Ages should be expressed using figures and be used when relevant, generally for profiles, obituaries, career milestones and when the achievement is unusual for the age. When the context does not require “years” or “years old,” the figure is presumed to be years. Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun.

Proper use:

  • The woman is 32.
  • Life magazine featured the 75-year-old Fort Peck Dam, photographed by Margaret Bourke-White, in its first issue.
  • The man is in his 80s (no apostrophe).
  • Diane Sawyer, 69, began her career as a weather forecaster in Louisville, Kentucky.

Improper use:

  • The five-year-old boy took refuge in the library.
  • The 11 year old girl joined the conversation.
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