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                                                                                                             June 17, 2013 / Issue #7

Numbers in a headline attract 25% more traffic than ones without!
5 Reasons Why Numbers Work and
16 Rules for Writing Numbers: Digits or Words

by Mike Hamers, Lightspeed   – Edited by Kate Hamers

Numbers are a time-honored trigger to get readers to pay attention. When you use a number in a headline, whether in a blog post, an email subject header, an ad or even in a face-to-face conversation, you immediately hook the other person’s interest.
Numbers reach directly into our unconscious and say, “this message is important”.  And according to the experts, numbers as figures/digits work better on the web than numbers as a spelled-out word form.

Example: If you're going to write on how to be a better sous chef, headline it with “7 Ways to be a Better Sous Chef”; because you'll get from 12-25% more traffic than saying “How to be a Better Sous Chef”.  Studies prove that readers, especially on the web, don't read all the words. Instead, they scan the text and pick out headlines, highlighted words, bulleted lists, and links. Scanning is even more prevalent for readers of email newsletters.   

So you are wondering why does using numbers in your headline, in fact, generate more traffic.
1. SUBSTANCE: The promise of something specific.

I'm constantly disappointed in the blogs and newsletters I read. I see a title I like, click on it, skim the first paragraph, only to find that the title has nothing to do with the content. Or the content lacked enough substance or structure to be any good. One way of getting better search results is to select titles where you’re guaranteed at least some measure of structure and substance. Choosing a headline with a number in it gives some assurance that even if the author is crazy, you’ll get to see “7 Ways to Be a Better Sous Chef”. There should be at least one or two steps worth reading even if the others miss the mark.

2. STRUCTURE: Make reading easier.
Some bloggers aren't very good at organizing their thoughts and write in a stream of consciousness that can be difficult to follow. Organizing content into a numbered list is guaranteed to have structure. Even if you tend to wander there should be an easy enough path to follow from the beginning to end.
3. CLEAR ORGANIZATION: Essential for speed reading.
I am busy and I read a number of blog posts daily, mostly as I'm doing other things, like eating breakfast, listening to music, on hold with tech support, etc. Reading a blog with numbers allows me to skim the first line of every numbered entry to check for relevance without having to read all the way through. Although we can only read a few hundred words per minute without sacrificing memory, a numbered article entry lets the reader get right to what they're looking for.

Many blogs start as one thing and turn into something else by the end. When researching marketing for example, a post on why marketing is important is totally different than what kind of marketing is important.  Numbers force you to stick to one of those topics in your post.


Our brains are attracted to numbers because they automatically organize information into a logical order. In marketing and advertising, your headline is an advertisement for your content.  A single, small odd-numbered digit, like 7 for example, is like candy for your organizational mind.

Digits enhance the scanability of web content. It's just that simple:
   • A number is better that a word.
Small numbers are more digestible than large ones.
Odd numbers are seen as more authentic than even numbers.

In a world of vague promises where words and names are diluted beyond any value, a small number holds the promise of meaning, integrity and accessibility.

16 Rules for Writing Numbers and Numerals:
Numbers are as Easy as 1, Two, III !
Rule 1

Spell out single-digit whole numbers. Use numerals for numbers greater than nine.
I want five envelopes.      I need 15 copies.
Rule 2

Be consistent within a category. If you have numbers in different categories, use numerals for one category and spell out the other. Be consistent within the same sentence.
    My 5 dogs fought with their 2 dogs.
    My five dogs fought with their two dogs.
    Given the budget constraints, if all 30 history students attend the four plays, then     
    the 7 math students will be able to attend only two plays. (Students are
    represented with figures; plays are represented with words.)

    I asked for five pencils, not 50.
    My teacher has 23 beginning students and eighteen advanced students.
Rule 3
Always spell out simple fractions and use hyphens.
  One-half of the pies have been eaten.
  A two-thirds majority is required for that bill to pass in Congress.                          
Rule 4
Percentages and recipes. With everyday writing and recipes you can use digits, like “4% of the children” or “Add 2 cups of brown rice.” In formal writing, however, you should spell the percentage out like “12 percent of the players” (or “twelve percent of the players,” depending on your preference). A mixed fraction can be expressed in figures unless it is the first word of a sentence.
  We expect a 5 1/2 percent wage increase.
  Five and one-half percent was the maximum allowable interest.      
Rule 5

If the number is rounded or estimated, spell it out. Rounded numbers over a million are written as a numeral plus a word. If you’re using the exact number, you’d write it out, of course.
  You can earn from five hundred to five million dollars.
  You can earn from $5 hundred to $5 million.
  About 400 million people speak Spanish natively

  You can earn from $500 to $5 million.
  You can earn from $500 to five million dollars.
  About 400,000,000 people speak Spanish natively.

Rule 6

Use decimals in figures. Put a zero in front of a decimal unless the decimal itself begins with a zero.
  The plant grew 0.79 of a foot in one year.
  The plant grew only .07 of a foot this year because of the drought.
Rule 7
Use commas with numbers of four or more digits. Count three spaces to the left of the ones column to place the first comma. If the number contains seven or more digits, continue placing commas after every three places. This makes large numbers easier to read. So write the size of Alaska as 571,951 square miles instead of 571951 square miles.               
Rule 8
The following examples apply when using dates.
  The meeting is scheduled for June 28.
  The meeting is scheduled for the 28th of June.
  We have had tricks played on us on April 1.
  The 1st of April puts some people on edge.
Rule 9
Centuries and decades should be spelled out.
  During the eighties and nineties, the U.S. economy grew.
  That happened in the twentieth century.
Rule 10
If you wish to express decades using incomplete numerals, put an apostrophe before the incomplete numeral but not between the year and the s.
Correct: During the '80s and '90s, the U.S. economy grew.
Incorrect: During the '80's and '90's, the U.S. economy grew.
Rule 11

You may also express decades in complete numerals. Again, don't use an apostrophe between the year and the s.
  During the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. economy grew.
Rule 12
Normally, spell out the time of day in text even with half and quarter hours. With o'clock, the number is always spelled out.
  She gets up at four thirty before the baby wakes up.
  The baby wakes up at five o'clock in the morning.
Rule 13
Use numerals with the time of day when exact times are being emphasized or when using A.M. or P.M.
  Donna's flight leaves at 6:22 A.M.
  Please arrive by 12:30 sharp.
  She had a 7:00 P.M. deadline.
Rule 14
Use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 P.M. and 12:00 A.M.
Rule 15
Hyphenate all compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine.

  Forty-three persons were injured in the train wreck.
  Twenty-three of them were hospitalized.
Rule 16
Don’t start a sentence with a numeral.

  Fourscore and seven years ago.
  Fans bought 400,000 copies the first day.

  4 score and 7 years ago.
  400,000 copies were sold the first day.
– MH

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