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Old 02-22-2013, 10:52 AM   #1
Shaezy
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Starting a sentence with a "time" number

My husband's student asked him to review a narrative she had written. She had written the sentence "5 hours later....." and when my husband questioned the use of the numeral "5" she advised him that her tutor says the rule for referring to a "time" number should always be written as the numeral.

My understanding is that if you are writing the actual time, it's acceptable (although not a rule), but for a number under ten, and a number starting a sentence, it should the the written word.

Does anyone know if there is such a rule as her tutor advised?

Edited to add: Her tutor had corrected her initial writing of "Five hours later..." to read "5 hours later..."

Last edited by Shaezy; 02-25-2013 at 10:46 AM. Reason: Adding information
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:36 AM   #2
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Written word:

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/593/01/

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Old 02-22-2013, 12:01 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaezy View Post
My husband's student asked him to review a narrative she had written today She had written the sentence "5 hours later....." and when my husband questioned the use of the numeral "5" she advised him that her tutor says the rule for referring to a "time" number should always be written as the numeral.

My understanding is that if you are writing the actual time, it's acceptable (although not a rule), but for a number under ten, and a number starting a sentence, it should the the written word.

Does anyone know if there is such a rule as her tutor advised?
Not in English. You're correct about the rules/standards.
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Old 02-22-2013, 04:46 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaezy View Post
My husband's student asked him to review a narrative she had written today She had written the sentence "5 hours later....." and when my husband questioned the use of the numeral "5" she advised him that her tutor says the rule for referring to a "time" number should always be written as the numeral.

My understanding is that if you are writing the actual time, it's acceptable (although not a rule), but for a number under ten, and a number starting a sentence, it should the the written word.

Does anyone know if there is such a rule as her tutor advised?
I believe that the tutor meant "time" as an hour of the day: 5:30 PM, but a quantity of time should be written in words: "five hours." In narrative numbers should usually be written in words, regardless of the size of the number, but money, time, and temperature are usually treated differently.
Grammar Girl has a broader view and says that guides vary widely. But starting a sentence with a numeral would be jarring in any context.
http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com...e-numbers.aspx
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Old 02-22-2013, 05:48 PM   #5
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Five hours later, ...

I had to be there before 5:30 but was ten minutes late already.

The student has misunderstood what was meant by 'time'.
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Old 02-22-2013, 07:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King Neptune View Post
I believe that the tutor meant "time" as an hour of the day: 5:30 PM, but a quantity of time should be written in words: "five hours." In narrative numbers should usually be written in words, regardless of the size of the number, but money, time, and temperature are usually treated differently.
Grammar Girl has a broader view and says that guides vary widely. But starting a sentence with a numeral would be jarring in any context.
http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com...e-numbers.aspx
That was my thought.

"Five hours" may refer to time, but "Five" isn't a time. 5:00 is a time.

Even if you follow that rule, some times will read better when written out - especially in dialogue. If your character says "I have to be there at 5:00," it's going to be read as I have to be there at five o'clock. If they really said "five" I would write out the word.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:52 PM   #7
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You never start a sentence with a numeral, whether it is a time, a date, a fraction or anything else. It is always written out as a word or words. This rule has nothing to do with whether you spell out numbers under ten or under 100, and it applies no matter how big the number is. Not a good idea to start a sentence with the numerical value of pi.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:12 PM   #8
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You never start a sentence with a numeral. . . .
Lil is quite correct on this point. While studying and teaching English over the years, I've encountered several "number rules," and all of them included what Lil said.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:21 PM   #9
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5 h is needed for the reaction to complete. (my example, and I'm not claiming I wrote it right)

This Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI) says on the page vi, point 9, that, in technical writing:

"Values of quantities are expressed in acceptable units using Arabic numerals [not words] and the symbols for the units."

There is no specific rule for the beginning of a sentence mentioned, though.

The owl says that a sentence should start with:
Six percent of...and not
6% of...

Last edited by boron; 02-23-2013 at 07:58 PM.
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Old 02-23-2013, 12:50 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by King Neptune View Post
starting a sentence with a numeral would be jarring in any context.
With the notable exception of a numerical year.

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Old 02-23-2013, 01:37 AM   #11
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Thank you for your clarification - it's as we thought.

For the record, the tutor corrected the student's original "Five hours later..." with "5 hours later...". The student did not misunderstand the tutor; the tutor doesn't understand the rules.
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Old 02-23-2013, 01:50 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boron View Post
5 h is needed for the reaction to complete. (my example, and I'm not claiming I wrote it right)

This Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI) says on the page vi, point 9, that, in technical writing:

"Values of quantities are expressed in acceptable units using Arabic numerals [not words] and the symbols for the units."

There is no specific rule for the beginning of a sentence mentioned, though.

The owl says that a sentence should start:
Six percent of...and not
6% of...
"In technical writing" is the important thing here. In technical documents most (maybe even all) numbers should be written as numerals, but in narrative essays, stories, articles (non-technical), and so on numbers should be written in words. There are lots of things that are different in technical writing.
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Old 02-23-2013, 07:48 PM   #13
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But you didn't reveal that in the original post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaezy View Post
...
For the record, the tutor corrected the student's original "Five hours later..." with "5 hours later...". The student did not misunderstand the tutor; the tutor doesn't understand the rules.
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Old 02-24-2013, 01:48 AM   #14
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But you didn't reveal that in the original post.
Ahh, sorry! That part was clear in my head!
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Old 02-24-2013, 05:54 PM   #15
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I'm pretty sure the standard is to SPELL the word if it's under 10, no matter where it appears in the copy, unless for a darned good reason.
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Old 02-25-2013, 04:53 AM   #16
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Even in technical writing, every style guide I've used requires the number to be spelled out when it begins a sentence. If possible, the sentence is reconstructed so that it doesn't start with a number.
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Old 03-02-2013, 12:50 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaezy View Post
Edited to add: Her tutor had corrected her initial writing of "Five hours later..." to read "5 hours later..."
Sounds like someone needs a better tutor.
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