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10.5. Numbers, dates and time

(a)
Figures or words? Spell out the numbers one to nine, use digits thereafter; however, where numbers in a range fall above and below this limit use figures for both: ‘9 to 11’, not ‘nine to 11’.

Note that you should always use figures for statistics (3 new officials were appointed in 2002, 6 in 2003 and …), for votes (12 delegations were in favour, 7 against and 6 abstained), for ranges denoted by a hyphen and for serial numbers unless you are quoting a source that does otherwise (Part One of the EEC Treaty).

Always use figures with units of measurement that are denoted by symbols or abbreviations:

EUR 50, 250 kW, 205 μg, 5 °C

The converse does not hold. If the units of measurement are spelled out, the numbers do not also have to be spelled out but may be written with figures:

250 kilowatts, 500 metres

With ‘hundred’ and ‘thousand’ there is a choice of using figures or words:

300 or three hundred but not 3 hundred
EUR 3 000 or three thousand euro but not EUR 3 thousand

Million and billion, however, may be combined with figures:

2.5 million, 3 million, 31 billion

Figures must be used in a series of stated quantities: 6 kg, 11 metres, 28 000 tonnes.

Note that the numbers 1 to 9 are not spelt out in the following cases: seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, but two decades, three centuries.

When two numbers are adjacent, spell out one of them:

90 fifty-gram weights, seventy 25-cent stamps

A sentence starting with a figure will often look out of place. Consider writing it out in full or inverting the word order: ‘During 1992 … ’, 'Altogether 92 cases were found … ’, ‘Of the total, EUR 55 million was spent on … ’. However, a sentence beginning with a percentage may start with a figure: ‘32 % of the funds …’.

(b)
Ordinal numbers. First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth (one to nine inclusive written in full)

but

10th, 11th, … 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, etc.

However, the ‘first to ninth’ rule does not always apply to ordinal numbers:

2nd edition, 5th place, 9th century

but

third country, the third meeting of the committee, third party, first world, first and foremost, the second time

In addition, in some legal documents, dates and reference to dates are written out in full:

This Directive shall enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and eighty-one.
(c)
Groupings of thousands. See Section 6.5.
(d)
Billion. ‘Billion’ is used to designate a thousand million (and not a million million) and ‘trillion’ a million million. Note that the words ‘million’, ‘billion’ and ‘trillion’ can be combined with figures: 3 000 million.
(e)
Abbreviating ‘million’ and ‘billion’. Do not use abbreviations like mio, bio, k, mill. The letters ‘m’ and ‘bn’ can be used for sums of money to avoid frequent repetitions of million, billion; this applies particularly in tables where space is limited. The abbreviation is preceded by a hard space:
€230 000 m, $370 000 bn, £490 bn
(f)
Fractions. Insert hyphens when used as an adverb or adjective (two-thirds complete, a two-thirds increase), but not when used as a noun (an increase of two thirds).

Avoid combining figures and words:

two-thirds completed (not ⅔ completed)

When using figures for a fraction, use the fraction symbol where possible and close it up to any previous figure, e.g. 1½ years.

(g)
Decimal separator. See Section 6.5.
(h)
Percentages. 15 % (the symbol is preceded by a hard space). In words write ‘per cent’ (two words, no point).
In statistics each decimal place, even if zero, adds to accuracy: 3.5 % is not the same as 3.50 % or 3½ %. The fraction is more approximate.
Make the distinction between ‘%’ and the arithmetic difference between two percentages, i.e. the ‘percentage point(s)’.
(i)
Units of measurement. See Annex A3.
(j)
Pagination. p. 250, pp. 250-255, Figure 5, footnote 6.
(k)
Dates
(i)
Decades. The 1990s (no apostrophe; never use ‘the nineties’, etc.).
(ii)
Dates in the text should always be given in their full form (6 June 2012; day in figures followed by a hard space, month spelled out, year in figures), except for references to the OJ, which should always be abbreviated. In footnotes, be consistent. When abbreviating, do not use leading zeros and write out the year in full, i.e. 6.6.2012, not 06.06.12.

Wednesday 15 May 2013 (no comma after the day of the week).

Avoid redundancy. If the year in question is absolutely clear from the context, the year number may be left out: ‘on 23 July 2001, the committee adopted … but subsequently on 2 August, it decided …’

(iii)
Time spans. Use a closed-up ‘en’ dash or hyphen (see Sections 10.1.8 and 10.1.11) for year ranges:
1939–1945 / 2015-2021 (but in legislative texts, use ‘to’ rather than an ‘en’ dash or hyphen: 2015 to 2021)

The word ‘inclusive’ is not added after the date, as it is superfluous in all expressions of time.

1991/1992 = one year: marketing year, financial year, academic year (see Section 10.1.11).

Note:

‘from 1990 to 1995’ (not ‘from 1990–1995’)
‘between 1990 and 1995’ (not ‘between 1990–1995’)
‘At its meeting from 23 to 25 July …’ (not ‘… 23–25 July …’)
At its meeting on 23 and 24 July …’ (not ‘… 23/24 July …’)
1 May 2018 to 30 April 2019 (preferable to: 1 May 2018–30 April 2019)

However, when referring to a specific document or event, dates and time spans should be written exactly as they appear in the title:

HMRC Annual Report and Accounts 2015–16
Innovate Finance Global Summit 2017
Hull City of Culture 2017

Instead of writing ‘the 2006–2010 period’, consider omitting the word ‘period’ and simply writing ‘from 2006 to 2010’ or ‘between 2006 and 2010’.

(iv)
Dates as qualifiers. Dates and time spans precede the expression they qualify:
‘The 2007–2013 work programme …’ (not ‘The work programme 2007–2013 … ’)‘The 2012/2013 financial year …’ (not ‘The financial year 2012/2013 …’)‘The 2014 action plan …’ (not ‘The action plan 2014 …’)‘The 2012 annual report …’ (not ‘The annual report 2012 …)
(l)
Time. Use the 24-hour system (or 12-hour system with a.m. and p.m.):
17.30 without h or hrs (or 5.30 p.m.) (always use a point);
avoid leading zeros (e.g. 9.00, not 09.00);
the full hour is written with zero minutes: 12.00 (midday), 14.00, 24.00 (midnight). When using the 12-hour system, write 2 p.m., 2 o’clock or 2.30 p.m., but not 2.00 p.m.
Last updated: 28.7.2020
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