Formatting Tips For Professional Writers

Formatting Tips For Professional Writers

We share formatting tips for professional writers, and we show you how to format numbers, italics, and bullet points.

Formatting Tips: Numbers, Italics, Bullet Points

There are as many correct ways of formatting as there are style guides. If you work for a company, stick to what your company prescribes. If you do not have a style guide, create your own. 

Three of the most useful things to include in a style guide are how to write numbers, how to use italics, and how to use bullet points.

How To Write Numbers

Write out the numbers one to nine in words. Then, use numerals (10, 11, 12…).

The rules may change for fiction and in dialogue, where we find that most numbers are spelled out. Examples: I was thirty-three when I lost my husband; ‘Read chapter seventeen for homework,’ said the teacher.

More style guidelines for numbers:

  1. It is better not to begin a sentence with a numeral. Either spell out the number or rewrite the sentence to move it away from the beginning.
  2. Use numerals in headlines. Examples: 45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word ‘Very’30 Examples To Help You Master Concord, 106 Ways To Describe Sounds
  3. Large round numbers and indefinite numbers should be spelled out. Do not write ‘3 000 000 000’. Write ‘three billion’. Do not write ‘100s of men’. Do write ‘hundreds of men’.
  4. The only time you should mix words and numerals is in very large numbers. Do not write ’21 900 000′. Do write ‘21.9 million’.
  5. In sentences, spell ordinal numbers (a number that tells the position of something in a list) smaller than ‘ninth’, and then use the numbers from ’10th’. Example: ‘During the 13th hour, we had our first chance to take the lead.’
  6. Use numerals for ages, days of the month, degrees of temperature, house numbers, percentages, proportions, scores, speeds, time of day.

How To Use Italics

Use italics for titles, words requiring special distinction, and emphasis.

  1. Use italics for the titles of long or complete works, like books, films, plays, newspapers, magazines or artworks. Examples: To Kill a Mockingbird; Casablanca; The New York Times; Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam
  2. You do not use italics for the titles of sacred works (the Bible, the Torah, the Koran) and public documents (the Bill of Rights, the Constitution).
  3. Use italics for certain foreign language words and phrases. Examples: bête noire, coup de grace, allegro non ma troppo. If a word or phrase is unfamiliar to the majority of the intended audience, italicise it. You do not need to italicise common foreign words, like spaghetti, chef, kindergarten, etc.
  4. Use italics (sparingly) for emphasis. Example: You know, some men think she’s beautiful. I don’t think she is.

How To Use Bullet Points

1. When the list is made up of single words or concepts (not full sentences), the format is:

Factors contributing to high staff turnover:

  • Poor management
  • Irregular expenditure
  • Negative press coverage
  • Lower salaries 

(Depending on the style guide, some editors place a full stop after the last item to indicate the end of the list. Others place a full stop after every item.)

2. When the entire list forms a complete sentence, the format is:

Our managers have been asked to:

  • Behave ethically
  • Nurture relationships
  • Start healthy discussions
  • Share ideas for workplace improvement 

(Depending on the style guide, some editors place a full stop after the last item to indicate the end of the list. Others place a full stop after every item.)

3. When each item on the list is a full sentence, the format is:

The following reasons have been given for an increase in office space:

  • Each staff member has at least two laptops.
  • Nobody knows where to store their belongings.
  • There is a limited number of break rooms.
  • Managers who try to book meeting rooms are disappointed on a regular basis.

Once you have decided which format to use, stick to it. This consistency will give your company or your publication a professional feel.

TOP TIP: If you want to improve your business writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.

 by Amanda Patterson

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