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Numbers in APA Style

The American Psychological Association’s (2010) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association provides extensive information and examples on using numbers. This tip will focus on the basics, so please refer to the manual for more information.

A. General rule: “Use numerals to express numbers 10 and above and words to express numbers below 10” (American Psychological Association (APA), 2010, p. 111).

B. Use numerals to express numbers that

  • are “in the abstract of a paper or in a graphical display of a paper” (p. 111); see Feel Like a Number? A Tax Day Tribute (Breitenbach, 2010a) for an explanation.
  • “immediately precede a unit of measurement” (APA, 2010, p. 111) e.g., 2 cm.
  • “represent statistical or mathematical functions, fractional or decimal quantities, percentages, ratios, and percentiles and quartiles” (p. 111) e.g., divided by 4, more than 2%.
  • “represent time, dates, ages, scores and points on a scale, exact sums of money, and numerals as numerals” (p. 112), though “use words for approximations of numbers of days, months, and years (e.g., about three months ago)” (p. 112).
  • “denote a specific place in a numbered series, parts of books and tables, and each number in a list of four or more numbers” (p. 112).

C. Use words to express

  • “any number that begins a sentence, title or text heading. (Whenever possible, reword the sentence to avoid beginning with a number)” (p. 112).
  • “common fractions” (p. 112) e.g., one third of the group.
  • “universally accepted usage” (p. 112) e.g., the Ten Commandments; see Feel Like a Number? Part 4. Numbers Expressed in Words (Breitenbach, 2010b) for information.

D. Use words and numerals to express “back-to-back modifiers” (APA, 2010, p. 112) e.g., 2 four-way stops. If readability suffers, spell out both numbers e.g., “first two items” (p. 113), not “1st two items” (p. 113) or “first 2 items” (p. 113).

E. “Use commas between groups of three digits in most figures of 1,000 or more” (p. 114).


     page numbers  page 1029
     binary digits  00110010
     serial numbers  290466960
     degrees of temperature  3071 F°
     acoustic frequency designations  2000 Hz
     degrees of freedom  F(24, 1000). (p. 114)

F. “To form the plurals of numbers . . . add s or es alone, without an apostrophe” (p. 114) e.g., 1800s, sixes and sevens.

For more information on numbers, including more details on the information provided here as well as how to present ordinal numbers, decimal fractions, and Roman numerals, please see pages 111-114 in the APA manual.

If you have questions regarding this tip or any other writing matter, please contact the Writing Centre.

Theresa Bell
Writing centre coordinator

(Originally published in Crossroads April 20, 2016)


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. 

Breitenbach, A. (2010a, April 15). Feel like a number? A tax day tribute [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Breitenbach, A. (2010b, April 27). Feel like a number? Part 4. Numbers expressed in words [Blog post]. Retrieved from