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January 06, 2008



Here's the classic consistency conundrum to these number-and-numeral rules: If you have a phrase such as "the guys brought home six trout, 11 bass and 14 catfish," do you go with the egregiously inconsistent "six" or the more proximity-related-consistent "6"? As Bill Walsh says, you're doomed to inconsistency either way, but I lean toward all numerals or all numbers in these cases. Any thoughts?

By the way, I'm late in saying this, but on behalf of all the underrepresented PR grammar-and-style students out there who have not had a blog resource, I want to thank Dan for the launch of Word Wise last year and all his insightful entries. Keep up the great work in 2008!

Bob Grove

Dan...love these as ever. Question, in writing: percent or per cent? Certainly in British English, we were encouraged to use the latter, i.e. use the symbol "%" or spell it out as it was designed.

Dan Santow

JP, Bob, thanks for your kind messages.

But, JP, I can’t agree with your supposition that to write “six trout, 11 bass and 14 catfish” is “egregiously inconsistent” (“egregious” means “conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible”). You can disagree with the AP rules on numbers and style, but to follow them isn’t egregious or even inconsistent. I’m second to none in my idolization of Bill Walsh, but on this he and I (and you and I) will have to agree to disagree.

Bob, in American-style English we use percent, though when it came into being, around 1568, it was per cent, an abbreviation of the Latin per centum (“by the hundred”). In the early 1880s Americans decided per cent was too fussy (that’s my interpretation, at least) and started writing it as one word.

Robin Weaver

Is it a five minute walk or a 5 minute walk?

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Why "Word Wise"?

  • When I started to e-mail out a weekly writing tip to my Chicago colleagues at Edelman in 2002, little did I know how quickly how many people outside my office would start to request it. But word spread, as word is wont to do, and in 2006 the e-mail evolved into this blog. The tips, which are about grammar, usage and style, have a dual purpose – to remind my colleagues in PR of the power of the written word and, more generally, to support and perpetuate clear, concise, creative, honest, lively, stylish, compelling writing everywhere. In 2009 I started to add commentary about and links to stories and other blog posts related to the media, marketing, writing and, sometimes, just interesting stuff. For some reason, I also started Twittering (at SantowDan).