Q. I am evaluating annual reports for a large business, and have been unable to find the answer to my question of when to write numbers as words and when to use numerals when they begin the items in vertical (bulleted) lists. For example: sixty-nine people chose . . . or 69 people chose . . . Which is the correct choice? I would certainly appreciate your answering my question and I have no understanding of the reason this issue isn’t discussed in information concerning vertical lists.
A. Often when an issue is not discussed in CMOS it’s because it calls for common sense and flexibility rather than a one-size-fits-all rule. Our hope is that users can apply guidelines from other sections and use their judgment. At the beginning of chapter 9 you can find guidelines for spelling out numbers. For a vertical list, weigh the options: Are the listed items sentences, which read better with spelled-out numbers at the beginning? Are all the numbers at the beginning of a sentence? Can they be moved? Are there big, nonround numbers like 345 and 6,712, which are awkward to spell out? Look at your text and decide what style works best for making your lists readable. If numerals work best for some lists and words for other lists, you might decide that consistency need not be a goal except within a given list.