Aside from their to-die-for yumminess, these recipes have something important in common. They all require the magic of measuring. Most commercially-printed recipes are easy to follow, but how many of you Suzy or Sam Homemakers have had to decipher Great Aunt Tilly’s hasty handwriting in a hand-me-down cookbook? She certainly knew what she meant, but how about you? Is that supposed to be seven cups, or only two?
Using words instead of numerals can make things easier, especially when questionable penmanship is involved. Let’s look at a few general principles. Mind you, these are indeed general. Every rule has exceptions, and various publishers will have their own take on things.
In ordinary, non-technical contexts, the CMOS “advises spelling out whole numbers from zero through one hundred and certain round multiples of those numbers.” As numbers get larger, more specific, or just too infernally long to spell, numerals are encouraged. If a number appears at the beginning of a sentence, such as the year or the number of cider donuts you had for breakfast, it should be spelled out.
When dealing with simple fractions, spell them out with appropriate hyphenation. Three-fourths of a cup is far too much syrup for one pancake. Conversely, a fraction paired with a whole number is usually best expressed in numeral form. I’ll need 2¼ tablespoons of yeast for this recipe.
Once again, these are general principles. There are dozens of other rules when it comes to writing with numbers, but I must get back to the kitchen. Custard pies get temperamental if left to their own devices in an unattended oven. Treat yourself to dinner on the “good” plates now and then, and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!
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