Presenting numbers in text and tables

The devil is in the details. When using numbers in your thesis, there are several important conventions. These conventions make the numbers esier to read and avoid misunderstandings.

  • When presenting small numbers in the text, it is custom to write them in text as well. Larger numbers (typically above 20) should be written as a number. For instance: “There are eleven participants in the survey. They earn on average 20,000 USD per annum”.
  • Mind the number of significant digits. It is best to keep the number of digits at 3 or 4. This facilitates easy reading. For in stance, don’t present the number 0.0076584739, but round it to 0.00766 or 0.77%. If this number refers to a unit of measurement such as gram, it is even better to write 7.65 mg. This enables the reader to see differences between the magnitude of the numbers more easily.
  • Mind the decimal point. In English texts, your interest rate would be 8.5%, while in the rest of Europe it would be 8,5%. In a similar way, you would earn 20.000 Euro in mainland Europe but 20,000 GBP in the UK or the US. Doing this wrong and may lead to serious misunderstandings.

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