Writing academically: Numbers

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When using numbers in academic writing you need to decide if it’s more appropriate to use a numeral (e.g. 9) or to write the number in words (e.g. nine). It’s worth checking to see if your department has specific advice on this matter, because individual approaches do vary. In the absence of specific advice, here is some general guidance on the matter:

Basic numbers

  • Numbers  up to nine  should always be written in  words,  anything higher than nine can be written in numerals. Alternatively, some guides suggest that if you can write the number in two words or fewer then use words rather than numerals. If you are going to take this approach then you should include a hyphen when writing numbers with two words, e.g. twenty-seven.
  • For larger numbers, it is acceptable to use either numerals or words depending on context (e.g. a thousand people/1,000 people), but you should always use numerals in technical writing, e.g. 200,000 km. For less precise larger numbers, the written form is better (e.g. several thousand).

Measurements and decimals/fractions

  • Use numerals for units of measurement or time, e.g. 500 km, 10 minutes.
  • Always use numerals for decimals and fractions (e.g. 0.5 cm) unless the figures are vague (e.g. around half of the population).
  • Units of measurement that modify a noun should be hyphenated, e.g. a 3-year-old child.

Dates, money and time

  • Always use numerals for dates, e.g Monday 4 April, 2016.
  • Use numerals for money (e.g. His pocket money was exactly £1.00 per week) unless the amounts are vague (e.g. He earned well over a million last year).
  • Use numerals for indicating the precise time (e.g. 08:00), or words if the times indicated are vague (e.g. around eight o’clock). 

Combining numbers

  • If you need to combine two numbers that run together then use words for the shorter number and numerals for the longer number, e.g. a tower of 1000 ten-pence pieces. 

Starting sentences with numbers

  • Avoid starting a sentence with a numeral. Either write the number in words or rearrange your sentence. For example, “Three hundred and sixty-five days make one year” could become “There are 365 days in a year”. If you start a sentence with a year, write “The year” first e.g. “The year 1066 saw one of the most famous battles in English history”.
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One, 2, III: Using Numbers in Academic Writing

One, 2, III: Using Numbers in Academic Writing

3-minute read

  • 28th December 2015

No matter what you’re studying, at some point in your academic career you’ll find yourself using numbers in your written work .

This might not seem too problematic, but there are important differences between using numbers in formal academic writing and in everyday life.

Numerals or Words?

The biggest question when it comes to numbers in academic writing is whether to use numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) or words (one, two, three, four, etc.). The general guideline is to write smaller numbers up to ten as words, with numerals saved for larger numbers.

Annoyingly, there is no consensus on this. For instance, the APA Style Guide recommends using numerals for ten and up (or “10 and up,” if we’re doing this the APA way). But the Chicago Manual of Style suggests spelling out all numbers up to one hundred.

The important thing is to check your school’s style guide and use a consistent system throughout each paper you write.

Roman Numerals

You may also need to understand Roman numerals . These aren’t so common these days, but you do see them in things like copyright dates (MCMLXXXVI = 1986) and the names of monarchs (Queen Elizabeth II).

Big Numbers

Despite the above rule, some bigger numbers are expressed either as words or as a combination of words and figures. For example, it is to say:

The Earth is 4.542 billion years old.

But writing this out in numerals is a bit confusing, as there are many zeroes:

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The Earth is 4,542,000,000 years old.

Commas and Hyphens

Punctuating numbers correctly is also important. When expressing a number over one thousand, for example, it’s common to separate the thousands with a comma:

One thousand = 1,000

One hundred thousand = 100,000

One million = 1,000,000

Hyphens, meanwhile, should be used either when expressing a number with more than one word (e.g., twenty-two) or when as part of an adjectival phrase modifying a noun (e.g., “I’m holding a seven-year-old grudge”).

Dates, Years and Centuries

Dates (e.g., 06/12/2013 or 6 December 2013) and years (e.g., 1948, 300-250 BCE) are usually written using numerals. Centuries, however, should be written out in full (i.e., “eighteenth century” rather than “18 th century”).

Technical Numbers

In technical writing, such as in the sciences and math, it’s more common to use numerals than words. This is especially true when a number is followed by a unit of measurement. So, for instance, the weight “four grams” could be expressed as “4 g” or “4 grams.”

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Numbers In Academic Writing – APA Style Guidelines

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Numbers-in-academic-writing-Definition

Numbers are an imperative part of academic writing , serving as vital tools to represent quantitative data, statistical data, or measures in an accurate and precise manner. Numbers are used across various fields, including sciences, humanities, and business. However, adherence to specific rules is necessary in terms of using numbers effectively in academia, which vary depending on the style guide followed. This article will provide insights into how numbers are used appropriately.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

  • 1 Numbers in Academic Writing – In a Nutshell
  • 2 Definition: Numbers in academic writing
  • 3 Numbers in academic writing: Exceptions
  • 4 Numbers in academic writing: Percentages
  • 5 Numbers in academic writing: Statistical results
  • 6 Numbers in academic writing: Measurements
  • 7 Numbers in academic writing: Long numbers

Numbers in Academic Writing – In a Nutshell

  • Academic writing uses numbers in distinct ways depending on style guide.
  • Conventions apply to technical number writing and non-technical number writing.
  • Numbers are usually written out from one to nine, and numerals are used from 10.
  • Technical data and statistics should always appear as numerals for reference.

Definition: Numbers in academic writing

The APA Style is one of the most widely used academic writing styles and is largely adopted by the behavioral and social sciences. A number can be written both numerically or in words within this style.

Typically, a number from one to nine should be written out as words, while numbers from 10 and above should be written out numerically. This general rule also applies to ordinals (first, 10th). Some exceptions do apply, as found next in this article.

Other writing styles utilize different number rules. The Chicago style , for instance, requires numbers to be written out as words up to 100. The MLA style spells out all numbers that can be written within one or two words (three, one hundred, etc.).

Numbers in academic writing: Exceptions

Exceptions to the general rule above apply in the following cases:

1. All numbers should be represented numerically when they are detailing an exact unit of measurement.

  • The rock was chiseled 6 cm deep.

2. Write out numerals as words when they begin a sentence, except when dealing with specific years.

  • Eighteenth-century scientists advanced the practice of medicine
  • 1921 marked the discovery of insulin.

3. A number should be written out when dealing with fractions, set expressions, or other known numeric titles.

  • John Milton crafted the poem in 1626, also referred to as the Fifth of November poem.
  • According to sources, one-third of the English population perished from the Black Death.
  • Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is set in an alternative world in the year 1984 .

Numbers in academic writing: Percentages

When dealing with percentages in the APA Style, use numerals followed by the percent sign % , instead of “percent” or the abbreviations, “pct.”, “pct,”, or “pc”.

  • The Spanish flu affected over 25% of the US population.

The same rule when beginning sentences with numerals applies to percentages, i.e., they should be written out as words when they start a sentence.

  • Twenty-five percent of the US population was affected.

Numbers in academic writing: Statistical results

Reporting statistics in APA and papers that deal with technical numerical language in qualitative research have their own rules.

Here, all data is written in numerals to remain consistent and easily digested. This applies to the main body, tables, and figures sections of a paper.

Other statistical conventions include:

  • Report the majority of statistics to two decimal places.
  • Report statistics that can’t exceed 1.0 to three decimal places.
  • For values that could exceed 1.0, use a leading zero. Those that can’t exceed 1.0 do not feature a leading zero.
  • Italicize statistical values that aren’t Greek letters. E.g. SD .
  • Spaces should be left before and after equal, more-than, and less-than signs.

Numbers in academic writing: Measurements

Always use numerals for units of measurement.

  • Ampules contain 100 mg in 2 ml .

Numerals should be used for precise ages, timescales, dates, score lines, points of scale, and monetary sums.

  • The final score was France 4 , and Croatia 2 .
  • The students were aged 18 to 21 years in the study.

Imprecise ages and generalizations are not numbered but written out.

  • She was roughly six years old based on his estimation.
  • The outcome will be approximately seven times .

Numbers in academic writing: Long numbers

Longer numbers have their own set of rules. A period should be used to indicate a decimal point.

Commas are to be used to separate large figures every three digits after 1,000.

For sums exceeding 6 numerals, like 1 million and 1 billion, use a combination of numerals and written language.

  • HBO Max had 73.8 million subscribers in 2022.
  • This is a considerable growth from its 800,000 subscribers in 2015.

Should you write out numbers in academic writing?

As a general rule of thumb, numbers up to nine should be written out in the APA Style, while anything exceeding 10 should appear as numerals.

How are dates written in academic writing?

Dates are always written as numerals.

How are numbers expressed at the beginning of a sentence?

They are written out when they begin a sentence, except for dates and technical data.

Should I use the word "percent" or its symbol "%"?

The APA Style states that the symbol “%” should be used after numerals, while “percent” should be used for written-out figures.

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1, Two, or III? How to Format Numbers in Academic Writing

1, Two, or III? How to Format Numbers in Academic Writing

3-minute read

  • 4th April 2016

Whether it’s dates, survey results or statistical data, numbers and numerals play an important role in every field of academic writing . However, the best way to format numbers in academic writing is a contentious matter.

Words or Numerals?

One prominent issue is whether numbers should be written using words (e.g. one, two, three) or Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3). Generally, the rule here is to write out numbers up to nine and use numerals for larger values.

Nevertheless, different systems have different rules ; for instance, while APA recommends using numerals for ten and up (or ‘10 and up’, if you prefer), the Chicago Manual of Style suggests spelling out all numbers up to one hundred (or 100).

