Spelling-Out a Decimal

An e-mail exchange from February 2000 with Eric Wirth, an assistant editor at the Modern Language Association.

Q: How should I write a number that contains a decimal point? “Ten point two” or 10.2?

A: Normally you would not spell out a decimal (MLA Handbook 2.5.2). The only exception I can think of is in dialogue in a work of fiction. There is no way to say a numeral; you can only say the word for the number. Therefore, some novelists might write:

“His temperature is ninety-nine point seven,” the doctor said.

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