, E. (2006). Mathematics-for-teaching: An ongoing investigation of the mathematics that teachers (need to) know. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 61(3), 293–319. doi:10.1007/s10649-006-2372-4
To locate a DOI, plug in author name and title here: http://www.crossref.org/guestquery/
If a DOI exists (it won’t always, so don’t worry if you don’t find one), it will show up with a corresponding URL. Check the URL—if it’s broken, consider not using it in your reference listing; if it doesn’t work, it won’t benefit the reader.
I’m all about single spacing after sentences. I realize double spaces were standard during typewriter days, but spacing twice after punctuation marks at the end of sentences is just not necessary anymore—unless you’re writing or editing an APA-Style paper, in which case you should definitely hit the space bar two times. Why? Because the extra room aids readers of draft manuscripts.
Still, you should insert only one space after commas, colons, and semicolons; periods that separate parts of reference citations; and periods used with initials in personal names. Oh, and don’t use internal spaces at all with abbreviations like a.m., p.m., and U.S. And when you end a sentence with an abbreviation, like I just did with U.S., there is no need for another period.
Numbers and Ages
When writing and referring to numbers, be sure to spell out numbers one through nine.
See how I just spelled out one and nine?
So, spell out numbers less than 10, but use figures for numbers 10 and higher. You know, like three and five, but 12, 25, and 101.
But not for ages, say both AP and APA Styles:
Always use figures for ages.
The boy is 11 years old.
The neighborhood is 7 years old.
The 10-year-old dog (hyphens are used for ages expressed as adjectives).
The men are in their 20s (no apostrophe).
There are other instances in which you’d use figures for numbers less than 10, but we’ll tackle that lesson another day.
Punctuation and Composition Titles
I told you I’d be back with some scoop on punctuation and composition titles. And here I am with the lowdown on what proves to be some hard-to-remember style rules. (Well, hard for me to remember, anyway.)
If you’re using AP Style (AP = Associated Press), which pretty much governs fundamental journalistic principles, put the following in quotation marks:
Computer game titles
Radio program titles
TV program titles
Titles of lectures, speeches, and works of art
Classical music title nicknames, but not classical titles identified by sequence
(Example: Ludwig van Beethoven’s ”Ode to Joy” vs. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9)
No quotes, though, for the Bible; books that are used for reference, like almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks; and the titles of magazines or chapters. No italics or underlining, either. Just the title, and that’s all.
OK, got that straight? Good. Now, let’s mix things up.
APA Style (APA = American Psychological Association) is all about scholarly standards for scientific writing. This is the style you see in journal articles that feature research and theories and methods and tables and figures, and, well, it’s not much like AP Style when it comes to titles. Put the following in italics:
TV program titles
But, put these in quotation marks:
I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how you’ll remember these variations. Me? I’ll just keep my respective style books nearby (both hard copy and e-versions), and one day, maybe, I’ll commit them to memory.
But probably not.
Punctuation and Quotation Marks
AP Style and APA Style agree when it comes to punctuation and quotation marks:
The period and comma always go inside closing quotation marks (even single marks).
Correct: I said, “The period and comma always go inside closing quotation marks.”
Incorrect: I said, “The period and comma always go inside closing quotation marks”.
Question marks and exclamation points go inside closing quotation marks (even single marks) only when they apply to the quoted material. Otherwise, they go outside.
Correct: She asked, “Did you have fun at the school carnival?”
Incorrect: She asked, “Did you have fun at the school carnival”?
Correct: Have you seen the movie, “Crazy, Stupid, Love”?
Incorrect: Have you seen the movie, “Crazy, Stupid, Love?”
Correct: Have you seen the movie, “Dude, Where’s My Car?”
(The question mark only goes inside because it is part of the title.)
All other punctuation marks (think dash, colon, and semicolon) pretty much always go outside, unless they are part of the quoted material, but I think that would be a rare find.
Note: See how I put the movie title above in quotation marks? That’s AP Style, not APA Style—APA Style puts movie titles in italics. Ugh. Lesson in punctuation composition titles TK.
TK is a proofing/copyediting mark that means to come or more information to come. (Hey, period inside the quotes!)