Numbers, dates and time
In running text, numbers are expressed in words or figures according to the guidelines set out below.
| Numbers expressed in words
Numbers expressed in figures
Millions, billions and trillions
Numbers occurring together or in a series
Ranges of numbers
Ranges of dates
Punctuation of figures
Numbers under 10 are generally expressed in words: eight, not 8. The exceptions are noted in the section below (Numbers expressed in figures).
Numbers are always expressed in words:
At the beginning of a sentence:
- Sixty staff members received awards.
In simple fractions:
- Almost three quarters of the population had to be evacuated.
- The amendment was adopted by the required two-thirds majority.
- The project cost half a billion dollars.
All numbers may be expressed in words in isolated references to approximate measures and periods of time.
- The village is almost ten miles from the river.
- Income levels have increased over the past hundred years.
Numbers between 10 and 999,999 are normally written in figures, except as noted above.
The following are always expressed in figures:
- Wages increased by only 1 per cent in 2003, compared with 3 per cent in 2002.
Note: The words "per cent" are normally written out. The % sign may be used in tables if space is limited.
Compound fractions and decimal fractions:
- The accident occurred 2 1/4 miles from the checkpoint.
- The refugee camp is 8.5 km from the border.
- Costs fell by 3.75 per cent in 2001, 1.60 per cent in 2002 and 0.85 per cent in 2003.
Note: In decimal fractions expressing a number that is less than one, a zero is inserted before the decimal point. A zero may be added after the last digit if necessary to indicate the level of accuracy. All numbers in a table or series should be carried to the same decimal place.
Ratios and map scales:
- The student-teacher ratio is 9 to 1.
- A new map on the scale 1:250,000 was published in 2003.
Measures and weights:
- The tanks stopped 300 m from the camp.
- The yield was 3 tons per ha.
Intensity of meteorological/geological events: category 5 hurricane; earthquake with a magnitude of 4 [on the Richter scale].
- Mortality rates declined for children under 5 years of age.
- The under-5 mortality rate declined from 90.1 per 1,000 live births in 2010 to 72.8 per 1,000 live births in 2015.
Temperature: 10.15°C; 92°F.
Sums of money: $6.50; Can$ 50; $A 12.25; SwF 8.75; €250.
Note: The symbol $ is used to mean United States dollars, and it is not necessary to specify US$ unless there is any possibility of confusion, for example with Canadian dollars. In such cases, all amounts in United States dollars should be written as US$.
For rules on the treatment of money in resolutions and decisions, see "References to money" in Basic documents/Resolutions and other formal decisions of United Nations organs/Drafting and editing. For a list of currencies, see UNTERM (search by country name).
Results of voting:
- The resolution was adopted by 15 votes to none, with 65 abstentions.
- The resolution was rejected by 26 votes to 9, with 1 abstention.
Note: In votes, the word “none” is always used instead of the figure “0”. The majority vote is always given first.
In running text, numbers in the millions are written as follows: 1 million, 3.4 million.
The same rules apply to numbers in the billions and trillions. The term “billion” (French: milliard; Spanish: mil millones) is used in United Nations documents to mean a thousand million. The term “trillion” (French: billion; Spanish: billón) is used to mean a million million.
When two numbers occur together, they should be expressed in different styles, according to the nature of the elements and the context.
- Twenty 100-mm mortars; 15 five-year-old girls.
When two or more numbers to which different rules apply occur in a series in the same sentence, the rule applying to the higher or highest number applies to all.
- Representatives from 12 African, 8 Asian and 5 Latin American countries attended the meeting.
- Only 9 of the 25 countries surveyed experienced real economic growth.
Note: This rule does not necessarily apply if the series includes disparate items.
- A total of 23 people were injured in four separate incidents.
When two numbers are used to indicate a range:
The two numbers should be homogeneous.
- Between 3,430,500 and 4,000,000 housing units were built (not Between 3,430,500 and 4 million housing units).
To reduce the possibility of confusion, the numbers should be expressed in full, whether in words or figures.
- Earnings increased from $2 million to $5 million (not from $2 to $5 million).
- General Assembly resolutions 58/57 to 58/60 (not 58/57 to 60 or 58/57–60).
When linking two numbers, use the following forms:
- An en dash (–): Production is expected to increase by an additional 2–4 per cent.
- From … to …: The second phase covers the period from 2014 to 2016 (not from 2014–2016).
- Between … and …: Literacy rates rose for girls between 10 and 15 years of age (not between 10 to 15 years of age).
If the unit of the range is represented by a symbol, the symbol is always repeated.
- The temperature rose from 15°C to 30°C.
Note: The degree symbol and the temperature scale abbreviation should be treated as one symbol.
- Prices averaged $20–$25 a pound.
If the unit is written out or abbreviated, it is given only once, after the second number.
- Salary increases ranged from 3 to 6 per cent a year.
- The convoy travelled only 45–50 km an hour.
Ordinal numbers from first to ninety-ninth are expressed in words for most ordinary purposes.
- She was the tenth candidate on the roster.
- The 400th anniversary of continuous human settlement in Bermuda.
They are also expressed in words to indicate:
Sessions of most United Nations bodies: the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly; the thirty-fourth session of the Statistical Commission.
For session numbers higher than 99, figures are used: 127th regular session of the Council of the League of Arab States.
