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Captioning Key - Numbers


Experts don't always agree on rules for writing numbers or numerals. Captionists should follow a standard style manual, remembering to be consistent, or use this relatively detailed overview.

Spelling Out

  • Unless otherwise specified below, spell out all numbers from one to ten, but use numerals for all numbers over ten. Examples:


    The fifty-four DVDs
    need to be shelved.


    The 54 DVDs
    need to be shelved.


    He's at the thirty, the twenty,
    and scores!


    He's at the 30, the 20,
    and scores!
  • Spell out any number that begins a sentence as well as any related numbers. Example:
    Two hundred guests
    and eleven guides entered.
  • Spell out casual, nonemphatic numbers. Example:
    He gave me
    hundreds of reasons.
  • Numerals with four digits can either have a comma or not. Be consistent throughout the media production. For numerals having over five digits, a comma is necessary. Example:




  • Use numerals in a listing of numbers if one or more is above ten and these occur in one caption or one sentence. Example:


    Steven has 21 books,
    11 oranges, and three cats.


    Steven has 21 books,
    11 oranges, and 3 cats.
  • Use numerals when referring to technical and athletic terms. Example:
    He scored 3 goals
    in today's game!
  • When indicating sequence, capitalize the noun and use numerals. Exceptions are the indication of line, note, page, paragraph, size, step, or verse. Examples:
    Building 2
    page 31
    Channel 5
    size 12
    Chapter III
    step 3
    Room 438
    paragraph 2


  • Use the numeral plus the lowercase "th," "st," or "nd" when a day of the month is mentioned by itself (no month is referred to). Example:

    Captioned As

    Bob went fishing
    on the 9th.

    Original Narration

  • When the day precedes the month, use the numeral plus the lowercase "th," "st," or "nd" if the ending is spoken. Example:

    Captioned As

    My birthday is
    the 17th of June.

    Original Narration

  • Use the numeral alone when the day follows the month. Example:

    Captioned As

    I will meet you
    on May 9.

    Original Narration

    "nine" or "ninth"
  • When the month, day, and year are spoken, use the numeral alone for the day, even if an ending ("th," "st," or "nd") is spoken. Example:

    Captioned As

    Paul will marry on July 6, 1996.

    Original Narration

    "six" or "sixth"


  • Indicate time of day with numerals only. Examples:
    I awoke at 5:17.
    If you wish to attend,
    you must arrive by 6:25 p.m.
    We were expected to report
    no later than 1400 hours.
    I awoke at 4 o'clock.
  • Always use numerals when the abbreviation "a.m." or "p.m." is present. Double zeros are not necessary to indicate minutes of the hour when a whole number is used with a.m. or p.m. Examples:
    She leaves at 3:20 p.m.
    for the airport.
    Our hours are
    from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    We're leaving
    at 6 in the morning.

Periods of Time

  • A decade should be captioned as "the 1980s" (not "the 1980's") and "the '50s" (not "the 50's").
  • If a decade or century is in noun form, do not use hyphens. Example:
    This vase is
    from the 17th century.
  • If a period of time is used as an adjective, use a hyphen. Example:
    This 19th-century painting
    was done by Van Gogh.


  • Either spell out or use numerals for fractions, keeping this rule consistent throughout the media. If using numerals, insert a space between a whole number and its fraction. Example:

    Numeral Used

    Do you plan
    to eat 1 ½ pizzas?

    Fraction Spelled Out

    Do you plan to eat
    one and one-half pizzas?
  • Do not mix numerals and spelled-out words within the same sentence. Example:


    Malika is 13
    and a half years old.


    Malika is
    13 ½ years old.
  • If a fraction is used with "million," "billion," "trillion," etc., spell out the fraction. Example:
    The population was
    over one-half million.
  • Fractions expressed in figures should not be followed by endings, such as "sts," "rds," "nds," or "ths." Example:






  • Use numerals and the percent sign to indicate all percentages except at the beginning of a sentence. Examples:

    Middle of Sentence

    Only 6% of the votes
    were counted.

    Beginning of Sentence

    Fifty-one percent of the people
    voted "yes."

Dollar Amounts

  • Use the numeral plus "cents" or "¢" for amounts under one dollar. Examples:
    I need 15 cents.
    I owe you 32¢.
  • Use the dollar sign plus the numeral for dollar amounts under one million. For whole-dollar amounts of one million and greater, spell out "million," "billion," etc. Examples:
    John brought only $11.
    Bob brought $6.12.
    The budget of $13,000 will be sufficient.
    Taxes will be reduced by a total of $13 million.
    He owes $13,656,000.
  • Use the word "dollar" only once for a range up to ten. Example:
    I hope to find
    three or four dollars.
  • Use the dollar sign and numerals when captioning a range of currency over ten dollars. Example:
    Alice expected a raise
    of $6,000 to $7,000.


  • Spell out units of measurement, such as "inches," "feet," "yards," "miles," "ounces," "pounds," and "tablespoons." However, if spoken in shortened form, symbols should be used. For example, if the original narration is "I'm five eight," it should be captioned as:
    I'm 5'8".
  • For whole numbers, use numerals. For example, caption "3 cups of sugar" instead of "three cups of sugar."
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