AP Style

AP Style by the numbers

Covering the AP style rules on numbers could be a novel in itself. I’m going to cover some basics, and if you have specific questions on AP style numbers, please leave it in the comment field below and I’ll answer it — fast!

Cardinal and ordinal numbers

For a general rule, spell out zero through nine, and use numerals for 10 and above. These are called cardinal numbers.

Ordinal numbers look like this: 1st, 2nd, 10th, 101st , etc.
Or they look like this: first, second, tenth, one hundred first, etc.

In general, spell out first through ninth when referring to sequence in “time or location,” and use numerals for 10th and above. (Find more examples on page 202 of the 2010 AP Stylebook.)

Example: first base, the First Amendment, first in line, etc.

When referring to formal names of geography, the military or political affiliation, use ordinal numerals.

Example: 1st Sgt., 1st Ward, 7th Fleet, etc.

Starting a sentence with a number

If a numeral falls at the start of a sentence, it is better to recast the sentence so the number is not the first word. If this is not possible, spell out the number. Exception: A calendar year can start a sentence off as a numeral.

For example:

2011 is the year Osama bin Laden died. In the raid, 24 Navy SEALs were dispatched.


24 Navy SEALs were sent to Pakistan.

Always spell out casual uses of numbers:

– A thousand times no!
– Add the eggs one at a time.
– He walked a quarter of a mile.

AP style numbers guide

Here’s a short guide for common uses of numbers. If you have a specific question, leave it in the comments field below and I’ll answer it.

– a ratio of 2-to-1; a 2-to-1 ratio
– a 6-year-old girl; the 6-year-old
– a 10-year-old war; the 10-year war
– a 5-4 court decision
– 1 in 4 voters
– a 4-3 score
– minus 10, zero, 60 degrees

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