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Writing numbers – three simple tricks

Did you notice anything special in the air on September 18th? On that day, the winds of language change blew at the Government Offices and the word must have disappeared from new laws and statutes.

The short form is now also recommended for legal language, an area that traditionally joins last in changes in language use. The recommendation is included in the next edition of the Authorities’ writing numbers rules but already applies now.

The time was ripe for change

Why did it take so long, and why is the change happening now? The language in our texts should be as invisible as possible and therefore we choose the language forms that disturb as few readers as possible, writes Stina Malmberg, writing numbers one of the Government Offices’ language experts, in a newsletter. If you follow that rule, you usually end upright. In the latest edition of the Swedish Academy’s dictionary, SAOL, account should there be. The editorial staff that produces SAOL believes that there is no difference in meaning between the words. Today, it is common to have in many formal texts and few readers react to that form of language. The Government Offices’ decision thus has many advantages.
The use of language is changing, as is well known, and what was neutral and nurtured language 25 years ago can give a rigid and formal impression today. When a language has also become an important tool for creating and nurturing relationships, none of us can afford to create distance from our readers.

Does your company have guidelines and writing standards?

Many organizations, just like the Government Offices, have a specific standard for the language, writing numbers which means that the texts have a uniform appearance and a cohesive tone and style. The idea with common guidelines is that the reader should recognize themselves. Small details that disrupt the reading rhythm prevent the reader from focusing on your message, and research shows that the reader’s confidence decreases when the text is inconsistent.

So if your organization has not yet decided on a common standard for its texts, there is every reason to take that step.  writing numbers It is the organization that is behind the text in the eyes of the reader, regardless of which official wrote. With a common writing style, your texts get a reader-friendly, correct, and professional style.

A text does not have to contain only words. Numbers are also included in many texts that we write at work. It can be the company’s annual report, the important project description, or a public statistics report. If you follow the rules for, they will be easier to read and interpret. Here are three tricks that will help you along the way.

Numbers function in a way similar to special characters in a text. This means that readers perceive them as different and deviant, in the same way as they perceive, for example,%, & and §. The characters protrude, stop and interfere with the flow of reading. But it does not have to be a bad thing. If the numbers are important for the message in the text, it is only good if they stand out and attract the readers’ attention. However, it is bad if the numbers are difficult to read and interpret.

Three tricks for writing numbers correctly
To help readers understand your important numbers in a hassle-free way, there are some tricks. And as so often, the tricks are about following the rules that exist. By following the rules and being consistent, you can facilitate both the reading of the text and your writing.

Organize the numbers into logical groups
A clear structure helps readers absorb the message. This applies to the figures in the text as well as the sentence structure or the overall structure. The rules for numbers in Swedish texts are fortunately both simple and clear.

Make a solid space between the thousands. It is much easier to perceive and interpret 1,234,567,890 than 1234567890. If you skip the thousands delimiter, it can also become unclear: Does 2018 mean the year or the number 2,018?

Use commas as decimals, never periods. So write 123.45.
Divide phone numbers in a logical way. For those who are going to dial a number on the phone, it is easier if it says 070‑123 45 67 instead of 0701234567. Adjust the writing style so that it is clear to the reader.

2. Print units in the running text
Print all units in running text. It is cumbersome enough for readers to absorb the numbers without having to wrestle with cryptic units such as kSEK, mn and%. Choose what is clearest to your readers, not what is most comfortable for you.

SEK 1,000 is clearer than SEK 1 thousand.
10 million is clearer than 10 million.
1.2 percent is clearer than 1.2%.
Also, avoid abbreviations such as SEK for kronor. There is rarely such a shortage of space that you have to use abbreviations and special characters in the running text. writing numbers Tables are another matter – where the lack of space can mean that shorter variants are needed.
3. Write clear intervals

To describe an interval, you can do my paper it in several ways. In this list, you will see which ones.
Dash: […] young people aged 15–20.
Between and: […] young people between 15 and 20 years.
From to […] young people from 15 years to 20 years.
Follow the writing rules and make it easier for readers – and yourself
As you can see, there are clear and strict rules for writing numbers in running text.  writing numbers Check them out in the Swedish Writing Rules and the Authorities’ Writing Rules. Then follow the rules so that your texts are clear and consistent. Not just for the sake of the readers, but also for your own sake.

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