Legal writing standards: dates, numbers, citations and headings

Legal writing standards: dates, numbers, citations and headings


When using British English, dates should be written as follows:

  21 February 1999 – not 21st February 1999 or February 21, 1999.

  7 October 2005 – not 07 October 2005.

  1989–90 – not 1989–1990 or 1989/90.

However, dates are written differently in American English, since the month is placed before the day, and a comma is often placed after the day. For example, February 21st, 1999 or October 7th, 2005.

A hyphen can be used to replace ‘to’ in phrases such as ‘during the period October–December 2009, but not in ‘from … to’ or ‘between … and…’ expressions. For example, write:

… from October 2009 to July 2010,


… between October and December 2009 (not between October–December 2009).


The general rule is that all numbers ten and below should be spelled out and numbers 11 and above should be put in numerals. However, there are certain exceptions to this:

  If numbers recur through the text or are being used for calculations, then numerals should be used.

  If the number is approximate (e.g. ‘around six hundred years ago’) it should be spelled out.

  Very large numbers should generally be expressed without using rows of zeros where possible (e.g. $3.5 million instead of $3,500,000). In contracts, the use of both words and numbers is common in order to increase certainty. For example, ‘THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED EUROS (€3,500)’.

  Percentages may be spelled out (twenty per cent) or written as numbers (20 per cent)

  Numbers that begin sentences should be spelled out.

In English writing, the decimal point is represented by a dot (.) and commas are used to break up long numbers. Commas cannot be used to represent a decimal point.

Therefore, the number ten thousand five hundred and fifty-three and threequarters is written like this in English: