It isn’t until you sit down and write a bunch of novels that you realize how arbitrary you’ve been about so much of the things we casually write on a daily basis.
When I started editing my novels, I realized I needed some consistency in the way I dealt with numbers. But maybe I’m just a nitpicker. My brother seems to think so. He’s a fledgling writer and when I was going over a draft of his book with him, I told him he shouldn’t write things like “She was going to the store to buy 2 apples.” I told him it would look better as “two apples.” He said I was being picky, but I think it’s more trying to give my novels as professional a look as possible, something that’s very important to me.
So when I started to edit, I decided descriptive numbers like “two apples” would always be spelled out. What would remain numerical digits were things like dates and roads. I’ll give you some examples:
“We drove up 95 and got off at Exit 1 before turning onto Route 32 heading towards the beach.” I asked a lot of friends about this and the consensus was that if you use the sign as always “Route 32” than you should keep it that way. It seems logical and looks appropriate to me.
The other was dates: “Way back in 1970, I think it was May 5th, we took a long vacation to Florida.” Originally I had things like this as “May fifth” but it just looked wrong.
All I’m going to say is thank god for the ability to search for specific words in a word document! I also fixed things like making sure there were hyphens in written out double digits. Things like chapter headings. I like to write it out, like “Chapter Twenty-Two.” This also applied to things like “Back when I was twenty-two years old.”
I don’t think it was until I started seriously having these debates with myself about which was “correct” or the most correct looking that I realized how gypped I was in my early education! I graduated high school, a pretty good school with small class sizes, so why is this such a chore for me? I still don’t know, and to this day I still have to fall back on ole’ reliable … yep, Facebook. I post a question to my friends about how the best way to write or phase something is. They seem to enjoy tossing their two cents in.