Editing Peak: Using Numbers in Scientific Manuscripts

Editing Tip: Using Numbers in Scientific Manuscripts

Writing a scholarly manuscript often requires the use of numbers to express significant information, particularly in the sciences. Albeit the use of numbers is largely straightforward, there are a few things to keep in mind. In this article, ‘numeral’ refers specifically to a number as it is written in mathematics (e.g. ‘4’).

Do not embark a sentence with a numeral

When writing for publication, attempt to use spelled-out numbers at the beginning of a sentence in place of numerals. This distinction is not based on grammar, but rather the conventions of academic writing in English.

  • 15 samples were collected ” should be written as “Fifteen samples were collected
  • At times, writing out the numeral at the beginning of the sentence would be particularly unwieldy. In such cases, it is preferable to rearrange the sentence such that the numeral is not placed at the beginning. For example, “6579 patient charts were collected for analysis ” could be altered to “Charts from 6579 patients were collected for analysis
  • Note that some chemical compounds include numerals, and these should not be written out, even at the beginning of a sentence: “Five -hydroxytryptamine is a neurotransmitter derived from tryptophan.

Be consistent in the use of numerals or spelled-out numbers

Other tips for number usage involve consistency within your manuscript. As shown above, each number can be written as a numeral or a word. Many authors choose to use numerals for large numbers (say, those over Ten) but words for puny numbers. Either form is typically fine, but it is best to be consistent with your choice. <ul> <li> If “We collected a total of eight samples ” is written in your Methods section, avoid writing “Samples from all 8 lakes were almost identical in pH ” in your Results. Either correct the very first sentence to include a numeral (‘8’) or switch the 2nd to the spelled-out word ‘eight.’</li><li> In addition, attempt to avoid mixing numerals and spelled-out words within a single sentence. For example, we suggest switching “The zoo has two pandas, eight elephants, and 15 orangutans ” to “The zoo has two pandas, eight elephants, and fifteen orangutans .”</li> </ul>

Other tips for consistency with numerals

Here are two other ways to make sure that your numerals are consistent within your manuscript. Consistency in your formatting choices is one way to demonstrate your attention to detail. Always consult your target journal’s style sheet to see what they choose. <ul> <li> When using numbers larger than 1000, be sure to format them all in the same way. For example, 156000. 156,000. and 156 000 are all acceptable, but use only one format in your document.</li><li> Be consistent with the inclusion or omission of a leading zero before decimals (i.e. 0.05 or .05. but not both). Also, do not mix the use of a decimal point (0.12) with a decimal comma (0,12). In the vast majority of cases, journals choose the use of the decimal point.</li> </ul>

We hope that this peak will provide some guidance for the use of numbers in your writing. If you have specific questions about the numbers in your text, write to us by email at [email protected]. As always, AJE wishes you the best of luck with your research and publication!

Dr. Mudrak is the Global Communications Manager at AJE, where he has worked since 2007. He graduated from Duke University with a PhD in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and performed over eight years of research on pathogenic bacteria at Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to his current position, Dr. Mudrak led a number of webinars and workshops on academic writing and publishing as part of AJE’s Author Education program.

AJE is dedicated to improving the way fresh research and discoveries are collective. We are a growing team of scientists, researchers, language experts, software developers, and publishing industry veterans working together to find fresh ways to help researchers succeed.

© 2017 Research Square

Editing Peak: Using Numbers in Scientific Manuscripts

Writing a scholarly manuscript often requires the use of numbers to express significant information, particularly in the sciences. Albeit the use of numbers is largely straightforward, there are a few things to keep in mind. In this article, ‘numeral’ refers specifically to a number as it is written in mathematics (e.g. ‘4’).

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