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Thread: Help! Formatting years..2008 or two-thousand-eight?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Cactus Land's Avatar
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    Help! Formatting years..2008 or two-thousand-eight?

    Hi, this question has been bugging me for a while, and now I have a concrete example.

    “Well.” He buttered his bread while the waitress laid down his Caesar salad and my BLT. “Two-thousand six is almost in the books, and my plan from here is about two years, say the end of 2008 would be a rough target.”

    I need to start with 2006, but how should I do this? Seems strange to start a sentence with a number... any help on this one would be greatly appreciated.

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    I'm gonna give all my secrets away Spell-it-out's Avatar
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    I just use "2006",
    and I don't use yellow

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    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    First, the yellow text is really hard to read.

    It's true that in general you should not start sentences with numerals, but spelling it out is just too laborious, so I would use the numerals for years. I nearly always spell out other numbers, though: the nineties, twenty-five people, etc.

    Or, reword it to remove the problem: "Well," . . . "Since 2006 is almost in the books, . . . the end of 2008 is a rough target."
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    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spell-it-out View Post
    I just use "2006",
    and I don't use yellow
    Any irony that a user named "Spell it out" uses numerals?
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    practical experience, FTW Cactus Land's Avatar
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    Thanks guys, the number wins.. sorry about the yellow, I was trying to highlight it, but it turned in to a CF...

    Thanks again for the quick response, you guys and gals are great!!

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    If the number is below 100, spell it out.

    Example, for 99, use ninety-nine.


    If a number is 100 or above, just write the number.


    As for years that are three or four-digit, same thing. 2008, 2009, 2010...yes.


    Personally I've never read a novel that is set on a four-digit year in which the author names the year instead of just writing the number.

    "She got divorced in nineteen ninety six and remarried in two thousand and one."


    I wouldn't dismiss the story for the author doing that but I would laugh my ass off, to be honest.

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    I'd also say the numerals eradicate the problem of international reading - in the UK we'd say 'two thousand and eight', and anything else sounds weird. But then I don't suppose that's something you should really be worrying about..

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    Quote Originally Posted by etcetc View Post
    I'd also say the numerals eradicate the problem of international reading - in the UK we'd say 'two thousand and eight', and anything else sounds weird. But then I don't suppose that's something you should really be worrying about..

    Thanks. That is helpful for me because although I live in the US, I write characters that live in the UK, so when they're mentioning a year, it's important for me to know that. You rock, you really do. And for those that write characters that are from and live in the UK, your advice will be golden, too.

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    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    I can't read that yellow font. It just looks like a smear.

    And I'm now trying to remember how I've seen years written in novels.

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    Widely Regarded as a Bad Move DanielaTorre's Avatar
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    So if a character says "Nineteen Hundred and One", is that correct? It feels silly saying "1901".

    I say this because my character would say "Nineteen-o-one". Ugh. I just confused myself. Seems I'm having the same problem. LOL.

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    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    In the narration, I would always use "2008". If it was at the beginning of a sentence, I would do my best to reword it so it wasn't at the beginning of the sentence, and if couldn't, I'd probably just keep it as "2008", even though I was taught to write out numbers at the beginning of sentences. I just think years look strange written in words. (Except on wedding invitations, where this seems to be the norm. Actually, I still think it looks weird.)

    But your example is in dialogue--I think that is an important point here. I usually write out numbers in dialogue because that's how the character is saying it. But as I said, I really hate years written in words, so I'm not sure what I would do in that case.

    Sorry, not helpful

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    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    For dialogue I would spell it out, unless you want your character to say two zero zero eight.

    Otherwise, it's just the year.

    The yellow font is jarring.
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    Style guides are awesome.

    The Elements of Style says, "Numerals. Do not spell out dates or other serial numbers. Write them in figures or in Roman notation, as appropriate."

