Numbers, dates, times and places

How to write numbers, dates, times and places for consistency and clarity.


  • In body print we usually write one to nine as words, though this isn’t a fast rule
  • We do use numerals in headings, for example: 10 facts about MS
  • We write numbers from 10 onwards as figures, even when there’s a mix in the sentence. For example: One person abstained, but 11 voted. But we use only figures if the numbers will be compared or they’re statistics. For example: 7 in every 10 people who took the drug saw improvements. Less than 1 in every 10 reported side effects. 
  • If you need to start a sentence with a number, spell it out. For example: Eleven people voted. If the number will be compared with another, try to reword the sentence so you can use figures.
  • Spell out million and billion, for example £2 million
  • Use commas for 1,000 and over
  • Write fractions in words: a third, not 1/3
  • % not percent or per cent. But we avoid percentages when we can. Instead, use a number people can visualise. And if exact numbers are important, add them in brackets afterwards. For example: Almost half of the people in the study said their fatigue improved (48% of them). Or about 6 in every ten people said their pain improved (63% of them). 
  • When you describe risk, follow the ideas in the NICE guideline on shared decision making (2021), especially the section on ‘Discussing numerical information’. 
  • Statistics in general are easy to get wrong - for readers and for writers. The Evidence Team or Research Communications Team can often help to check them. 

Telephone numbers

  • We don’t use brackets: 020 7775 2526 not (020) 7765 2526 
  • We write London numbers as 020 8438 0700 not 0208 438 0700
  • We write the standard dialling code (STD) in one block: 01222
  • We format mobile numbers like this: 07777 111 111


  • We spell out million and billion and don’t abbreviate with ‘m’ or ‘k’. For example:
  • £1 to £999,999 
  • £1 million 
  • £1 billion 
  • If a number needs to be precise, we write it out in full, using commas and full stops: £1,678,999.56


  • We write dates like this, without commas: Thursday 28 September 2009 
  • We don’t use the letters –st, -nd, -rd or -th as they crowd the number and make it harder to read at a glance
  • We only add the year if something is very far in the future or the past
  • We write date ranges Monday to Friday and time ranges 10am-3pm


  • Do use 2am, 2pm, 2.30am, 2.30pm
  • Don’t use the 24-hour clock (14:00 for 2pm) or use full stops to write am or pm (am and pm, not AM or p.m.)
  • Don’t leave a space between the number and am or pm
  • Do write Monday to Friday, but 10am-3pm

UK geography

When we’re talking about England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we say nations, not countries or regions. We always check if our information applies consistently to all 4 nations.

Government regions and compass points

When we talk about an official government region, we use capital letters. So: North East England.

We don’t capitalise points of the compass unless they are part of a name. So: north of England, North East England. 

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