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3 or Three?

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In dinosaur days when I went to school, I was always taught not to begin a sentence with a number. I still practice this, however a client has a transcription tape that I am working on called "3 Great Vacations" (name has been changed). This is a title of the tape, and I assume that they used a number to abbreviate.

 

On their web site, they have no trademark on the "3 Great Vacations," and it also does not appear to be part of a formula they are going to patent. My question: Should I entitle the transcription to read "Three Great Vacations" and also indicate that as part of the footnote and header.

 

Many times in the supermarket checkout line, you will see things like: 5 Ways to Leave Your Lover, 7 Ways to Get a Promotion.

 

Any thoughts or advice?

 

Leisa

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In dinosaur days when I went to school, I was always taught not to begin a sentence with a number. I still practice this, however a client has a transcription tape that I am working on called "3 Great Vacations" (name has been changed). This is a title of the tape, and I assume that they used a number to abbreviate.

 

On their web site, they have no trademark on the "3 Great Vacations," and it also does not appear to be part of a formula they are going to patent. My question: Should I entitle the transcription to read "Three Great Vacations" and also indicate that as part of the footnote and header.

 

Many times in the supermarket checkout line, you will see things like: 5 Ways to Leave Your Lover, 7 Ways to Get a Promotion.

 

Any thoughts or advice?

 

Leisa

 

Interesting question.

 

I think since the title starts with the #3, it should be used that way at the beginning of the sentence - perhaps put it in quotes. Just make sure this is the formal title that the client wants to use.

 

Good to see what others say.

 

Heather

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Guest AnnaLisa Michalski

Hi Leisa,

 

Sounds like you and I were classmates. :) That's exactly how I learned it in school as well.

 

But in actual practice, there are exceptions. It partly depends on the individual case, and partly on which style guide you're following. Wander a twisting path along with me to get to an answer:

 

According to Associated Press Stylebook,

Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence. If necessary, recast the sentence. There is one exception--a numeral that identifies a calendar year.

Wrong: 993 freshmen entered the college last year.

Right: Last year 993 freshmen entered the college.

Right: 1976 was a very good year.

 

Of course, your checkout line example demonstrates that AP violates its own rule when it comes to headlines (which are basically equal to titles). So let's look at another source instead.

 

The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) says

9.5 Number beginning a sentence. When a number begins a sentence, it is always spelled out. To avoid awkwardness, a sentence should be recast.

One hundred and ten candidates were accepted. (And may be omitted.)

or

In all, 110 candidates were accepted.

 

Nineteen ninety-nine was marked, among other things, by the war in Yugoslavia.

Or

The year 1999...

 

HOWEVER, Chicago also says

8.174 Permissible changes to quoted titles. When a title is quoted, its original spelling.., hyphenation, and punctuation should be preserved, regardless of the style used in the surrounding text....Capitalization should also be preserved....As a matter of editorial discretion, an ampersand (&) may be changed to and, or, more rarely, a numeral may be spelled out.

 

but then Chicago goes on to say this:

17.52 Spelling and such. The spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, and punctuation in the original title should be preserved....Numbers should remain spelled out or given as numerals according to the original (Twelfth Century or 12th Century) unless there is a good reason to make them consistent.

 

Beyond what AP and Chicago say, if the completed transcript will appear on the Web, you have another thing to consider: reader habits. Karri Flatla alerted us to some things to consider when using numbers in Web copy in this thread.

 

SO, bottom line: if I were in your shoes, I would use the title with "3" as it was given. It is a title, so I would treat it the same way I would someone's name, no fixing the spelling, etc., just to fit a rule.

 

How's that for a long answer to a short question? :)

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Guest

I'd go for 3. You'll find lots of marketing these days work with the numerical rather than alpha in titles. It seems to trigger the brain more and gets the message across.

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I think the difference here is that the 3 is being used in a title. Normally I rewrite or spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence - but I've written many articles with titles that begin with numbers - as Kathie points out, it's a great marketing technique.

 

Laurie

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