Listing Numbers In An Essay

by Timothy McAdoo

This is the fourth in a six-part series. Today we’ll look at numbered lists.

Numbered Lists

Numbered lists (as noted on p. 64 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association) can be used to denote items in a series, such as conclusions or procedural steps. By virtue of their formatting, numbered lists stand out from the regular text and are more likely to catch a reader’s attention. So, be sure to use the numbered list format only when the list format will add clarity to the text.

Numbered lists can be useful to show the relationship between items: a chronology of events, each item’s relative importance, and so on.

The items can be single sentences or full paragraphs. In either case, the first words of the sentences are capitalized and appropriate end punctuation should be included.

Each task increased in difficulty.
1. The instructor read the rules, which began on page 2 of the booklet.
    The wording of these rules differed significantly for each group (see
    Appendix A).
2. The instructor asked if there were any questions.
3. After any questions had been answered, the instructor started
    the timer and told the participants to begin.

If the items on the list are not complex and the list itself does not warrant special attention, consider running the items into regular text. See Parts 2 and 3 of this series for more detail on the use of serial commas, semicolons, and lowercase letters.

More to Come

In Part 5 of this series, I’ll cover a list format new to APA Style with the 6th edition: bulleted lists!

Lists, Part 1  |  Lists, Part 2  |  Lists, Part 3

Lists, Part 4  |  Lists, Part 5  |  Lists, Part 6

Writing Numbers


This section discusses numbers, how to write them correctly, and when to use numerical expressions instead.

Contributors: Chris Berry
Last Edited: 2018-02-07 03:40:58

Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers that can be expressed in one or two words and use figures for numbers that are three or more words long. Note: If you are using a specific citation style, such as MLA or APA, consult the style manual for specific formatting instructions.


over two pounds

six million dollars

after thirty-one years

eighty-three people


after 126 days

only $31.50

6,381 bushels

4.78 liters

Here are some examples of specific situations:

Days and Years

December 12, 1965 or 12 December 1965

A.D. 1066

in 1900

in 1971-72 or in 1971-1972

the eighties, the twentieth century

the 1980's or the 1980s

Time of Day

8:00 A.M. (or) a.m. (or) eight o'clock in the morning

4:30 P.M. (or) p.m. (or) half-past four in the afternoon


16 Tenth Street

350 West 114 Street

Identification Numbers

Room 8

Channel 18

Interstate 65

Henry VIII

Page and Division of Books and Plays

page 30

chapter 6

in act 3, scene 2 (or) in Act III, Scene ii

Decimals and Percentages

a 2.7 average

13.25 percent (in nonscientific contexts)

25% (in scientific contexts)

.037 metric ton

Large Round Numbers

four billion dollars (or) $4 billion

16,500,000 (or) 16.5 million

Notes on Usage

Repeat numbers in commercial writing.

The bill will not exceed one hundred (100) dollars.

Use numerals in legal writing.

The cost of damage is $1,365.42.

Numbers in series and statistics should be consistent.

two apples, six oranges, and three bananas

NOT: two apples, 6 oranges, and 3 bananas

115 feet by 90 feet (or) 115' x 90'

scores of 25-6 (or) scores of 25 to 6

The vote was 9 in favor and 5 opposed

Write out numbers beginning sentences.

Six percent of the group failed.

NOT: 6% of the group failed.

Use a combination of figures and words for numbers when such a combination will keep your writing clear.

Unclear: The club celebrated the birthdays of 6 90-year-olds who were born in the city. (may cause the reader to read '690' as one number.)

Clearer: The club celebrated the birthdays of six 90-year-olds who were born in the city.

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