    Even in dialogue, use numerals for the year. You spell out the day of the month, but use numerals for the year. "August the twenty-ninth, in the year 1908"

    As a matter of personal form, if you are abbreviating the year in colloquial 'slang talk' I would spell it out vs numerals. "Back in aught-eight, I was dating a one-armed midget lady with four eyes and ninety-nine problems. But I wasn't one."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finis View Post
    *snipped* "Back in aught-eight, I was dating a one-armed midget lady with four eyes and ninety-nine problems. But I wasn't one."
    This example made me very happy.
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    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finis View Post
    Style guides are awesome.

    Even in dialogue, use numerals for the year. You spell out the day of the month, but use numerals for the year. [I]"August the twenty-ninth, in the year 1908"
    Right, for more formal writing. This is creative writing.

    You (not you personally, but generally ) have to look at how it will come across in dialogue. 2008 is two- zero-zero-eight when written out in numerals. Written out, it is two thousand eight, or you could even write it out as twenty oh eight, depending on how the person speaks.

    "Back in aught-eight, I was dating a one-armed midget lady with four eyes and ninety-nine problems. But I wasn't one."
    Very cute. You would also say, "Back in oh eight," or "back in two thousand eight," depending on the voice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanielaTorre View Post
    So if a character says "Nineteen Hundred and One", is that correct? It feels silly saying "1901".

    I say this because my character would say "Nineteen-o-one". Ugh. I just confused myself. Seems I'm having the same problem. LOL.
    The 21st century is different to previous centuries. So we would pronounce 1901 as 'nineteen-o-one' but 2001 as 'two thousand and one'. I never even realised it was different in the US.
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    Something else to consider is whether or not to use the last two digits by themselves or not.

    I think a lot of people would refer to 1999 or before by the last two digits ('99). Of course, that would depend entirely on context and proximity to the year. Someone in the 1920's might reference 1908 as "ought eight."

    I don't hear anyone refer to the years 2000 and after by the last two digits ('08).

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    Really? I do. When I ask our son what year he graduated, he says '04, pronouncing it oh-four. Then he rolls his eyes because I should know that.

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    I have to agree with what I think is the consensus here - numerals (2008) unless you want the reader to read it in a particular way (two thousand and eight vs two thousand eight) - and if you want the reader to read the digits individually I would put 2-0-0-8, probably.

    I also agree that that yellow should be banned from all forum text everywhere
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    I'm gonna give all my secrets away Spell-it-out's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris P View Post
    Any irony that a user named "Spell it out" uses numerals?
    ...woops!

  21. #21
    The moving hand, having writ... AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristinaLayton View Post
    If the number is below 100, spell it out.

    Example, for 99, use ninety-nine.


    If a number is 100 or above, just write the number. <snip>
    In my reading, I often see what I presume to be a house style which uses spelling for numbers ten and lower, or twenty and lower. Plenty of publishers use digits for numbers under 100. So I cannot agree with this as a rule everyone should follow.

    I'm at a meeting which is winding down, with no books at hand, but I imagine if I were at home I could lay my hands on published text which says somebody's mother is 77, rather than seventy-seven, or that when someone was 35 they met The One, rather than meeting The One at age thirty-five.

    It's not that you never see these numbers under 100 written out, just that it's not a hard-and-fast rule with every publisher. No one would consider it a mistake in work submitted if you were to do either one, so long as you are consistent.

    Maryn, hoping this is clearer
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    practical experience, FTW Maythe's Avatar
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    In speech I used 08 (oh-eight) all the way through the 2000s. Never heard/saw 'ought' anything. I'm in the UK if that makes a difference.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristinaLayton View Post
    Personally I've never read a novel that is set on a four-digit year in which the author names the year instead of just writing the number.
    Though George Orwell's novel is actually called Nineteen Eighty-Four and not 1984.

    Quote Originally Posted by etcetc View Post
    I'd also say the numerals eradicate the problem of international reading - in the UK we'd say 'two thousand and eight', and anything else sounds weird. But then I don't suppose that's something you should really be worrying about..
    Though we would also call this year "Twenty-thirteen" as often as we would call it "Two thousand and thirteen".
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