Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information

June 1997

What to Write When Your Number Comes Up

My assignment (suggested by Dorothy Faber, Switzerland County) was to explain to you, gentle readers, in 400 words or less, when to spell out numbers and when to use numerals. Well, my first two sentences are a start.

Spell out numbers when they begin a sentence--no matter how large or small the number--unless a year is being identified. For example: 1984 was the best year of my life.

A Few More Simple Rules

A Complicated Case

Numbers in the millions, billions, trillions, etc., are a special case. Use numerals when writing in such grandiose terms. If you're tempted to use such a large number at the beginning of a sentence, recast the sentence so that it does not begin with the number.

Wrong: 6 million people saw last night's game on television.

Right: More than 6 million people saw last night's game.

Exception: In casual expressions, it's all right to omit the numerals. For example: She's one in a million. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times.

Of course, there are hundreds of other special cases and exceptions to the rules I've listed here. When all else fails, two excellent resources to consult are "The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual" and "The Chicago Manual of Style."

Some Cellular Etiquette Tips

You can avoid appearing thoughtless when you use your cellular phone if you:

Excuse yourself when you get a call in a restaurant or meeting and find a private place to take the call. Reason: Most people tend to talk louder on a cellular phone, and that can annoy others. Also, it may embarrass listeners because they may feel they're eavesdropping.

Use the vibration function -- if your phone has one -- instead of letting it buzz or ring.

Invest in a hands-free device if you must talk on the phone while driving. You may be able to control your vehicle and handle a phone at the same time, but seeing you do it worries other motorists.

Heed instructions about using your phone on an aircraft. If you're thinking that one important call won't hurt, just ask yourself: "Is this call vital enough to interfere with the plane's guidance and communication gear?"

Ask a host for permission to take a call in the person's office or home. And if you must take a call when you're with strangers -- or friends -- acknowledge their presence by apologizing first.

Source: John M. Grund, writing in "Oregon Business," 610 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97205.

Reprinted with permission from: "Communication Briefings" (Volume 16, Number 3, January 1997) 1101 King Street, Suite 110, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Spam Attack: Part I

It fills your mailbox. It wastes your time. Maybe it's an advertisement for the latest gizmo or a sales pitch for a sure-fire, get-rich scheme. It's electronic junk mail, AKA "spam."

Spam comes from unscrupulous and aggressive advertisers who blanket-ship e-mail advertisements to masses of individuals or post advertisements on newsgroups. It's getting to be a big problem, especially for those with private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and on-line services such as AOL and Compuserve.

Deleting spam is probably your first response, but perhaps not the best one. You may get rid of the first pesky e-mail, only to discover that your e-mail address has been sold by a bulk e-mail provider to any number of advertisers.

One ingenious method some companies use to get your address is to employ software that scans Internet newsgroups. The software captures the e-mail addresses of those posting messages, and these addresses are added to the list of people to whom advertisements are sent.

What can you do about unwanted, invasive Internet advertising?

Don't Buy It

Of course, don't ever buy anything advertised by mass, unsolicited bulk e-mail. This just rewards these Internet predators.

Protect Your E-mail Address

Try a preemptive strategy. Protect your e-mail address. Take some precautions such as not giving your e-mail address on Web Pages or avoiding posting messages on newsgroups on the Internet. There are programs and methods to allow you to thwart spammers while you surf the Web and use newsgroups. (See URLs below for details.)

Some experts suggest that if you want to post messages to newsgroups or want to interact on Web pages, you should acquire a throw-away e-mail address. This address would be a decoy to protect you from unscrupulous sorts who send you junk messages.

Tell Them You Don't Want It

When you do receive junk e-mail, the best tactic is to reply with a brief message stating that you want your name removed from their e-mail list. Most e-mail solicitations have instructions on how to have your name removed. You may have to wade through their advertisement to get these instructions, but it could protect you from further intrusions.

To learn more about spamming and how to stop it, check out the following Web Sites:

And, in the next issue, look for more proactive ways to stop spam attacks.

Grammar Trap: Into vs. In To

"Into" and "in to" can be confusing. After all, they look the same, except that "into" is one word. But they have different meanings.

"Into" has to do with motion from outside to inside. Direction is implied.

Example: She went into the store.

The two-word phrase "in to" combines two meanings. It has to do with direction AND purpose, with going "in" somewhere "to" do something.

Example: She went in to buy milk.

Thanks to Roberta Edgington, Lake County, for suggesting this topic. If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss or you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

We want to hear from you. Do you have a communication question? Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"? If so, please e-mail any of our writers.

It is the policy of the Department of Agricultural Communication Service of Purdue University that all persons shall have equal opportunity and access to its programs and facilities without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age or disability. Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer. These materials may be available in alternative formats.