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Q. Is the example below correct? For the sake of consistency, I want to spell out the thousands (e.g., “470 thousand” instead of “470,000”), but I’ve never seen this done and don’t think it’s right. Is there a way to keep thousands and millions consistent within the same sentence? “We waste 470,000 heads of lettuce, 1.2 million tomatoes, 2.4 million potatoes, 750,000 loaves of bread, 1.2 million apples, 555,000 bananas, 1 million cups of milk, and 450,000 eggs every day.”
A. Consistency isn’t always a realistic goal with numbers. For example, no one would write a sentence like this one: “We counted 5.3 million fish in the year 2 thousand, but somehow I managed to catch only 3.4 tens.” In your example, “470 thousand” would be almost as intelligible as “470,000,” but the usual convention is to reserve a mix of words and numerals for millions and above—a cutoff designed to prevent strings of digits that are longer than their verbal counterparts would be (see CMOS 9.8).