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Jul 19 2012   2:14PM GMT

Writing out adjacent numbers

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
The sysadmin had a recurring nightmare — she had to patch 473 _________ laptops manually. In an hour.
a. 15-year-old
b. fifteen-year-old

Answer: b.

Explanation:
As a rule we express 10 and higher numbers as numerals. However, if two sets of numerals are adjacent, it looks odd and is a little harder to read, so write out one or the other — it probably doesn’t matter too much which one, although I’d say you might want to write out the shorter of the two.

Daily Writing Tips provides 10 rules for writing numbers and numerals.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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