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Number or Numeral?

Among the many questions I am asked through my website, word-mart.com, the most frequent ones are on numbers – “Should this number be written in figures or in words?” “Should this be a number or a numeral?”


First off, what is the difference between a number and a numeral? A number is a concept for a value. A numeral, on the other hand, is a representation of that concept. For example, if you hear someone say the number 3, you conceive the number in your mind, which makes you understand ‘how many’. When this same number is written down on paper – like “3” – then it becomes a representation of that concept.


Now comes the part on writing down the numbers on paper. Sometimes these are written in figures (e.g. ‘3’), at other times it is spelled out in letters (e.g. ‘three’). In general parlance, a numeral is one that is written in figures, and a number is one that is spelled out. And this is what confuses many – when should a number be written figures, and when should it be spelled out?   


It all depends on the situation, but there are some basic rules. These are:


1. Small numbers are spelled out, and big numbers are written in figures.

2. Never begin a sentence with a numeral.

3. When the number is in the middle of a sentence, spell it out.

4. When using a set of numbers, use numerals.

5. Decimal fractions and percentages should be expressed in numerals, not in words.


To know more about numbers and numerals, and specific cases as to when to write what, visit  this page.


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Writers on Writing – Some Good Quotes

I have always been fond of quotes and have a good collection of them. Whenever I see a good quote, I save it in one of my many digital files under the relevant heading. One file has quotes by famous writers, all on their own art – writing. These words of wisdom can truly provide inspiration and guidance to struggling writers. Some of my favorites are:


v  “In a writer there must always be two people – the writer and the critic.”  Leo Tolstoy


v  “Too many writers are trying to write with too shallow an education. Whether they go to college or not is immaterial…a good writer needs a sense of the history of literature to be successful as a writer.”  James Kisner


v  “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.”  Mark Twain


v  “Words have weight, sound and appearance; it is only by considering these that you can write a sentence that is good to look at and good to listen to.”  Somerset Maugham


v  “A writer lives, at least, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world, lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes.”  William Sansom


v  “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining…researching…talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”  E.L. Doctorow


v  “Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.”  Jules Renard


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What Is a Good Writer?


As a freelance writer and provider of writing services, I get all sorts of writing assignments from all over the world. Before hiring me, prospective clients ask me questions to ascertain my capabilities, which obviously they have the right to. One of the most frequently asked questions is – “Are you a native speaker?”


This I have never been able to understand. Does this imply that only native speakers can write well? If the implication is taken to be true, then shouldn’t all native speakers be good writers? Shouldn’t they all be able to speak and write perfect English?


What actually constitutes a good writer? Putting it very briefly, a good writer is one who –


1. Uses appropriate words in clear and concise sentences.

2. Presents relevant information in a well connected and arranged manner.

3. Avoids digressions (irrelevant details) and deviations (shifts in focus).

4. Uses proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.


And above all, to a writer all these points come naturally. The words just flow smoothly and effortlessly. The best definition, I feel, is one given by Ferdinand Brunetière, the nineteenth century French writer and critic – “A good writer is simply one who says all he wants to say, who says only what he means to say, and who says it exactly as he meant to say it”.


 Then does one have to be a native speaker?


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What Must a Freelance Writer Do


People often ask me if I’m getting enough writing assignments to keep me going, especially since the times are tough. When I tell them yes, they wonder how. Well, it’s true that for freelance writers, the going is not easy. But if they are constantly alert and on the lookout for leads, there’s no way they can’t find work.  There are also certain “rules” that freelance writers must follow in order to get work. Some of these are:


·         Must be self-disciplined and have the determination to keep writing

·         Seek out new leads and opportunities

·         Establish good relationships with clients and stay in touch even when there’s no work

·         Enlarge network of friends and acquaintances since word of mouth is a great way to get work

·         Diversify, as keeping to just one style or genre will restrict assignments

·         Have a platform – a website or a blog – where you can showcase your work. People like to see samples before hiring a writer

·         After a job is done, have the client give a testimonial and put it up on the website as proof of what you can do


Finally, perseverance is the most important ingredient.



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Welcome to The Write Corner


Hello and welcome to the all new Write Corner. Here’s where you’ll find anything and everything related to writing – writing tips, guides, news, views …. Do I hear you say “What? Another writing blog?” Well, yes… in a way. But I’ll try and make it a little different. I’ll also bring in some of my past experiences that relate to my writing and learning process – which still continues, and which I hope will be of some help to my readers. Along the way, you’ll also find interesting writing quotes and anecdotes from other writer friends, as well as established writers – both past and present.


So, bookmark this blog, or e-mail it to your friends and colleagues.  And, of course, I’d love some feedback from you – as to what you think of this blog, and what more you’d like to see or discussed on The Write Corner.


Until next time –


Anis Siddiqi