Context plays a role in whether you should use numerals (1, 2, 3) or word forms (one, two, three) in your work.

For works in which numbers are infrequent, use the word form of numbers that are only one or two words long. Use numerals when more than two words would be required:

  • Example: Thirteen
  • Example: Two thousand
  • Example: Sixty-seven
  • Example: 6½ (not six and a half)
  • Example: 107 (not one hundred and seven)
  • Example: 10,256 (not ten thousand, two hundred fifty-six)

For works in which numbers are frequent, such as works involving data reports, use numerals for numbers expressed in ratios or units of measurement.

  • Example: 12 feet
  • Example: 35 kilograms
  • Example: a 5:3 ratio

When a number must be expressed as a numeral, any numbers that appear next to them should also be numerals.

  • Example: Only 5 of the 8-ounce cans were cold.
  • Example: She ordered 1 coloring book and 153 crayons.

Street addresses

Use numerals for numbers that appear in a street address. For suffixes like first, second, third, or fourth, do not format the text in a superscript font.

  • Example: 2727 Mansfield Blvd.
  • Example: 2003 1st Street


Use numerals for numbers that are expressed as decimals.

  • Example: 10.3

Money and percentages

For works in which numbers are infrequent, use the word form of percentages or amounts of money if you can do so in three words or less.

  • Example: Five percent
  • Example: Thirty-three percent
  • Example: Ten million dollars
  • Example: $5.35 (not five dollars and thirty-five cents)
  • Example: $110 (not one hundred and ten dollars)
  • Example: 502% (not five hundred and two percent)
  • Example: 2.33% (not two point thirty-three percent)

For works in which numbers are frequent, use numerals with any appropriate percentage or money symbols. Do not use symbols like $ or % with the word forms of numbers.

Numbered series

Numerals should be used for items in a series.

  • Chapter 2
  • Page 47
  • Phase 1

Large numbers

For large numbers, a combination of numerals and words is accepted.

  • Example: There were approximately 5.5 million Americans affected by the bill.

Pluralizing numbers

For the word form of numbers, pluralize using the standard rules for noun pluralization.

  • Example: Five – Fives
  • Example: Sixty – Sixties
  • Example: Zero – Zeroes

For the numeral form of numbers, pluralize by adding an s to the end of the number.

  • Example: 88s
  • Example: 1950s

Beginning sentences with numbers

Do not begin a sentence with a numeral, even if it appears next to a number that must be expressed as a numeral. Either begin the sentence with the word form of a number or rephrase the sentence so the numeral appears later in the sentence.

  • Correct: Five hundred fifty-four out of 555 dentists recommend the product.
  • Correct: The product is recommended by 554 out of 555 dentists.
  • Incorrect: 554 out of 555 dentists recommend the product.


Do not abbreviate dates. Use numerals for the numbers in dates. For the body of your work, choose either day-month-year or month-day-year format and use your chosen format consistently. When using month-day-year style, place a comma after the year unless there is another punctuation mark that follows it. For the works-cited page, day-month-year format must be used.

  • Example: I will turn twenty-three years old on 1 January 2023.
  • Example: I will turn twenty-three years old on January 1, 2023.
  • Example: I was born on January 1, 2000, and will turn twenty-three on January 1, 2023.

When referring to a month and a year or a season and a year, do not use commas to separate the two elements.

  • Example: I was born in January 2000 in Ocala, Florida.
  • Example: I’m really excited for summer 2023.

When referring to a decade, choose either to use numerals or word forms, and use your chosen format consistently.

  • Example: The nineties
  • Example: The 90s

Do not capitalize centuries.

  • Example: Shakespeare was born in the sixteenth century.

Use numerals when referring to years in an era. The era abbreviations AD and AH are placed before the year, while the era abbreviations BC, BCE, and CE are placed after the year.

  • Example: AD 2015
  • Example: AH 1010
  • Example: 400 BC
  • Example: 400 BCE
  • Example: 2015 CE


When referring to times of the day, generally use numerals and the twelve-hour-clock format.

  • Example: 2:15 p.m.

Time zones may either be abbreviated or spelled out.

  • Example: 12:00 EST
  • Example: 12:00 Eastern Standard Time

Use word forms to express time-related phrases.

  • Example: Five o’clock
  • Example: Half past five
  • Example: A quarter to five


When composing a research paper in MLA format, abbreviations are common on the Works Cited page. In the body of a written work, avoid using abbreviations whenever possible, with the exception of in-text citations in research papers. If you do use an abbreviation in the body of your work, always use a standard, accepted form that can be found in a reference work like a dictionary.

For more information, refer to the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook, which lists many standard academic abbreviations.

Capitalized abbreviations

Do not use periods or spaces between letters in abbreviations that are primarily capital letters.

  • Example: AD, AH, CE, BCE, BC
  • Example: PhD, MD
  • Example: FL, US

Name abbreviations

Use periods and spaces between each abbreviated letter in a name, unless the name is entirely abbreviated.

  • Example: H. P. Lovecraft
  • Example: MLK

Lowercase abbreviations

Place a period after most abbreviations that end in a lowercase letter.

  • Example: vol. (volume)
  • Example: ed. (edition)
  • Example: p. (page)

Honorific abbreviations

For most honorific abbreviations, capitalize the first letter and place a period after the last letter.

  • Example: Dr. (doctor)
  • Example: Rev. (reverend)
  • Example: Mr. (mister)
  • Example: Mrs. (married woman)
  • Example: Ms. (does not indicate marital status)
  • Example: Mx. (gender neutral honorific)

If the abbreviation consists of lowercase letters that each stand in for a word, use a period but no space between each abbreviated letter.

  • Example: a.m., p.m.
  • Example: i.e.

Common informal abbreviations

Avoid using common informal abbreviations in academic writing.

  • Example: Television (not TV)
  • Example: Refrigerator (not fridge)

Month abbreviations

Avoid abbreviating months in the body of your work. In the works cited page, abbreviate months that are more than four letters long.

  • Example: Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., May, June, July, Aug., Sep., Oct., Nov., Dec.
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