There are other exceptions too, since very big numbers may require a combination of words and numerals, particularly if they’re more than three words long (e.g. ‘4.5 billion’ is clearer and more concise than ‘four and a half billion’).

Another good guideline is to always spell out numbers at the start of a sentence unless they’re a decimal or a date.

Tips on Punctuation

The main things to keep in mind here are commas and hyphens. Commas are often used to separate thousands in large numbers:

One hundred thousand = 100,000

Two million = 2,000,000

Using commas isn’t compulsory, but make sure to apply a consistent style throughout your work.

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In addition, you should hyphenate numbers when they contain more than one word (e.g. 42 = forty-two) or when they’re part of an adjectival phrase (e.g. ‘the seven-year itch’).

Dates, Years and Centuries

Years (e.g. 2012, 45-12 BCE) are almost always written using numerals, though dates can be presented either numerically (e.g. 03/02/16) or written out in full (3 rd February, 2016).

For the most part, it’s better to write out months as a word if a date appears in the main text of your essay . Likewise, you should always write out centuries in full in academic texts (i.e. ‘nineteenth century’, not ‘19 th century’).

When in Rome…

It’s helpful to familiarise yourself with the basics of Roman numerals . You won’t need them too often, but they are still used for things like the pre-body material in longer essays (e.g. contents pages), the titles of monarchs (e.g. Phillip III) and film credits (e.g. MCMLXVIII = 1986).

Technical Numbers

In technical writing, especially in the sciences and mathematics, it’s generally better to present numbers as numerals, particularly when dealing with decimals, percentages and fractions.

Furthermore, numerals are often preferable when a number is followed by a unit of measurement (e.g., ‘six centimetres’ can also be written as ‘6 cm’).

Again, however, the most important things are clarity and consistency, so the style you choose to adopt may depend on what you’re trying to communicate.

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OASIS: Writing Center

Other apa guidelines: numbers, basics of numbers.

Per APA 7, Section 6.32, use numerals to express numbers 10 or above (e.g., 11, 23, 256). Per Section 6.33, write out numbers as words to express numbers up to nine (e.g., three, seven, eight).

Take the APA Style Diagnostic Quiz  to test your knowledge.

Numbers Expressed as Words

Use words to express numbers in these situations:

Seventeen computer programmers went out to dinner last night
The principal presented awards to three fourths of the student body.
(This is a new rule in APA 7. APA 6 recommended using numerals in the abstract.)

Numbers Expressed as Numerals

Use numerals to express numbers in these situations:

She had been a nurse for 3 years.
Chapter 4 was considered required reading.
The student scored a perfect 7.
Each post was roughly 2.45 ft apart.
Teachers gave students ice cream if they scored in the top 5%.
You owe me $5.

Numbers Video

  • APA Formatting & Style: Numbers (video transcript)

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When to Spell Out Numbers in Writing: Guide and Examples

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The Rules for Writing Numbers in English 

You may have noticed a theme when it comes to the English language: most rules are not standardized. This (somewhat frustrating) fact is especially true when it comes to spelling out numbers. Should you write them out in words or leave them as numerals? To write numbers properly, you will also need to identify potential differences between major style guides (such as MLA , APA , and Chicago , to name a few) because these guides often outline different rules for using numbers in writing.

To make it easier, let's use an example. Say you're working on a paper evaluating the importance of the local public library in your community. The document will make use of small numbers, large numbers, decades, and statistics. Each type of number may follow a different rule.

Thankfully, when using numbers in writing, you can count on a few conventions that apply to most situations; just be sure to consult your specific style guide if one has been assigned. If you don't have time to review each number yourself, a professional editor or proofreader can ensure that your numbers are written correctly.

Writing Small and Large Numbers

A simple rule for using numbers in writing is that small numbers ranging from one to ten (or one to nine, depending on the style guide) should generally be spelled out. Larger numbers (i.e., above ten) are written as numerals.

For example, instead of writing "It cost ten-thousand four-hundred and sixteen dollars to renovate the local library," you would write, "It cost $10,416 to renovate the local library."

The reason for this is relatively intuitive. Writing out large numbers not only wastes space but could also be a major distraction to your readers.

Beginning a Sentence with a Number

Here is a rule that you can truly rely on: always spell out numbers when they begin a sentence, no matter how large or small they may be.

Incorrect: 15 new fiction novels were on display.

Correct: Fifteen new fiction novels were on display.

If the number is large and you want to avoid writing it all out, rearrange the sentence so that the number no longer comes first.

Revised: There were 15 new fiction novels on display.

Whole Numbers vs. Decimals

Another important factor to consider is whether you are working with a whole number or a decimal. Decimals are always written as numerals for clarity and accuracy.

To revisit our library example, perhaps circulation statistics improved in 2015. If a number falls in the range of one to ten and is not a whole number, it should be written as a numeral.

Incorrect: The circulation of library materials increased by four point five percent in 2015.

Correct: The circulation of library materials increased by 4.5% in 2015.

Paired Numbers (Two Numbers in a Row)

When two numbers come next to each other in a sentence, be sure to spell out one of these numbers. The main purpose of this rule is to avoid confusing the reader.

Incorrect: There were 12 4-year-old children waiting for the librarian to begin story time.

Correct: There were 12 four-year-old children waiting for the librarian to begin story time.

Correct: There were twelve 4-year-old children waiting for the librarian to begin story time.

Decades and Centuries

Decades or centuries are usually spelled out, especially if the writing is formal.

Incorrect: The library was built in the '50s.

Correct: The library was built in the fifties.

If you are referring to a specific year (e.g., 1955), use the numeral.

Consistency Is Key When Using Numbers in Your Writing

Always strive for consistency, even if it overrides a previous rule. For example, if your document uses numbers frequently, it is more appropriate for all numbers to remain as numerals to ensure that usage is uniform throughout. Similarly, if a single sentence combines small and large numbers, make sure that all the numbers are either spelled out or written as numerals.

Incorrect: The library acquired five new mystery novels, 12 new desktop computers, and 17 new periodicals.

Correct: The library acquired 5 new mystery novels, 12 new desktop computers, and 17 new periodicals.

Style Guides May Have Slightly Different Rules for Writing Numbers in Words

Let's complicate things a bit, shall we?

If your work must follow the rules of a specific style guide, understand that various guides all have rules for spelling out numbers that may differ slightly from the rules listed above. For example, MLA style indicates that writers may spell out numbers if they are not used too frequently in the document and can be represented with one or two words (e.g., twenty-four, one hundred, three thousand ). APA style advises that common fractions (e.g., two-thirds ) be expressed as words. A number of specific rules for spelling out numbers are outlined in Section 9.1 of the Chicago Manual of Style.

Your ultimate authority will always be a style guide, but in the absence of one, following the rules outlined above will help you stay consistent in your use of numbers in writing.

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Formatting academic writing

Your assignments will have conventions for how to format and present your work. These can include the font size and line spacing of your document, and even the margin size. These are not just arbitrary rules or being picky; they are important stylistic conventions that help your audience (usually the tutors marking your work) read your work more easily. 

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

Follow your module handbook

Always check your module handbook and assignment brief on Moodle for the specific formatting guidelines for each assignment as they may be different. Your module handbook should usually specify things like the font type, font size, spacing, plus any information about margins, page numbers and other formatting features if they are needed. 

Double space your work

It is a normal academic convention to double-space your assignments as it makes it easier for your markers to read and to add any feedback comments above the relevant line. Usually your reference list is not double-spaced but you do leave a line between each entry in the reference list. See Microsoft Support below for how to double-space text in Word:.

Double-space the lines in a document (Microsoft Support)

Have clear paragraph breaks

When your work is double-spaced, you need to make sure you leave enough space between each paragraph so that it shows up as a distinct paragraph break. It is a usual convention in academic assignments to use a larger space between paragraphs, as opposed to indenting the first line to show a new paragraph. Also academic English doesn’t have a ‘semi-paragraph’, so you can’t indent a line, or start a new line to show that an idea is ‘sort of’ related to the point before it. You must either start a new paragraph or combine the idea into the current paragraph, but don’t have something in between.

See your formatting in Word

Sometimes our spacing and formatting becomes confused and we are not sure why the text is behaving in a certain way. It can help to turn on the formatting marks in your word processing programme to see exactly where line breaks and other formatting features are appearing. See Microsoft Support below for how to turn on the formatting marks in Word:

Show or hide tab marks in Word (Microsoft Support)

Write numbers correctly

There are conventions for how to include numbers in your academic writing. Generally, we write out the numbers zero to ten in words, and then use numerals for the numbers 11 onwards. However, there can be important exceptions and specific cases depending on what the number represents, where it appears in a sentence, and the subject you are writing for.  The EAP Foundation guide below gives a good basic overview of the conventions for writing numbers. 

Writing numbers (EAP Foundation)

Use capital letters consistently

There are a lot of rules about when to use capital letters in academic writing. One of the main purposes is to draw attention to specific named people, places, titles, or things. Therefore, we would use capital letters when writing, ‘Doctor Watson works at Brookes University’, but we wouldn’t use capital letters when writing ‘many doctors find work in a university’. The resource below has a list of the main rules, and a good general principle is to be consistent.

Capitalization rules (The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation)

Decide to use double or single quotation marks

In academic writing, there isn’t a fixed rule about whether single or double quotation marks should be used. Therefore, you can make a choice, but be consistent; if you start using double quotation marks, continue using them throughout your assignment. On the rare occasion that you might need to include a quote within a quote, you would use the other form of quotation marks to signal this, for example: "When I say 'immediately,' I mean sometime before August," said the manager. 

