Although no universal convention exists in scientific writing for expressing numbers, several aspects are common to all conventions. This exercise tests you on those common aspects. In the exercise below, decide the appropriate way to express the number. Corresponding information for this exercise can be found in The Craft of Editing (denoted CE) and The Craft of Scientific Writing (denoted CSW). Note: In the general preferences of your browser, please do not override this document's choice of font colors.
Congratulations, you have answered #1 correctly.
Correct version: The Titanic was nearly 900 feet long, stood 25 stories high, and weighed an incredible 46 thousand tons.
Discussion: Because the sentence contains two other numerals that present parallel information, the number "twenty-five" should also be expressed as a numeral, "25." Note that if the other two numerals were not presenting parallel information in the same paragraph, then the format's convention would dictate whether "twenty-five" should be written out or expressed as a numeral.
Congratulations, you have answered #2 correctly.
Correct version: The Charpy test is run by holding the coupon against a steel backing and striking the coupon with a 67-pound pendulum on a 2-foot arm.
Discussion: Measurements are expressed as numerals.
Congratulations, you have answered #3 correctly.
Correct version: When the Titanic sank, 1522 people perished.
Discussion: In English, it is improper to begin a sentence with a numeral. Note that writing the number out here would have been technically correct, but difficult for the audience to read. For that reason, it is better to rearrange the sentence. Also note that having a comma after the first digit (1,522) depends on your format's convention.
Congratulations, you have answered #4 correctly.
Correct version: The maximum amperage for each of the two devices is 3 A.
Discussion: Writing out the number "two" here is appropriate in most conventions because the number is simply arrived at by counting, and in most conventions, counted numbers can be written out if they can be expressed in a single word. On the other hand, the numeral "3" is appropriate because it was arrived at by measuring, and measurements are always expressed as numerals when the units are abbreviated.
Congratulations, you have answered #5 correctly.
Correct version: In its day, the Titanic cost more than $7.5 million to construct.
Discussion: With large numbers, it is acceptable to write out part of the number to avoid a string of zeroes. Note that "7.5" has to be a numeral on two counts--it contains a decimal, and it represents a monetary figure.
Congratulations, you have answered #6 correctly.
Correct version: During that time the water temperature dropped 0.6 K.
Discussion: A digit has to appear before the decimal.
Last updated 3/01
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