Common B/R style errors, Part 2: Numbers
In Part 2 of our three-part series on common errors and issues Bleacher Report copy editors see, we’re going to take a look at numbers.
Here’s Part 1, where we addressed verb and pronoun agreeement. We’ll finish up next week with a grab-bag.
Again, much of the language we’ll use in addressing these frequent errors comes directly from the B/R Stylebook.
Numbers 10 and above (and 10th and above) are presented as digits unless otherwise noted in the Style Standard Clearinghouse. Numbers in headlines are also presented in digits, even if they are under 10.
Numbers that begin a sentence should be spelled out, except for years. (“Sixteen teams are still in the running.” “2013 belonged to the Miami Heat.”) Starting a sentence with a year in digit form is correct, but awkward, so if you can gracefully recast the sentence, you should.
Percentages are (a) always presented in digits (even for numbers under 10) and (b) indicated by the word “percent” instead of the percent symbol (%)—except in stat lines and tables, where B/R style calls for the symbol.
Dates are presented with the month (abbreviated per AP Style or spelled out) followed by the day (in digits, as a cardinal number). Both January 1 and Jan. 1 are acceptable. British grammar and spelling conventions use the day before the month (1 January).
Abbreviated decades use an apostrophe before the number but not after. (“In the ’90s, the Bulls dominated the NBA”).
Numbered items should be presented as No. 1. The number itself is a digit even when under 10. (“Duke earned a No. 1 seed.” “Kobe Bryant wears No. 24.” “Carlos Beltran was batting in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.” “Brandon Marshall has proven to be a No. 1 wide receiver.”)
For slide titles and numbered subheadlines, start with “1.” for a line like “1. David Ortiz” rather than something like “No. 1: David Ortiz.”
Sport-Specific Number Presentation
Spell out downs and distances when isolated, but use digits and hyphens when used in combination. (“The short gain on third down led to a 4th-and-5.”)
“Week” is capitalized when followed by a number, and the number is presented in digits. (“They have spent all week preparing for their Week 6 showdown.”)
Yard numbers are (a) presented in digits and (b) separated from the word “yard” by a hyphen. Note that numbers indicating quantities of yards (gained, lost, etc.) are presented according to B/R’s normal rules for number presentation. (“The 30-yard reception gave him a total of 96 yards on the day.” “The 5-yard line is five yards from the goal line.”)
Hits and at-bats are presented in digits and separated by “-for-” except in non-adverbial constructions. (“After going 2-for-3 on Saturday, David Ortiz had a hit in two of five at-bats Sunday.”)
Lineup spots are presented as No. 3, batting third or the 3-slot.
Thirds of an inning should be presented as decimals or as a hyphenated phrase. (“He pitched 6.1 innings after only going for four and two-thirds in his last start.”)
Positional numbers are presented as digits. (“Victor Oladipo will be used as a 1, but he could also see minutes at 2-guard.” “The Lakers are looking for stability at the 3-spot.” “Ryan Anderson has filled the role of stretch-4.”)
Boxing and MMA
Round is capitalized when succeeded by a number, and that number is presented as a digit. (“After an evenly matched second round, the fight ended with a Round 3 knockout.”)
Numbers for plus/minus stats are presented as usual, with a hyphen between the number and the word “plus” or “minus.” (“Alex Ovechkin has a minus-five rating, with the leader coming in at plus-11.”)
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There are plenty of other guidelines that may not come up as frequently, like how “3 and 2″ is a proper way to present a match score in golf, so make sure to consult the B/R Stylebook whenever you’re wondering how to use a particular number—or any other style point. There are hundreds of entries in there, plus a form for requesting additional entries or clarifications, so make sure to bookmark the page and visit it frequently. It’ll make your copy editor happy.
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Nick James is a Content Moderator at Bleacher Report. Editing Manager Tim Coughlin contributed to this post.