Spell out acronyms first time

Although abbreviations like can’t or e.g. are not acceptable in academic writing, using acronyms for names of organisations or theories is acceptable. Always write the name in full the first time you use it in an assignment, and put the acronym in brackets after it. On the first usage in an assignment, you would write, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and then it would be fine to refer to just the NMC after that.  

Understand how to format references

A vital part of academic writing is knowing how to format both your in-text references and your reference list. The correct formatting of references is not just a matter of style, it is a key part of academic integrity . If you have information missing or a confused reference list, you could lose marks or be penalised for poor academic practice. Check that you understand how to reference correctly.  

Referencing resources (Centre for Academic Development)

Create contents pages easily

Most assignments do not need a contents page, but some assignments, such as dissertations or reports do require a contents page. Save time by using headings in Word consistently so you can automatically generate a contents page. This video shows you how: 

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • Academic Writing Style
  • Purpose of Guide
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Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and specific areas of expertise. Characteristics of academic writing include a formal tone, use of the third-person rather than first-person perspective (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and precise word choice. Like specialist languages adopted in other professions, such as, law or medicine, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts within a community of scholarly experts and practitioners.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020.

Importance of Good Academic Writing

The accepted form of academic writing in the social sciences can vary considerable depending on the methodological framework and the intended audience. However, most college-level research papers require careful attention to the following stylistic elements:

I.  The Big Picture Unlike creative or journalistic writing, the overall structure of academic writing is formal and logical. It must be cohesive and possess a logically organized flow of ideas; this means that the various parts are connected to form a unified whole. There should be narrative links between sentences and paragraphs so that the reader is able to follow your argument. The introduction should include a description of how the rest of the paper is organized and all sources are properly cited throughout the paper.

II.  Tone The overall tone refers to the attitude conveyed in a piece of writing. Throughout your paper, it is important that you present the arguments of others fairly and with an appropriate narrative tone. When presenting a position or argument that you disagree with, describe this argument accurately and without loaded or biased language. In academic writing, the author is expected to investigate the research problem from an authoritative point of view. You should, therefore, state the strengths of your arguments confidently, using language that is neutral, not confrontational or dismissive.

III.  Diction Diction refers to the choice of words you use. Awareness of the words you use is important because words that have almost the same denotation [dictionary definition] can have very different connotations [implied meanings]. This is particularly true in academic writing because words and terminology can evolve a nuanced meaning that describes a particular idea, concept, or phenomenon derived from the epistemological culture of that discipline [e.g., the concept of rational choice in political science]. Therefore, use concrete words [not general] that convey a specific meaning. If this cannot be done without confusing the reader, then you need to explain what you mean within the context of how that word or phrase is used within a discipline.

IV.  Language The investigation of research problems in the social sciences is often complex and multi- dimensional . Therefore, it is important that you use unambiguous language. Well-structured paragraphs and clear topic sentences enable a reader to follow your line of thinking without difficulty. Your language should be concise, formal, and express precisely what you want it to mean. Do not use vague expressions that are not specific or precise enough for the reader to derive exact meaning ["they," "we," "people," "the organization," etc.], abbreviations like 'i.e.'  ["in other words"], 'e.g.' ["for example"], or 'a.k.a.' ["also known as"], and the use of unspecific determinate words ["super," "very," "incredible," "huge," etc.].

V.  Punctuation Scholars rely on precise words and language to establish the narrative tone of their work and, therefore, punctuation marks are used very deliberately. For example, exclamation points are rarely used to express a heightened tone because it can come across as unsophisticated or over-excited. Dashes should be limited to the insertion of an explanatory comment in a sentence, while hyphens should be limited to connecting prefixes to words [e.g., multi-disciplinary] or when forming compound phrases [e.g., commander-in-chief]. Finally, understand that semi-colons represent a pause that is longer than a comma, but shorter than a period in a sentence. In general, there are four grammatical uses of semi-colons: when a second clause expands or explains the first clause; to describe a sequence of actions or different aspects of the same topic; placed before clauses which begin with "nevertheless", "therefore", "even so," and "for instance”; and, to mark off a series of phrases or clauses which contain commas. If you are not confident about when to use semi-colons [and most of the time, they are not required for proper punctuation], rewrite using shorter sentences or revise the paragraph.

VI.  Academic Conventions Citing sources in the body of your paper and providing a list of references as either footnotes or endnotes is a key feature of academic writing. It is essential to always acknowledge the source of any ideas, research findings, data, paraphrased, or quoted text that you have used in your paper as a defense against allegations of plagiarism. Even more important, the scholarly convention of citing sources allow readers to identify the resources you used in writing your paper so they can independently verify and assess the quality of findings and conclusions based on your review of the literature. Examples of other academic conventions to follow include the appropriate use of headings and subheadings, properly spelling out acronyms when first used in the text, avoiding slang or colloquial language, avoiding emotive language or unsupported declarative statements, avoiding contractions [e.g., isn't], and using first person and second person pronouns only when necessary.

VII.  Evidence-Based Reasoning Assignments often ask you to express your own point of view about the research problem. However, what is valued in academic writing is that statements are based on evidence-based reasoning. This refers to possessing a clear understanding of the pertinent body of knowledge and academic debates that exist within, and often external to, your discipline concerning the topic. You need to support your arguments with evidence from scholarly [i.e., academic or peer-reviewed] sources. It should be an objective stance presented as a logical argument; the quality of the evidence you cite will determine the strength of your argument. The objective is to convince the reader of the validity of your thoughts through a well-documented, coherent, and logically structured piece of writing. This is particularly important when proposing solutions to problems or delineating recommended courses of action.

VIII.  Thesis-Driven Academic writing is “thesis-driven,” meaning that the starting point is a particular perspective, idea, or position applied to the chosen topic of investigation, such as, establishing, proving, or disproving solutions to the questions applied to investigating the research problem. Note that a problem statement without the research questions does not qualify as academic writing because simply identifying the research problem does not establish for the reader how you will contribute to solving the problem, what aspects you believe are most critical, or suggest a method for gathering information or data to better understand the problem.

IX.  Complexity and Higher-Order Thinking Academic writing addresses complex issues that require higher-order thinking skills applied to understanding the research problem [e.g., critical, reflective, logical, and creative thinking as opposed to, for example, descriptive or prescriptive thinking]. Higher-order thinking skills include cognitive processes that are used to comprehend, solve problems, and express concepts or that describe abstract ideas that cannot be easily acted out, pointed to, or shown with images. Think of your writing this way: One of the most important attributes of a good teacher is the ability to explain complexity in a way that is understandable and relatable to the topic being presented during class. This is also one of the main functions of academic writing--examining and explaining the significance of complex ideas as clearly as possible.  As a writer, you must adopt the role of a good teacher by summarizing complex information into a well-organized synthesis of ideas, concepts, and recommendations that contribute to a better understanding of the research problem.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Roy. Improve Your Writing Skills . Manchester, UK: Clifton Press, 1995; Nygaard, Lynn P. Writing for Scholars: A Practical Guide to Making Sense and Being Heard . Second edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2015; Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007; Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice. Writing Center, Wheaton College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Strategies for...

Understanding Academic Writing and Its Jargon

The very definition of research jargon is language specific to a particular community of practitioner-researchers . Therefore, in modern university life, jargon represents the specific language and meaning assigned to words and phrases specific to a discipline or area of study. For example, the idea of being rational may hold the same general meaning in both political science and psychology, but its application to understanding and explaining phenomena within the research domain of a each discipline may have subtle differences based upon how scholars in that discipline apply the concept to the theories and practice of their work.

Given this, it is important that specialist terminology [i.e., jargon] must be used accurately and applied under the appropriate conditions . Subject-specific dictionaries are the best places to confirm the meaning of terms within the context of a specific discipline. These can be found by either searching in the USC Libraries catalog by entering the disciplinary and the word dictionary [e.g., sociology and dictionary] or using a database such as Credo Reference [a curated collection of subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, guides from highly regarded publishers] . It is appropriate for you to use specialist language within your field of study, but you should avoid using such language when writing for non-academic or general audiences.

Problems with Opaque Writing

A common criticism of scholars is that they can utilize needlessly complex syntax or overly expansive vocabulary that is impenetrable or not well-defined. When writing, avoid problems associated with opaque writing by keeping in mind the following:

1.   Excessive use of specialized terminology . Yes, it is appropriate for you to use specialist language and a formal style of expression in academic writing, but it does not mean using "big words" just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of complex or obscure words or writing complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your paper is more about style than substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about. Focus on creating clear, concise, and elegant prose that minimizes reliance on specialized terminology.

2.   Inappropriate use of specialized terminology . Because you are dealing with concepts, research, and data within your discipline, you need to use the technical language appropriate to that area of study. However, nothing will undermine the validity of your study quicker than the inappropriate application of a term or concept. Avoid using terms whose meaning you are unsure of--do not just guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries by searching the USC Libraries catalog or the Credo Reference database [see above].

