A friend recently sent me an article in a recent ABA Journal where a paragraph began with a quotation, which started with a number:
My initial instinct was “There is no way that is correct.” My next thought was “Well, it IS a quotation.” My research indicates, however, that in most cases it is incorrect.
Most sources suggest that if you are going to start a sentence with a number, you spell the number out. However, a reader may lose interest by the time they get to the message if the number is too long. It is better to reword the sentence. For example:
- Twelve thousand four hundred and eight-two people are expected to post something on Facebook in the next half hour.
would be better stated:
- In the next half hour, 12,482 people are expected to post something on Facebook.
Note that the number in the examples above is completely fabricated.
It appears that most style guides and grammar experts suggest never beginning a sentence with a number (although some say you can use a number when you start a sentence with a year—most still disagree). It is better practice just to avoid starting sentences with numbers altogether. In our example from the ABA Journal, it might have been better stated:
Karen A. Overstreet, a judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, stated that “23,000 people in western Washington declared bankruptcy last year, and I’ve encountered a lot of bankruptcy debtors who have large amounts of student loans.”
It isn’t difficult to make things work so they are generally grammatically correct. It shows that you care about your writing so that people like me (and there are LOTS of us out there) who tend to read with a more “discerning” eye will appreciate your effort to make your work more readable.