Saturday, October 15, 2011

How Many People Have You Slept With?


When I was little, I was so accurate with numbers. When someone would ask my age, I would answer, “I’m five and three quarters and seven days and…” I would stall as I checked my Smurfette watch,” three hours.” Ask me today, and I’d say 29—the same age I have been claiming for the past five years. I think it’s fair to say that as we get older we start manipulating numbers to suit our needs.

  • Boyfriend: How many guys have you been with?

Girlfriend: Quite a few more than the number I am about to give you.


  • Girl: How tall are you?

Boy: I’m five el…I mean, six feet.


  • Driver’s License Renewal Form Question: Weight?

Me: The number I am going to weigh after I finish the diet I will be starting tomorrow.


Although I partially blame this numbers-gone-wild attitude for our confusion regarding how to express numbers when we write, the main reason many of us get confused about when to actually spell out the number or when to use the symbol is because there’s really no accepted industry consensus. Some writing style guides require us to spell out the number if it can be expressed in two words or fewer (twenty-nine, seven, one hundred). Others require us to only spell out the numbers less than 10 (29, seven, 100). Others require us to use Roman numerals within XIV minutes of eating Italian food (XXIX, VII, C).

Because different industries and academic disciplines ascribe to different style guides, it’s probably a good idea to ask your bosses and instructors which they prefer. If you ask them and they look at you like you are crazy, then the good news is that you get to choose your own style.

I am going to choose to follow the easiest style: the one that says to only spell out numbers less than 10. I simply don’t have time for anything complicated because I’m very busy planning my next 29th birthday.

21 comments:

Shelly said...

I will always adhere to the system that allows me to write my age as thirty-one, 31 or even 31/1.

Talei said...

Ah, the numbers. I always have a problem with this one. Also, the time - how do you write the time? I agree, stick with the easiest!

And as for age, well pffft - well forty and fifty are now the new thirty and forty - so hey, you're doing okay!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

I've only slept with one woman, but with 15 (or is it "fifteen"?) sheep. However, they were REALLY good-looking sheep!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Jaya J said...

For my publication, we only spell it out if it's between 1 and 9.

the late phoenix said...

ha! this is so similar to that saturday night live skit i just watched hours ago, the "tell him" musical, singing about all the lies women tell men throughout their relationships from dating to girlfriend to marriage.

y'know, i was gonna throw away my childhood Papa Smurf belt, or ebay it, but now i know i can give it to you as a gift...

Shannon said...

I always followed the spell out less than ten too. Well, I don't always follow it. I'm a rebel.

Kelly Polark said...

I'm, ahem, 29, too.
Speaking of the sentence above, do you put a comma before you add the word "too?" I've been wondering that.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

None of my numbers computed until I realized that I wasn't using numbers, but rather colors, to solve a complicated basic math problem. For me, 2 + 2 equaled huh?

Theresa Milstein said...

Happy 29th birthday. I don't lie about my age (thought I'm not blabbing it either) but I like stating the weight I know I'd be if I tried just a little harder.

I thought the rule of thumb is under 100, write out the numbers. But on a blog, I always use the numerical form because it's easier to read on a computer screen.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I did round up my driver's license weight only once since I turned 16, and that was a very sad day. I found you on Stephen Tremp's blog, and I'm glad that I did! Julie

Jessi Haish said...

hahaaha what a great post! all too true.

Lorena said...

Numbers are so overrated!

Rachael said...

I used MLA all through college, which meant writing out anything under 100. Now I'm an editor, and our house style is to write out anything under 10. The irritating part is that our customers often send in stuff with all the numbers clarified - you know, " for a distance of ten (10) feet" - so I have to correct it either way.

traci's mixed bag said...

Great thought-provoking lesson.

Speaking of numbers, I hate that new Anna Ferris movie commercial that says "What's your number?" I think that's so stupid. None of your effing business, movie announcer guy! Asking me the number of men I've slept with will not get me to a movie. It will either make me feel like a slut or like I missed out because my "number" is not very exciting. It's the latter btw.

Dylan Fitzgerald said...

The manipulation of numbers is spectacularly evident when engaging in online dating. I came to understand that men consistently add two to three inches to their height online. Never mind that, wearing flats and standing at 5'6, I tower over a guy listed as 5'8...

DWei said...

I have no reason to manipulate numbers, nothing to hide with me.

Stephen Tremp said...

I leave all that up to my editor. I thought any number under a hundred was spelled out. But what do I know? Damn it Jim, I'm a writer, not an editor.

KAZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KAZ said...

"I've gotten "I love you" from a couple of drivers. I've gotten honks – I'm assuming they're for my car..."

uh-huh. I'm guessing if you lend that car out to someone else, it would get a lot less "honks".

Jo-Ann said...

Hope it's the best 29th birthday ever!

BTW, if you fall asleep on a bus, can you claim to have "slept with" all the other passengers?

Interwebs Fails said...

I don't know; I just can count to potato.