Additional Problems to Avoid

In addition to understanding the use of specialized language, there are other aspects of academic writing in the social sciences that you should be aware of. These problems include:

  • Personal nouns . Excessive use of personal nouns [e.g., I, me, you, us] may lead the reader to believe the study was overly subjective. These words can be interpreted as being used only to avoid presenting empirical evidence about the research problem. Limit the use of personal nouns to descriptions of things you actually did [e.g., "I interviewed ten teachers about classroom management techniques..."]. Note that personal nouns are generally found in the discussion section of a paper because this is where you as the author/researcher interpret and describe your work.
  • Directives . Avoid directives that demand the reader to "do this" or "do that." Directives should be framed as evidence-based recommendations or goals leading to specific outcomes. Note that an exception to this can be found in various forms of action research that involve evidence-based advocacy for social justice or transformative change. Within this area of the social sciences, authors may offer directives for action in a declarative tone of urgency.
  • Informal, conversational tone using slang and idioms . Academic writing relies on excellent grammar and precise word structure. Your narrative should not include regional dialects or slang terms because they can be open to interpretation. Your writing should be direct and concise using standard English.
  • Wordiness. Focus on being concise, straightforward, and developing a narrative that does not have confusing language . By doing so, you  help eliminate the possibility of the reader misinterpreting the design and purpose of your study.
  • Vague expressions (e.g., "they," "we," "people," "the company," "that area," etc.). Being concise in your writing also includes avoiding vague references to persons, places, or things. While proofreading your paper, be sure to look for and edit any vague or imprecise statements that lack context or specificity.
  • Numbered lists and bulleted items . The use of bulleted items or lists should be used only if the narrative dictates a need for clarity. For example, it is fine to state, "The four main problems with hedge funds are:" and then list them as 1, 2, 3, 4. However, in academic writing, this must then be followed by detailed explanation and analysis of each item. Given this, the question you should ask yourself while proofreading is: why begin with a list in the first place rather than just starting with systematic analysis of each item arranged in separate paragraphs? Also, be careful using numbers because they can imply a ranked order of priority or importance. If none exists, use bullets and avoid checkmarks or other symbols.
  • Descriptive writing . Describing a research problem is an important means of contextualizing a study. In fact, some description or background information may be needed because you can not assume the reader knows the key aspects of the topic. However, the content of your paper should focus on methodology, the analysis and interpretation of findings, and their implications as they apply to the research problem rather than background information and descriptions of tangential issues.
  • Personal experience. Drawing upon personal experience [e.g., traveling abroad; caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease] can be an effective way of introducing the research problem or engaging your readers in understanding its significance. Use personal experience only as an example, though, because academic writing relies on evidence-based research. To do otherwise is simply story-telling.

NOTE:   Rules concerning excellent grammar and precise word structure do not apply when quoting someone.  A quote should be inserted in the text of your paper exactly as it was stated. If the quote is especially vague or hard to understand, consider paraphrasing it or using a different quote to convey the same meaning. Consider inserting the term "sic" in brackets after the quoted text to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, but the source had grammar, spelling, or other errors. The adverb sic informs the reader that the errors are not yours.

Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Eileen S. “Action Research.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education . Edited by George W. Noblit and Joseph R. Neikirk. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020); Oppenheimer, Daniel M. "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly." Applied Cognitive Psychology 20 (2006): 139-156; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020; Pernawan, Ari. Common Flaws in Students' Research Proposals. English Education Department. Yogyakarta State University; Style. College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Structure and Writing Style

I. Improving Academic Writing

To improve your academic writing skills, you should focus your efforts on three key areas: 1.   Clear Writing . The act of thinking about precedes the process of writing about. Good writers spend sufficient time distilling information and reviewing major points from the literature they have reviewed before creating their work. Writing detailed outlines can help you clearly organize your thoughts. Effective academic writing begins with solid planning, so manage your time carefully. 2.  Excellent Grammar . Needless to say, English grammar can be difficult and complex; even the best scholars take many years before they have a command of the major points of good grammar. Take the time to learn the major and minor points of good grammar. Spend time practicing writing and seek detailed feedback from professors. Take advantage of the Writing Center on campus if you need help. Proper punctuation and good proofreading skills can significantly improve academic writing [see sub-tab for proofreading you paper ].

Refer to these three basic resources to help your grammar and writing skills:

  • A good writing reference book, such as, Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style or the St. Martin's Handbook ;
  • A college-level dictionary, such as, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary ;
  • The latest edition of Roget's Thesaurus in Dictionary Form .

3.  Consistent Stylistic Approach . Whether your professor expresses a preference to use MLA, APA or the Chicago Manual of Style or not, choose one style manual and stick to it. Each of these style manuals provide rules on how to write out numbers, references, citations, footnotes, and lists. Consistent adherence to a style of writing helps with the narrative flow of your paper and improves its readability. Note that some disciplines require a particular style [e.g., education uses APA] so as you write more papers within your major, your familiarity with it will improve.

II. Evaluating Quality of Writing

A useful approach for evaluating the quality of your academic writing is to consider the following issues from the perspective of the reader. While proofreading your final draft, critically assess the following elements in your writing.

  • It is shaped around one clear research problem, and it explains what that problem is from the outset.
  • Your paper tells the reader why the problem is important and why people should know about it.
  • You have accurately and thoroughly informed the reader what has already been published about this problem or others related to it and noted important gaps in the research.
  • You have provided evidence to support your argument that the reader finds convincing.
  • The paper includes a description of how and why particular evidence was collected and analyzed, and why specific theoretical arguments or concepts were used.
  • The paper is made up of paragraphs, each containing only one controlling idea.
  • You indicate how each section of the paper addresses the research problem.
  • You have considered counter-arguments or counter-examples where they are relevant.
  • Arguments, evidence, and their significance have been presented in the conclusion.
  • Limitations of your research have been explained as evidence of the potential need for further study.
  • The narrative flows in a clear, accurate, and well-organized way.

Boscoloa, Pietro, Barbara Arféb, and Mara Quarisaa. “Improving the Quality of Students' Academic Writing: An Intervention Study.” Studies in Higher Education 32 (August 2007): 419-438; Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; Candlin, Christopher. Academic Writing Step-By-Step: A Research-based Approach . Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2016; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Style . College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Writing Tip

Considering the Passive Voice in Academic Writing

In the English language, we are able to construct sentences in the following way: 1.  "The policies of Congress caused the economic crisis." 2.  "The economic crisis was caused by the policies of Congress."

The decision about which sentence to use is governed by whether you want to focus on “Congress” and what they did, or on “the economic crisis” and what caused it. This choice in focus is achieved with the use of either the active or the passive voice. When you want your readers to focus on the "doer" of an action, you can make the "doer"' the subject of the sentence and use the active form of the verb. When you want readers to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself, you can make the effect or the action the subject of the sentence by using the passive form of the verb.

Often in academic writing, scholars don't want to focus on who is doing an action, but on who is receiving or experiencing the consequences of that action. The passive voice is useful in academic writing because it allows writers to highlight the most important participants or events within sentences by placing them at the beginning of the sentence.

Use the passive voice when:

  • You want to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself;
  • It is not important who or what did the action;
  • You want to be impersonal or more formal.

Form the passive voice by:

  • Turning the object of the active sentence into the subject of the passive sentence.
  • Changing the verb to a passive form by adding the appropriate form of the verb "to be" and the past participle of the main verb.

NOTE: Consult with your professor about using the passive voice before submitting your research paper. Some strongly discourage its use!

Active and Passive Voice. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Diefenbach, Paul. Future of Digital Media Syllabus. Drexel University; Passive Voice. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.  

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Numbers in APA

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Note:  This page reflects the 6th edition of the APA manual, which is now out of date. It will remain online until 2021, but will not be updated. There is currently no equivalent 7th edition page, but we're working on one. Thank you for your patience. Here is a link to our APA 7 "General Format" page .

In general, APA style recommends using words to express numbers below 10, and using numerals when expressing numbers 10 and above. See below for a more extensive list.

Numbers expressed as numerals

In addition to expressing numbers 10 and above, the following are other instances when you would use numerals rather than words:

Numbers mentioned in the abstract, a table, or a figure in the paper (this allows for brevity) 

This study consisted of 8 tests.

Numbers that immediately precede a unit of measurement

2.54 cm, 1.5 gal

Numbers that represent statistical or mathematical functions, fractional or decimal quantities, percentages, ratios, percentiles, and quartiles

Divided by 10

50% of the participants

a ratio of 10:1

the 10 th percentile

numbers that represent time, dates, ages, scores and point values on a scale, exact sums of money, and numerals

2 hr 30 min

50-year-olds

A 10-point scale

Exception: Use words for approximations of numbers of days, weeks, months, or years

Roughly six months ago

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

Illustration 1

Numbers expressed as words

In addition to using words to express numbers below 10, use words to also express:

Numbers beginning a sentence, title, or text heading

Fifteen participants were in the control group.

Common fractions

Three fourths of the population

Common phrases or groups

Seven Wonders of the World

The Three Musketeers

Other Rules Concerning Numbers

Here are a few more rules concerning numbers to adhere to as you follow APA style:

If you are using two modifiers against a noun, use a combination of both numerals and words

Three 5-point scales

If you’re unsure which modifier to write and which to express numerically, try it both ways. Be sure the way you express the numbers is in the clearest way possible.

Place a zero before a decimal fraction less than 1 if the statistic can exceed 1.

If the statistic cannot exceed 1, you do not need a zero.

For more specific guidelines, talk to your instructor or refer to the Style Manual.

Writing Guide

This guide was created for Harvard Library employees, but we hope it’s helpful to a wider community of content creators, editors, producers — anyone who’s trying to communicate a message online.

If you work at Harvard Library 

This is our website style guide. It helps us create clear and consistent digital content that’s welcoming and useful for our users. Please use it as a reference whenever you’re writing content for library.harvard.edu.

If you work at another organization

We invite you to use and adapt this style guide as you see fit. It — like our entire website — is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Speaking of credit: Several other writing guides inspired this one. Those include: MailChimp’s Content Style Guide , Harvard University Style Guidelines & Best Practices , 18F’s Content Guide , Federal Plain Language Guidelines , and City of Boston Writing Guide . These are great resources for additional reading on the topic.

