Why You Need to Write Numbers as Digits

I have a secret to share. Did you know that numbers stop wandering eyes?

Yes, you read that right!

Numbers like 2513, and 2574 make your readers stop.

Alarm Clock Lying on Multicolored Surface

Allow me to explain. Today, reading an entire blog post takes too much time. People prefer to skim and read only things that interest them.  It’s highly improbable for web visitors to read everything word for word. One sure way to get your readers’ attention is to write numbers as digits (ex. 53) and not as words (ex. fifty three.)

If you want your web visitors to take their time and read your post carefully, it’s best to add digits into the mix of long and boring paragraphs.

  • What’s the explanation? How can people spot the digits immediately?
    • The answer is easy. The eyes can easily detect digits because the shape is divergent. 1 is different from 2. Other than that, if you put numbers and letters side by side, numbers will distinctly stand out.
    • From anyone’s peripheral vision, 242728 looks obvious than two hundred forty two thousand seven hundred twenty eight. The spelled number will blend with the other words in the sentence, but the numerical value attracts attention.
  • What’s so unique with numbers?
    • Numbers are associated with facts, and people are interested with facts. They are concerned if a chocolate spread weighs 370g or 500g. They are looking for specific numbers, such as a calorie count, net weight, and price.
    • So, in your product pages, it’s recommended to write numbers as numerals. Numbers are more concise and inviting over a series of flowery words.

The bottom line is that adding 5, 7, 9 (or any number really) increases the ability for text to be read and understood. In the digital world, reading is 25% slower than reading printed copies. Web readers prefer to scan rather than reading it word for word because it’s harder on the eyes.

Dump the conventional writing style

Numbers are written in words if it’s on a book, magazine, and other printed materials.  Grammar books will tell you that it’s imperative to spell out numbers. Here are a few guidelines given by books:

  • If a number is the 1st word of a sentence, write it as words. (ex. Five apples were donated by Lily.)
  • If a number is followed by hundred, thousand, and so on, write it as two hundred, seven thousand, etc.
  • If a number is between 1 and 99, spell it out. (ex. Lily gave me five apples.)

However, in the World Wide Web, you need to break down your content. More than sticking to grammar books, the internet favors scannability and readability. So, if you are drafting a blog post, here are a few guidelines:

  • Write numbers as digits. (ex. 811, and NOT eight hundred eleven)
  • If it’s the 1st word in a sentence, write it as digits.
  • 6789 is catches attention better than six thousand seven eight hundred nine. (see previous bullet points.)
  • Write digits up to 1 billion. If numbers are larger, it’s better to spell it out.
  • If it’s a rough estimate, spell the numbers out. (ex. Over a hundred customers bought shirts yesterday.)
  • If you know the exact numbers, write them as numerals. (ex. 156 customers bought shirts yesterday.)