# Starting Sentences with Numbers

Our Story

## Starting Sentences with Numbers

Try to avoid starting a sentence with a number written in figures.
• 71 people were rescued from the sinking ferry by the Latvian helicopter crew.
• (This is not wrong, but it is untidy.)
It's not an error to start a sentence with a figure, but it often looks awkward. If you agree, you should either reword your sentence or write the number in full. For example:
• The Latvian helicopter crew rescued 71 people from the sinking ferry.
• (This re-worded version is tidier.)
• Seventy-one people were rescued from the sinking ferry by the Latvian helicopter crew.
• (In this version, the number has been written in full to avoid starting the sentence with "71.")

## Do Not Expand Numbers with Decimal Places

If your number contains a decimal point, try harder to reword your sentence.
• 41.67% of people add decimal places to make their statistics look more credible.
• (This is untidy.)
These reworded versions are neater:
• Precisely 41.67% of people add decimal places to make their statistics look more credible.
• To make their statistics look more credible, 41.67% of people add decimal places.
Do not write out your number in full:
• Forty-one point sixty-seven per cent of people add decimal places to make their statistics look more credible.
• (This "fix" is worse than the original issue of untidiness.)
If you cannot reword your sentence, leave the number at the start.

## Do Not Expand Numbers with Units of Measurement

If your number precedes a unit of measurement (e.g., 12 m), try harder to reword your sentence.
• 1 mm was enough to cause an engine failure.
• (This is untidy.)
These versions are neater:
• Just 1mm was enough to cause an engine failure.
• The engine failure was caused by a 1-mm error.

## More Leniency with Years

Writers tend to be more comfortable with starting a sentence with a year. If you don't feel this way, simple add the phrase "The year" or reword.
• 1984 was a good example.
• (This has not been marked wrong as most writers wouldn't consider this as untidy.)
Nevertheless, here are some fixes:
• The year 1984 was a good example.
• A good example was 1984.
Do not write the year out in full to avoid starting a sentence with a number. This "fix" is worse than the issue.
##### Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.