We love to talk shop. If you have questions about this writing guide or the Harvard Library website contact the Harvard Library communications team at [email protected].

With every piece of content we publish, our goal is to empower our users so they can use our services and tools to get their work done and discover new ideas. 

We do this by writing in a clear, helpful and confident voice that guides our users and invites them to engage with us. Our voice is: 

  • Straightforward 
  • Conversational 
  • Trustworthy 
  • Proactive  
  • Knowledgeable 

Our voice is also positive — instead of rules and permissions, think options and opportunities. It’s also welcoming and accessible to all audiences. 

The Harvard brand brings with it a lot of history. We want to highlight our association with the positive attributes — credible, trusted, secure, historic, bold. But we also want to do our best to break down barriers, which means overcoming other attributes some people may assign to Harvard, such as elite, academic, exclusive, traditional.

Part of being credible, trusted, and secure is ensuring every bit of content we have on our website is up to date, accurate, and relevant to our users. 

The tips that follow in this guide will help us fulfill these goals. 

"Damn those sticklers in favor of what sounds best to you, in the context of the writing and the audience it’s intended for." —Merrill Perlman, Columbia Journalism Review

Things To Do

Write for the user first.

Before you start writing, ask yourself: 

  • Who is going to read this content? 
  • What do they need to know? 
  • What are they trying to accomplish? 
  • How might they be feeling? 

Put yourself in their shoes and write in a way that suits the situation. Remember: You’re the expert, not your users. 

Put the most important information up top

Users tend to scan web pages until they find what they need. Most people will only read 20 percent of a page . Use the “inverted pyramid” technique by putting the most important information at the top of a page. That’s the section users are most likely to read.

Choose clarity over cleverness

Say what you mean and avoid using figurative language, which can make your content more difficult to understand.

Address users directly 

Use pronouns to speak directly to your users, addressing them as “you” when possible. If necessary, define “you” at the beginning of your page. And don’t be afraid to say “we” instead of “the library.” 

  • Instead of:  The Harvard Library has staff members who can assist with research.  We’d write: Our expert librarians are here to help answer your research questions. 

Shorter sentences and paragraphs make your content easier to skim and less intimidating. Paragraphs should top out around 3 to 8 sentences. Ideal sentence length is around 15 to 20 words.

Use plain language 

Using words people easily understand makes our content more useful and welcoming. Don’t use formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. 

  • Use write instead of compose , get instead of obtain , use instead of utilize , and so on. Plainlanguage.gov has a great list of word alternatives . 

Use the active voice 

The active voice supports brevity and makes our content more engaging. 

Using the passive voice deemphasizes who should take action, which can lead to confusion. It also tends to be more wordy than the active voice. 

  • Instead of: Overdue fines must be paid by the borrower. We would write: The borrower must pay any overdue fines. 

How to recognize the passive voice: If you insert “by zombies” after the verb and the sentence still makes sense, you’re using the passive voice.

Write for the user with the least amount of knowledge on the topic

It’s not dumbing down your content. It can actually be harder to to make information simple and easy to understand. The truth is: even experts or people with more education prefer plain language.

Imagine your audience and write as if you were talking to them one-on-one, with the authority of someone who can actively help.  

Try reading your writing out loud and listen for awkward phrases or constructions that you wouldn’t normally say. Better yet, have someone else read your writing to you. 

Create helpful hyperlinks 

When links look different from regular text, they attract users’ attention. That’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. 

When creating hyperlinks, keep these tips in mind:  

  • Meaningful links should stand alone and help users with scanning the page.
  • Write descriptive and true link text — explain where users are going and why.
  • Use keywords to describe the link’s destination — look at the destination page for context.
  • The link destination should fulfill the promise of your link text .
  • If linking to a PDF, indicate that. 

For example: 

  • Instead of:  This collection is available online here . Try:  Browse this collection online.
  • For PDFs:   Our pricing guide PDF  provides estimates for various reproduction formats. 

Break up your content 

Large paragraphs of text can lose readers. Using subheads and bullet points is a way to help provide clear narrative structure for readers, particularly those in a hurry.

Tips for breaking up your content: 

  • Add useful headings to help people scan the page.
  • Use bulleted lists to break up the text when appropriate.
  • Write short sentences and short sections to break up information into manageable chunks.

"Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away ... Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there." —William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Things to Avoid

Jargon or acronyms.

Jargon and acronyms are often vague or unfamiliar to users, and can lead to misinterpretation. If you feel an acronym or a jargon term must be used, be sure to explain what it means the first time you use it on a page.

We strongly discourage writing FAQs , or Frequently Asked Questions. Why? Because FAQs:

  • Are hard to read and search for
  • Duplicate other content on your site
  • Mean that content is not where people expect to find it — it needs to be in context

If you think you need FAQs, review the content on your site and look for ways to improve it. Take steps to give users a better experience.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the content organized in a logical way?
  • Can you group similar topics together?
  • Is it easy to find the right answer?
  • Is it clear and up to date?

If people are asking similar questions, the existing content isn’t meeting their needs. Perhaps you need to rewrite it or combine several pieces of content. Pay attention to what users are asking for and find the best way to guide them through the process.  

Linking users to PDFs can make your content harder to use, and lead users down a dead end. The Nielsen Norman Group has done multiple studies on PDFs and has consistently found that users don’t like them and avoid reading them.

Avoid using PDFs for important information you’re trying to convey to users. Some supplementary information may make sense as a PDF — or something a user would need to print. 

If you must link users to a PDF, be sure to let them know. For example: 

Our pricing guide (PDF)  provides estimates for various reproduction formats. 

Duplication

If something is written once and links to relevant information easily and well, people are more likely to trust the content. Duplicate content produces poor search results, confuses the user, and damages the credibility of our websites.

Before you publish something, check that the user need you’re trying to address has not already been covered.  

Style Guide

With some exceptions, we’re following Associated Press style guidelines on the Harvard Library website.

Here are some common tips: 

Abbreviations and acronyms

Spell out abbreviations or acronyms the first time they are referenced. Avoid abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize. 

Capitalization

In general, capitalize proper nouns and beginnings of sentences. For nouns specific to Harvard University and other common academic uses, please refer to the Harvard-specific guidelines below.

As with all punctuation, clarity is the biggest rule. If a comma does not help make clear what is being said, it should not be there. If omitting a comma could lead to confusion or misinterpretation, then use the comma. We do use serial commas.

Compositions

Capitalize the principal words in the names of books, movies, plays, poems, operas, songs, radio and TV programs, works of art, events, etc. Use italics or quotes when writing about them online. 

One word, no hyphen. However, use the hyphen for  e-book and e-reader.

A plural noun, it normally takes plural verbs and pronouns. However, it becomes a collective noun and takes singular verbs when the group or quantity is regarded as a unit. 

Right: The data is sound. (A unit.) 

Also right: The data have been carefully collected. (Individual items.) 

Use figures for date, abbreviated month when used with a specific date. So: January 2018 but Jan. 2, 2018. Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1900s, the 1920s. 

Headlines/Headers/Subheads

Capitalize all words that aren’t articles.

In general, spell out one through nine. Use figures for 10 or above and whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events, or things. 

Use figures for: Academic course numbers, addresses, ages, centuries, dates, years and decades, decimals, percentages and fractions with numbers larger than 1, dimensions, distances, highways, monetary units, school grades. 

Spell out: at the start of a sentence, in definite and casual uses, names, in fractions less than one. 

Phone numbers 

123-456-7890 

am, pm, Lowercase, no periods. Avoid the redundant 10 am this morning.

web, website, webcam, webcast, webpage, web address, web browser, internet

Harvard Style Guidelines 

Here are tips for Harvard-specific terms and other terms you may encounter more frequently based on the nature of our website. They're based on guidelines provided in the Harvard University Style Guidelines .

Harvard University Proper Nouns

Capitalize the full, formal names of:

  • Departments
  • Colleges and schools
  • Institutions
  • Residential houses
  • Academic associations
  • Scholarships

However, do not capitalize names used informally, in the second reference. For example, when calling it the center, or the department.

Example: The Science Center contains five lecture halls; you can reserve space at the center by submitting a room request.

The exception is to capitalize College, School, and University when referring to Harvard, as well as the Yard.

Always capitalize Harvard Library. Do not capitalize Harvard libraries. Be careful in referencing Harvard Library, so as not to give users the idea that the Harvard Library is a place. 

Capitalize formal titles when used immediately before a name.

Lowercase formal titles when used alone or in constructions that set them off from a name by commas.

Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles.

Named professorships and fellowships are capitalized even following the person’s name.

Academic years and terms

Terms designating academic years and terms are lowercased, like senior, first-year student, fall semester

Class titles

Capitalize the name of classes. Course titles and lectures are capitalized and put in quotes.

Example: June teaches Literature 101. Professor John Doe is teaching “The Art of Guitar Playing” this semester.

Concentrations

Concentrations are not capitalized. 

Harvard academic titles

Unlike AP, use title case for named professors, like Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values.

Treat all other academic titles as formal titles: capitalized when used immediately before a name.

The preferred format is to spell out the degree. Capitalize an individual's specific degree, but do not capitalize when referring to a degree generically.

For example: John Smith holds a Master of Arts in English. She is working toward her bachelor’s degree.

If abbreviating degrees, use capitalized initials with periods: A.B., S.B.

When referring to someone’s year of graduation, capitalize “class.” Example: John Harvard, Class of 1977, was in town for a lecture.