Note: The practice may differ at other organizations, in which case their practice should be respected. Some United Nations bodies use "meeting" in place of "session" (e.g. first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury). In that case, the same instruction applies.
Main Committees of the General Assembly: First Committee, Second Committee.
Centuries: nineteenth century (not 19th century or XIX century).
Note: This rule applies in English but not necessarily in other languages.
Preambular paragraphs in resolutions:
In introducing the draft resolution, the representative revised the second preambular paragraph.
Note: For additional information on paragraph numbers in resolutions, see "References to paragraphs" in Basic documents/Resolutions and other formal decisions of United Nations organs/Drafting and editing.
Numbers of military units lower than 100:
- Fifth Army
- 101st Airborne Division
Ordinals are written in figures to indicate:
- Meeting numbers: 2nd and 3rd meetings
Note: When "meeting" is used in the sense of "session" (see above), this instruction does not apply.
- Floors: 4th floor; 38th floor
- Session numbers higher than 99: 100th session
- Latitude and longitude: 32nd parallel, N 36°25'13", W 44°23'01"
Roman numerals are normally used to identify:
Volumes, chapters and main sections in documents and publications: volume III;
chapter V; section I.
Annexes, appendices, enclosures and attachments to documents: annex I; attachment II.
Figures (charts, graphs and photographs) in documents and publications: figure VIII.
Where there are more than 20 figures, they should normally be numbered with arabic numerals.
Draft resolutions and decisions: draft resolution I; draft decision IV.
Medical facilities in peackeeping operations: level I hospital.
Olympic Games: XXXI Olympic Summer Games.
In running text, whole numbers of more than three digits are punctuated as follows:
- English: 2,632,597
- French: 2 632 597
- Spanish: 2.632.597
In tables, a space replaces the punctuation marks in whole numbers of more than three digits in all languages. A column of numbers is presented as follows:
|10 530 600
Decimals are punctuated as follows in both running text and tables:
Dates are expressed in terms of the standard (Gregorian) calendar, which is used in most countries. If a date is given in any other system, it should be followed by the date in the standard form in parentheses, with the abbreviation “A.D.” preceding the year.
- The report was dated 29 Sha’ban A.H. 1400 (20 July A.D. 1980).
The day is always followed by the month and year: 21 April 2004.
Months are normally written out in full but may be abbreviated in tables if space is limited (see "Abbreviations" in Tables).
Ranges of dates
To indicate a range of dates, use the following forms:
In running text:
- The Committee will meet from 12 to 23 April.
- The first session of the Preparatory Committee was held at United Nations Headquarters on 12 and 13 June.
In the corner notation:
- Geneva, 12–23 April 2014
- New York, 12 and 13 June 2015
- Nairobi, 23 May–1 June 2016
A single period covering two or more full years is written as follows: 1999–2003 (or from 1999 to 2003); the biennium 2004–2005.
A period of less than 24 months that overlaps two years is written as follows: 2001/02. This form is used for peacekeeping budget periods and other 12-month financial or statistical periods and for academic years in the northern hemisphere.
Decades are always expressed as follows: the 1990s (not the nineties, the 90s or the 1990’s).
As the designations of the seasons relate to different times of the year in the northern and southern hemispheres, they should be used with care. A phrase such as “a meeting to be held in the spring” is ambiguous; a precise date (or month or quarter) should be given, if this can be ascertained.
Biannual, biennial and the like
- biannual means occurring twice a year
- biennial means occurring every other year (every two years)
- biyearly is ambiguous: it means either "occurring twice a year" or "occurring every other year (every two years)"; use either biannual or biennial to avoid ambiguity
In general usage, bimonthly and biweekly are also ambiguous: they mean either "occurring twice a month/week" or "occurring every other month/week". In United Nations usage, bimonthly and biweekly mean "occurring every other month/week", and semi-monthly and semi-weekly mean "occurring twice a month/week". It is best to avoid these words entirely, however, and write "twice a month/week" and "every other month/week" (or "every two months/weeks") as appropriate.
This year, next year
Non-specific references to "this year", "next year" or "last year" are to be avoided. Authors and editors should supply the specific year, thus: "In 2004, the Secretary-General reported..."; "The number of peacekeeping operations in 2005 was..."; "Beginning in 2006...".
The 12-hour system is used for most purposes. The time of day is expressed as follows:
- 9 a.m. (not 9:00 a.m.), noon, 1.30 p.m., 9.05 p.m. (not 9.5 p.m.), midnight
To indicate a range of time, use the following forms:
In running text: Morning meetings will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and afternoon meetings from 3 to 6 p.m.
In tables (e.g. in programmes of work): 10 a.m.–1 p.m.; 3–6 p.m.
The 24-hour system is used primarily in military and production schedules. The time is expressed in four figures and is written without punctuation: 0900 hours, 2100 hours.
The 24-hour system is always used: 9 heures, 13 h 30, 21 h 5.
The 24-hour system is always used: 9 horas, 13.30 horas, 21.05 horas.
Telephone and fax numbers should be written without parentheses or hyphens, as follows:
Tel: 212 888 3333, ext.123
Fax: 212 555 7777
Where it is appropriate to include both a country and a city code, leave a space between the two codes and between the codes and the telephone or fax number. In the following example the first block of numbers (41) is the country code for Switzerland and the second block (22) is the city code for Geneva.
Tel: 41 22 444 5555