February 14, 2017
Dr. Kathryn Sobek, Filipodia Editor
Welcome back for two more tips on numbers in scientific writing!
Do not spell out a number in a chemical term. The numbers in chemicals and molecules (e.g. 5-fluorouracil, glucose-6-phosphate, etc.) are not written out. The number in the name typically represents which carbon the atom is bound to (i.e. for 5-fluorouracil, a fluorine atom is bound to the fifth carbon of a uracil ring).
Consistency matters. It is quite common to spell out the numbers zero through ten, and use numerals for larger numbers. It is important to keep this consistent throughout your manuscript. For example, if you write in the methods section ‘We collected samples for five days,’ then in the results section you should write ‘We discovered five genes affected by drug treatment.’ Consistency of writing out numbers within a sentence is also essential. For example, Filipodia editors suggest changing ‘We collected samples after one minute, five minutes, and 30 minutes’ to ‘We collected samples after one minute, five minutes, and thirty minutes.’
My closing tip is “When in doubt, write it out!”