"Writing is an instrument for conveying ideas from one mind to another; the writer’s job is to make the reader apprehend his meaning readily and precisely." —Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words

Tools & Resources

There are tons of tools available online to help you accomplish the goals outlined above and test your content for readability. Here are some to get you started: 

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Rules for Writing Numbers in an Essay

Know when to spell out numbers and when to use numerals.

Rules for Using Numbers in APA Format

Four p.m. or 4 p.m.? 1950s or 1950’s? Writing an essay or paper can be challenging enough. Start to consider the various formatting rules that exist for including numbers in your essay, and you might find yourself overwhelmed by the conventions of writing. Fortunately, these rules are actually fairly straightforward and easy to remember. Review and practice them and they’ll soon become second nature, allowing you to spend less time thinking about guidelines and more time thinking about your writing.

Standard Numbers

When writing numbers in your essay, the general rule is that whole numbers below 10 should always be spelled out. You would assert that there are "three cars" or "eight baseballs." Numbers 10 and above should be written in numeral form: "21 bugs," "52 cards." When a number below 10 is grouped with a number above 10, the rule for the higher number takes precedence: "8 to 12 weeks."

Statistical Measures

Exact statistical measures, such as percentages, decimals, and mathematical operations, should always be written in numeral form. For example, “The success rate is 8%,” “Fill 5.5 cartons,” or “Divide the answer by 2.”

Use numerals for dates, times, and ages. For example, "October 27, 1986," "4 p.m.," or "37 years old." Spell out the number when writing out a time, such as "eleven o'clock."

Identification Numbers

Identification numbers should be written as numerals: "Room 7," District 4," "Channel 22."

Write years and decades in numeral form. Something might take place in 2005 or in the 1990s (decades do not use an apostrophe before the "s"). Centuries can be spelled out ("fifteenth century") or written in numeral form ("18th century").

Beginning of Sentence

Numbers that begin a sentence should always be spelled out: "Sixty-seven movies were released last month." However, for prose purposes, avoid using numbers at the beginning of sentences.

Inexact Numbers

Spell out rounded or inexact numbers. Also spell out common fractions. You might say there were "about a thousand" people at a gathering, or that "one-quarter of the audience found it funny."

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  • Writing Rules: Spelling Out Numbers

About the Author

A transplanted New Yorker currently living in Boston, Kevin Ryan is a new face in the professional writing industry. He graduated with a Master of Arts in human development from Boston College, where he served as sports editor for The Observer and a columnist for The Heights, the school's premier independent student newspaper.

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What Is Academic Writing? | Dos and Don’ts for Students

Academic writing is a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications. You’ll encounter it in journal articles and books on academic topics, and you’ll be expected to write your essays , research papers , and dissertation in academic style.

Academic writing follows the same writing process as other types of texts, but it has specific conventions in terms of content, structure and style.

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Table of contents

Types of academic writing, academic writing is…, academic writing is not…, useful tools for academic writing, academic writing checklist.

Academics mostly write texts intended for publication, such as journal articles, reports, books, and chapters in edited collections. For students, the most common types of academic writing assignments are listed below.

Different fields of study have different priorities in terms of the writing they produce. For example, in scientific writing it’s crucial to clearly and accurately report methods and results; in the humanities, the focus is on constructing convincing arguments through the use of textual evidence. However, most academic writing shares certain key principles intended to help convey information as effectively as possible.

Whether your goal is to pass your degree, apply to graduate school , or build an academic career, effective writing is an essential skill.

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Formal and unbiased

Academic writing aims to convey information in an impartial way. The goal is to base arguments on the evidence under consideration, not the author’s preconceptions. All claims should be supported with relevant evidence, not just asserted.

To avoid bias, it’s important to represent the work of other researchers and the results of your own research fairly and accurately. This means clearly outlining your methodology  and being honest about the limitations of your research.

The formal style used in academic writing ensures that research is presented consistently across different texts, so that studies can be objectively assessed and compared with other research.

Because of this, it’s important to strike the right tone with your language choices. Avoid informal language , including slang, contractions , clichés, and conversational phrases:

  • Also , a lot of the findings are a little unreliable.
  • Moreover , many of the findings are somewhat unreliable.

Clear and precise

It’s important to use clear and precise language to ensure that your reader knows exactly what you mean. This means being as specific as possible and avoiding vague language :

  • People have been interested in this thing for a long time .
  • Researchers have been interested in this phenomenon for at least 10 years .

Avoid hedging your claims with words like “perhaps,” as this can give the impression that you lack confidence in your arguments. Reflect on your word choice to ensure it accurately and directly conveys your meaning:

  • This could perhaps suggest that…
  • This suggests that…

Specialist language or jargon is common and often necessary in academic writing, which generally targets an audience of other academics in related fields.

However, jargon should be used to make your writing more concise and accurate, not to make it more complicated. A specialist term should be used when:

  • It conveys information more precisely than a comparable non-specialist term.
  • Your reader is likely to be familiar with the term.
  • The term is commonly used by other researchers in your field.

The best way to familiarize yourself with the kind of jargon used in your field is to read papers by other researchers and pay attention to their language.

Focused and well structured

An academic text is not just a collection of ideas about a topic—it needs to have a clear purpose. Start with a relevant research question or thesis statement , and use it to develop a focused argument. Only include information that is relevant to your overall purpose.

A coherent structure is crucial to organize your ideas. Pay attention to structure at three levels: the structure of the whole text, paragraph structure, and sentence structure.

Well sourced

Academic writing uses sources to support its claims. Sources are other texts (or media objects like photographs or films) that the author analyzes or uses as evidence. Many of your sources will be written by other academics; academic writing is collaborative and builds on previous research.

It’s important to consider which sources are credible and appropriate to use in academic writing. For example, citing Wikipedia is typically discouraged. Don’t rely on websites for information; instead, use academic databases and your university library to find credible sources.

You must always cite your sources in academic writing. This means acknowledging whenever you quote or paraphrase someone else’s work by including a citation in the text and a reference list at the end.

There are many different citation styles with different rules. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago . Make sure to consistently follow whatever style your institution requires. If you don’t cite correctly, you may get in trouble for plagiarism . A good plagiarism checker can help you catch any issues before it’s too late.

You can easily create accurate citations in APA or MLA style using our Citation Generators.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

Correct and consistent

As well as following the rules of grammar, punctuation, and citation, it’s important to consistently apply stylistic conventions regarding:

  • How to write numbers
  • Introducing abbreviations
  • Using verb tenses in different sections
  • Capitalization of terms and headings
  • Spelling and punctuation differences between UK and US English

In some cases there are several acceptable approaches that you can choose between—the most important thing is to apply the same rules consistently and to carefully proofread your text before you submit. If you don’t feel confident in your own proofreading abilities, you can get help from Scribbr’s professional proofreading services or Grammar Checker .

Academic writing generally tries to avoid being too personal. Information about the author may come in at some points—for example in the acknowledgements or in a personal reflection—but for the most part the text should focus on the research itself.

Always avoid addressing the reader directly with the second-person pronoun “you.” Use the impersonal pronoun “one” or an alternate phrasing instead for generalizations:

  • As a teacher, you must treat your students fairly.
  • As a teacher, one must treat one’s students fairly.
  • Teachers must treat their students fairly.

The use of the first-person pronoun “I” used to be similarly discouraged in academic writing, but it is increasingly accepted in many fields. If you’re unsure whether to use the first person, pay attention to conventions in your field or ask your instructor.

When you refer to yourself, it should be for good reason. You can position yourself and describe what you did during the research, but avoid arbitrarily inserting your personal thoughts and feelings:

  • In my opinion…
  • I think that…
  • I like/dislike…
  • I conducted interviews with…
  • I argue that…
  • I hope to achieve…

Long-winded

Many students think their writing isn’t academic unless it’s over-complicated and long-winded. This isn’t a good approach—instead, aim to be as concise and direct as possible.

If a term can be cut or replaced with a more straightforward one without affecting your meaning, it should be. Avoid redundant phrasings in your text, and try replacing phrasal verbs with their one-word equivalents where possible:

  • Interest in this phenomenon carried on in the year 2018 .
  • Interest in this phenomenon continued in 2018 .

Repetition is a part of academic writing—for example, summarizing earlier information in the conclusion—but it’s important to avoid unnecessary repetition. Make sure that none of your sentences are repeating a point you’ve already made in different words.

Emotive and grandiose

An academic text is not the same thing as a literary, journalistic, or marketing text. Though you’re still trying to be persuasive, a lot of techniques from these styles are not appropriate in an academic context. Specifically, you should avoid appeals to emotion and inflated claims.

Though you may be writing about a topic that’s sensitive or important to you, the point of academic writing is to clearly communicate ideas, information, and arguments, not to inspire an emotional response. Avoid using emotive or subjective language :

  • This horrible tragedy was obviously one of the worst catastrophes in construction history.
  • The injury and mortality rates of this accident were among the highest in construction history.

Students are sometimes tempted to make the case for their topic with exaggerated , unsupported claims and flowery language. Stick to specific, grounded arguments that you can support with evidence, and don’t overstate your point:

  • Charles Dickens is the greatest writer of the Victorian period, and his influence on all subsequent literature is enormous.
  • Charles Dickens is one of the best-known writers of the Victorian period and has had a significant influence on the development of the English novel.

There are a a lot of writing tools that will make your writing process faster and easier. We’ll highlight three of them below.

Paraphrasing tool

AI writing tools like ChatGPT and a paraphrasing tool can help you rewrite text so that your ideas are clearer, you don’t repeat yourself, and your writing has a consistent tone.

They can also help you write more clearly about sources without having to quote them directly. Be warned, though: it’s still crucial to give credit to all sources in the right way to prevent plagiarism .

