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Consecutive Numerical Expressions 

Consecutive Numerical Expressions
Numbers and Percentages

Stephen J. Lurie

and Margaret A. Winker

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Consecutive Numerical Expressions

When 2 numbers appear consecutively in a sentence, either reword the sentence or spell out 1 of the numbers for clarity.

Study participants were provided twenty 5-mL syringes.

Avoid: In the cohort of 1500, 690 were men.

Better: In the cohort of fifteen hundred, 690 were men.

Or: In the cohort, 690 of the 1500 individuals were men.

The envelope contained 3 copies of the manuscript and one 3.5-in diskette.

However, numerals may be listed consecutively if they refer to items in an array. As always, clarity and common sense should guide usage.

The life expectancy of groups 1, 2, and 3 was 69, 83, and 75 years, respectively.

Abbreviations or symbols may follow numbers. In this case, if there is potential for misunderstanding, it is preferable to reword the sentence.

There are 2 D2 dopamine receptor isoforms.

Better: The D2 dopamine receptor has 2 isoforms.

The investigators were able to identify 3 γ-aminobutyric acid-mediated sites.

Better: The investigators were able to identify 3 sites mediated by γ-aminobutyric acid.

Superscripts that indicate references may be mistaken for exponents if they immediately follow a numeral.

Increased morbidity has been associated with a BMI less than 182 and greater than 27.3 [This can be reworded: Smith and Jones2 found that a BMI of less than 18 was associated with increased morbidity. They also found that patients with a BMI greater than 27 had increased morbidity.3]

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