Grammar checker

Writing tools that scan your text for punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. When it detects a mistake the grammar checke r will give instant feedback and suggest corrections. Helping you write clearly and avoid common mistakes .

You can use a summarizer if you want to condense text into its most important and useful ideas. With a summarizer tool, you can make it easier to understand complicated sources. You can also use the tool to make your research question clearer and summarize your main argument.

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Use the checklist below to assess whether you have followed the rules of effective academic writing.

  • Checklist: Academic writing

I avoid informal terms and contractions .

I avoid second-person pronouns (“you”).

I avoid emotive or exaggerated language.

I avoid redundant words and phrases.

I avoid unnecessary jargon and define terms where needed.

I present information as precisely and accurately as possible.

I use appropriate transitions to show the connections between my ideas.

My text is logically organized using paragraphs .

Each paragraph is focused on a single idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Every part of the text relates to my central thesis or research question .

I support my claims with evidence.

I use the appropriate verb tenses in each section.

I consistently use either UK or US English .

I format numbers consistently.

I cite my sources using a consistent citation style .

Your text follows the most important rules of academic style. Make sure it's perfect with the help of a Scribbr editor!

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Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of EAPFoundation.com. He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn .

Compare & contrast essays examine the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences.

Cause & effect essays consider the reasons (or causes) for something, then discuss the results (or effects).

Discussion essays require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour.

Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation).

Transition signals are useful in achieving good cohesion and coherence in your writing.

Reporting verbs are used to link your in-text citations to the information cited.

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The Loss of Things I Took for Granted

Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively..

Recent years have seen successive waves of book bans in Republican-controlled states, aimed at pulling any text with “woke” themes from classrooms and library shelves. Though the results sometimes seem farcical, as with the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus due to its inclusion of “cuss words” and explicit rodent nudity, the book-banning agenda is no laughing matter. Motivated by bigotry, it has already done demonstrable harm and promises to do more. But at the same time, the appropriate response is, in principle, simple. Named individuals have advanced explicit policies with clear goals and outcomes, and we can replace those individuals with people who want to reverse those policies. That is already beginning to happen in many places, and I hope those successes will continue until every banned book is restored.

If and when that happens, however, we will not be able to declare victory quite yet. Defeating the open conspiracy to deprive students of physical access to books will do little to counteract the more diffuse confluence of forces that are depriving students of the skills needed to meaningfully engage with those books in the first place. As a college educator, I am confronted daily with the results of that conspiracy-without-conspirators. I have been teaching in small liberal arts colleges for over 15 years now, and in the past five years, it’s as though someone flipped a switch. For most of my career, I assigned around 30 pages of reading per class meeting as a baseline expectation—sometimes scaling up for purely expository readings or pulling back for more difficult texts. (No human being can read 30 pages of Hegel in one sitting, for example.) Now students are intimidated by anything over 10 pages and seem to walk away from readings of as little as 20 pages with no real understanding. Even smart and motivated students struggle to do more with written texts than extract decontextualized take-aways. Considerable class time is taken up simply establishing what happened in a story or the basic steps of an argument—skills I used to be able to take for granted.

Since this development very directly affects my ability to do my job as I understand it, I talk about it a lot. And when I talk about it with nonacademics, certain predictable responses inevitably arise, all questioning the reality of the trend I describe. Hasn’t every generation felt that the younger cohort is going to hell in a handbasket? Haven’t professors always complained that educators at earlier levels are not adequately equipping their students? And haven’t students from time immemorial skipped the readings?

The response of my fellow academics, however, reassures me that I’m not simply indulging in intergenerational grousing. Anecdotally, I have literally never met a professor who did not share my experience. Professors are also discussing the issue in academic trade publications , from a variety of perspectives. What we almost all seem to agree on is that we are facing new obstacles in structuring and delivering our courses, requiring us to ratchet down expectations in the face of a ratcheting down of preparation. Yes, there were always students who skipped the readings, but we are in new territory when even highly motivated honors students struggle to grasp the basic argument of a 20-page article. Yes, professors never feel satisfied that high school teachers have done enough, but not every generation of professors has had to deal with the fallout of No Child Left Behind and Common Core. Finally, yes, every generation thinks the younger generation is failing to make the grade— except for the current cohort of professors, who are by and large more invested in their students’ success and mental health and more responsive to student needs than any group of educators in human history. We are not complaining about our students. We are complaining about what has been taken from them.

If we ask what has caused this change, there are some obvious culprits. The first is the same thing that has taken away almost everyone’s ability to focus—the ubiquitous smartphone. Even as a career academic who studies the Quran in Arabic for fun, I have noticed my reading endurance flagging. I once found myself boasting at a faculty meeting that I had read through my entire hourlong train ride without looking at my phone. My colleagues agreed this was a major feat, one they had not achieved recently. Even if I rarely attain that high level of focus, though, I am able to “turn it on” when demanded, for instance to plow through a big novel during a holiday break. That’s because I was able to develop and practice those skills of extended concentration and attentive reading before the intervention of the smartphone. For children who were raised with smartphones, by contrast, that foundation is missing. It is probably no coincidence that the iPhone itself, originally released in 2007, is approaching college age, meaning that professors are increasingly dealing with students who would have become addicted to the dopamine hit of the omnipresent screen long before they were introduced to the more subtle pleasures of the page.

The second go-to explanation is the massive disruption of school closures during COVID-19. There is still some debate about the necessity of those measures, but what is not up for debate any longer is the very real learning loss that students suffered at every level. The impact will inevitably continue to be felt for the next decade or more, until the last cohort affected by the mass “pivot to online” finally graduates. I doubt that the pandemic closures were the decisive factor in themselves, however. Not only did the marked decline in reading resilience start before the pandemic, but the students I am seeing would have already been in high school during the school closures. Hence they would be better equipped to get something out of the online format and, more importantly, their basic reading competence would have already been established.

Less discussed than these broader cultural trends over which educators have little control are the major changes in reading pedagogy that have occurred in recent decades—some motivated by the ever-increasing demand to “teach to the test” and some by fads coming out of schools of education. In the latter category is the widely discussed decline in phonics education in favor of the “balanced literacy” approach advocated by education expert Lucy Calkins (who has more recently come to accept the need for more phonics instruction). I started to see the results of this ill-advised change several years ago, when students abruptly stopped attempting to sound out unfamiliar words and instead paused until they recognized the whole word as a unit. (In a recent class session, a smart, capable student was caught short by the word circumstances when reading a text out loud.) The result of this vibes-based literacy is that students never attain genuine fluency in reading. Even aside from the impact of smartphones, their experience of reading is constantly interrupted by their intentionally cultivated inability to process unfamiliar words.

For all the flaws of the balanced literacy method, it was presumably implemented by people who thought it would help. It is hard to see a similar motivation in the growing trend toward assigning students only the kind of short passages that can be included in a standardized test. Due in part to changes driven by the infamous Common Core standards , teachers now have to fight to assign their students longer readings, much less entire books, because those activities won’t feed directly into students getting higher test scores, which leads to schools getting more funding. The emphasis on standardized tests was always a distraction at best, but we have reached the point where it is actively cannibalizing students’ educational experience—an outcome no one intended or planned, and for which there is no possible justification.

We can’t go back in time and do the pandemic differently at this point, nor is there any realistic path to putting the smartphone genie back in the bottle. (Though I will note that we as a society do at least attempt to keep other addictive products out of the hands of children.) But I have to think that we can, at the very least, stop actively preventing young people from developing the ability to follow extended narratives and arguments in the classroom. Regardless of their profession or ultimate educational level, they will need those skills. The world is a complicated place. People—their histories and identities, their institutions and work processes, their fears and desires—are simply too complex to be captured in a worksheet with a paragraph and some reading comprehension questions. Large-scale prose writing is the best medium we have for capturing that complexity, and the education system should not be in the business of keeping students from learning how to engage effectively with it.

This is a matter not of snobbery, but of basic justice. I recognize that not everyone centers their lives on books as much as a humanities professor does. I think they’re missing out, but they’re adults and they can choose how to spend their time. What’s happening with the current generation is not that they are simply choosing TikTok over Jane Austen. They are being deprived of the ability to choose—for no real reason or benefit. We can and must stop perpetrating this crime on our young people.

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Math Is the Answer to More Than One Question

A drawing that includes a man with a cane, a few plants, and the equation 3 + 8 = 11.

By Alec Wilkinson

Mr. Wilkinson is the author of “ A Divine Language : Learning Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus at the Edge of Old Age.”

I am surprised at this late stage, in my 70s, to be thinking about God. In my defense, I might say that I did not arrive at these thoughts by reflecting on my own inevitable end or from a religion or a Scripture or the example of a holy figure. I arrived by means of mathematics, specifically simple mathematics — algebra, geometry and calculus, the kind of mathematics that adolescents do.

Several years ago, I decided that I needed to know something of mathematics, a subject that had roughed me up cruelly as a boy. I believed that not knowing mathematics had limited my ability to think and solve problems and to see the world in complex ways, and I thought that if I understood even a little of it, I would be smarter. My acquaintance with mathematics is still slight. I am only a mathematical tourist, but my experience has led me to believe that mathematics is rife with intimations of a divine presence.

This is no observation of my own. Mathematicians have been finding suggestions of divinity in mathematics at least since Pythagoras, in the sixth century B.C. For many mathematicians, there is no question that God is somehow involved. Newton, for example, believed that mathematics exemplified thoughts in the mind of God.

A couple of simple mysteries, available to anyone, help explain why this might be so. The first is the question of whether mathematics is created or discovered. Some mathematicians believe that mathematics is a system invented by human beings and that it is shaped as it is by the tendencies of human beings toward particular types of thinking. This is a minority view. The majority believe that mathematics exists as if independently of human thought and that the discoveries that mathematicians make are a mapping of an independent and timeless territory, a sort of parallel world where nothing is good or evil but everything is true.

There is also the observation by the Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands that mathematics is not complete, and because of its nature may never be. Mathematics, which attempts to define infinity, may itself be infinite.

For theologians in antiquity, infinity was a property of God. Being finite, humans were believed to be incapable of conceiving of infinity on their own. God gave us the ability, they thought, as a means of understanding his nature. Theologians were even a little touchy about his sole possession of it. In “Leaders of the Reformation,” published in London in 1859, John Tulloch quotes Martin Luther, sounding a little piqued in a dispute at a conference in 1529, saying: “I will have nothing to do with your mathematics! God is above mathematics!”

Toward the end of the 19th century, the mathematician Georg Cantor, the creator of set theory, discovered that infinity is not a static description. Some infinities, he said, are larger than others. For each infinity there is a larger one, an infinity to which something has been added. There are in fact a multitude of infinities, and infinities themselves can be added to one another.

Eventually, one arrives at the infinity that contains all other infinities. What surpasses all, Cantor wrote to a friend, was “the Absolute, incomprehensible to the human understanding. This is the Actus Purissimus, which by many is called God.”

When I was a small child, I did not think about God so much as I felt him or her or them, however you care to frame it. Not infrequently, and especially when I was in the woods, I had a sense of there being an accompanying presence, of there being, that is, something immaterial behind everything. I know now but I didn’t then that this feeling is sufficiently common that it has a name: immanence. I never talked about it with anyone; I simply assumed that everyone felt the way that I did.

Immanence is a second cousin once removed to pantheism, of course, the notion that God is in everything, and closer to the Greeks than to Christian monotheism. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was separated from this notion in Sunday school. There I was taught that God inhabited a book and the form of a singular man. It isn’t so much that I resisted these premises as that they didn’t stir anything within me. I didn’t connect them to the feelings that I had had alone in the woods. I gave up.

I am grateful to have a sense of mystery returned to me by mathematics. I am pleased to have been given, from an unexpected source, a reason both humbling and human to feel that there is more to life than I might believe there to be. And even if created by men and women, mathematics, as I read somewhere, is the longest continuous human thought, a circumstance that is itself worth regarding with awe.

Alec Wilkinson is the author of “ A Divine Language : Learning Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus at the Edge of Old Age,” which has recently been released in paperback.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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  1. APA Style Guidelines for Numbers

    Numbers can be written either as words (e.g., one hundred) or numerals (e.g., 100). In this article we follow the guidelines of APA Style, one of the most common style guides used in academic writing. In general, words should be used for numbers from zero through nine, and numerals should be used from 10 onwards.

  2. PDF Numbers in Academic Writing

    2. How to avoid confusion with numbers in a sentence Avoid confusion when using two numbers together (run-on numbers) or when dealing with several numbers in a single sentence Examples There were 32 third-grade students participating in the test. (run-on numbers) The computer laboratory has 24 thirty-centimetre monitors.(run-on numbers)

  3. Numbers in academic writing

    When to use numerals Numerals are used for almost all other situations. These include the following. Measurements (e.g. 6 kg, 3 cm, 10 min, 2 hr, 3 days, 6 years, 5 decades ) Currency (e.g. $10, £50, £60 billion) Statistical data, including survey data (e.g. A survey of participants revealed that 4 out of 5 students worked.)

  4. Numbers: Writing Numbers

    Grammar Writing Numbers Writing Numbers Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers that can be expressed in one or two words and use figures for numbers that are three or more words long. Note: If you are using a specific citation style, such as MLA or APA, consult the style manual for specific formatting instructions. Words

  5. PDF Numbers in academic writing

    For general academic writing, you need to write these numbers in words: all numbers under one hundred (e.g. ninety-nine) rounded numbers (e.g. four hundred, two thousand, six million) and ordinal numbers (e.g. third, twenty-fifth). Exceptions: See 3. When to use digits for numbers Examples

  6. Numbers

    Numbers. Numbers are used in all sorts of scholarly works. For example, writers may report numerical information about participants (number of participants, demographic information such as age, etc.) as well as the results of statistical analyses. Even writers who are not conducting empirical research often use statistical information to ...

  7. Numbers

    When using numbers in academic writing you need to decide if it's more appropriate to use a numeral (e.g. 9) or to write the number in words (e.g. nine). It's worth checking to see if your department has specific advice on this matter, because individual approaches do vary.

  8. One, 2, III: Using Numbers in Academic Writing

    The biggest question when it comes to numbers in academic writing is whether to use numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) or words (one, two, three, four, etc.). The general guideline is to write smaller numbers up to ten as words, with numerals saved for larger numbers. Annoyingly, there is no consensus on this.

  9. Numbers In Academic Writing ~ APA Style Guidelines

    Numbers in Academic Writing - In a Nutshell Academic writing uses numbers in distinct ways depending on style guide. Conventions apply to technical number writing and non-technical number writing. Numbers are usually written out from one to nine, and numerals are used from 10.

  10. 1, Two, or III? How to Format Numbers in Academic Writing

    One prominent issue is whether numbers should be written using words (e.g. one, two, three) or Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3). Generally, the rule here is to write out numbers up to nine and use numerals for larger values. Nevertheless, different systems have different rules; for instance, while APA recommends using numerals for ten and up (or ...

  11. Academic Guides: Other APA Guidelines: Numbers

    Basics of Numbers. Per APA 7, Section 6.32, use numerals to express numbers 10 or above (e.g., 11, 23, 256). Per Section 6.33, write out numbers as words to express numbers up to nine (e.g., three, seven, eight). Take the APA Style Diagnostic Quiz to test your knowledge.

  12. When to Spell Out Numbers in Writing: Guide and Examples

    A simple rule for using numbers in writing is that small numbers ranging from one to ten (or one to nine, depending on the style guide) should generally be spelled out. Larger numbers (i.e., above ten) are written as numerals. For example, instead of writing "It cost ten-thousand four-hundred and sixteen dollars to renovate the local library ...

  13. PDF Using numbers in your writing

    numbers from zero to nine, write the word. For numbers from 10 up wards, use numerals. When using ordinal numbers (first, second, third…), write the word rather than use the numeral (unless you are writing a date). e.g. In this case , four people chose the first option, and the remaining 26 chose the second option. If using decimals, use numerals

  14. Formatting academic writing

    Write numbers correctly. There are conventions for how to include numbers in your academic writing. Generally, we write out the numbers zero to ten in words, and then use numerals for the numbers 11 onwards. However, there can be important exceptions and specific cases depending on what the number represents, where it appears in a sentence, and ...

  15. Academic Writing Style

    Also, be careful using numbers because they can imply a ranked order of priority or importance. If none exists, use bullets and avoid checkmarks or other symbols. ... Academic Writing Step-By-Step: A Research-based Approach. Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2016; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Style ...

  16. Numbers in APA

    In general, APA style recommends using words to express numbers below 10, and using numerals when expressing numbers 10 and above. See below for a more extensive list. Numbers expressed as numerals. In addition to expressing numbers 10 and above, the following are other instances when you would use numerals rather than words:

  17. How To Write Numbers in Academic Writing

    Writing Numbers in Words. When writing numbers in words, the general rule is to spell out numbers from one to nine and use numerals for numbers 10 and above. For example: Three participants attended the conference. The study included 15 respondents. Exceptions to this rule include instances where numbers begin a sentence. In such cases, it's ...

  18. Writing Guide

    We do this by writing in a clear, helpful and confident voice that guides our users and invites them to engage with us. ... Use figures for: Academic course numbers, addresses, ages, centuries, dates, years and decades, decimals, percentages and fractions with numbers larger than 1, dimensions, distances, highways, monetary units, school grades

  19. Rules for Writing Numbers in an Essay

    Identification numbers should be written as numerals: "Room 7," District 4," "Channel 22." Years Write years and decades in numeral form. Something might take place in 2005 or in the 1990s (decades do not use an apostrophe before the "s"). Centuries can be spelled out ("fifteenth century") or written in numeral form ("18th century").

  20. What Is Academic Writing?

    Academic writing is a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications. You'll encounter it in journal articles and books on academic topics, and you'll be expected to write your essays, research papers, and dissertation in academic style. Academic writing follows the same writing process as other types of texts, but ...

  21. What Is Academic Writing? Definitive Guide

    Types of academic writing. Academic writing covers a variety of types of work. These include: Essays. An essay is a relatively short piece of writing that, like a research paper, makes and supports a specific point. Theses and dissertations. A thesis and a dissertation are two types of capstone projects.

  22. Writing skills

    There are many important skills in academic writing, such as hedging, describing data, writing numbers and using complex grammar. ... Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation). 5.

  23. PDF ACADEMIC WRITING

    Academic Writing 3 The Pillars of Academic Writing Academic writing is built upon three truths that aren't self-evident: - Writing is Thinking: While "writing" is traditionally understood as the expression of thought, we'll redefine "writing" as the thought process itself. Writing is not what you do with thought. Writing is

  24. Literacy crisis in college students: Essay from a professor on students

    School The Loss of Things I Took for Granted Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively.

  25. Opinion

    Mr. Wilkinson is the author of "A Divine Language: Learning Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus at the Edge of Old Age." I am surprised at this late stage, in my 70s, to be thinking about God. In ...

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