A Definitive Guide to Writing: Salutation, Proper Nouns, and Numbers & Symbols

Parts D, E & F: Quoting a Person, Using Title Case, and Writing Digits

Writing with an filter-tip ink-pen
(c) Aaron Burden, Unsplash

Zyxware is publishing a multipart essay on how to write effectively. In the fourth article in this series, you can read parts D to F that deals with Salutation, Proper Nouns, and Numbers & Symbols. 

D. Salutation

  1. While quoting a person in an article or a news story, publish their full name with the designation. From the second time onwards, only use surnames: Prefix Mr or Ms without a dot. Do not use Mrs, although use Mx in case of non-conformity with the gender binary.

  2. Use prefixes such as Dr or Ar for a doctorate holder or an architect. 

  3. When more than one person with the same surname is quoted repeatedly in the text, differentiate them with the first or maiden names. e.g., Ms Sonia and Ms Priyanka can do instead of using Ms Gandhi for both. Alternatively, call them Ms Gandhi and Ms Vardra. 

  4. While quoting a South Asian with no surname, use the given name. 

  5. While collectively referring to Indian citizens working and living in other countries, do not use ‘Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). It is a culture-specific usage limited to geography. Instead, use ‘expatriates’ or ‘Indian diaspora’.

E. Proper Nouns

  1. Capitalise the first letter in a proper noun, e.g., Hotel Rwanda or Pride and Prejudice. This rule applies to the designations of current office bearers in power, i.e., President Biden or Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but avoidable in former office bearers such as former prime minister Manmohan Singh or former mayor Narayan Rane. The latter two will become Dr Singh and Mr Rane in the sentences that follow. 

  2. Treat the higher echelons of power, including parliament, appellate courts, the UN General Assembly, and international bodies, as proper nouns and capitalise the first letter. e.g., the Senate, the Congress, the Lok Sabha, the Supreme Court of India, the United Nations. 

  3. When referring to a bill or an act passed by the parliament, write ‘the Bill’ or ‘the Act’. e.g., the IT Act 2000. 

  4. Sometimes, even common nouns would become proper nouns as those are increasingly associated with a specific thing. Thus scandals become a proper noun. e.g., the Watergate scandal. 

F. Numbers and Symbols

  1. Use percentage sign instead of writing X per cent, i.e., 5% instead of five per cent. 

  2. Express dates either in full (September 21, 2021) or use the proper ISO date format: yyyy-mm-dd, as in 2021-09-21, depending on where it is being used. Suppose a calendar day is a single-digit number, prefix zero. e.g., October 02, 1869. 

  3. To specify time, use the 24-hour clock system (ISO 8601). e.g., 13:40 instead of 1:40 PM. 

  4. Use names for zero to ten and numerals for numbers greater than ten. When preceded by a currency symbol or succeeded by a percentage symbol, writing single digits coupled with them is admissible. This rule applies to quantifiers such as X, K or G too. eg: 5x -> five times, 2k -> 2,000, 5g -> fifth-gen.

  5. When the number seems bigger than easily readable in an article or a blog post, use descriptive words such as one billion or 15 million. Do not use Indian numerical nomenclatures such as Lakhs (10^5) or Crores (10^7). Keep in mind that we are writing for international readers. It is okay to write 100K for a lakh. 

  6. Use the comma separator after each third digit from the right to write the figures, especially when dealing with large numbers like in financial proposals or expressing CTC of people in offer letters, amounts in invoices, closure reports, and productivity reports. Essentially, this entails separating every thousand with a comma: 1,000,000,000.00 (Thousand (10^3), Million (10^6), Billion (10^9)). 

  7. Use em dashes (HTML entity 8212, "—") for abrupt breaks in a sentence, to temporarily change subject within a sentence, for clarity, to draw attention to a point, or to signify the origin or author of a quotation. 

    1. Don't use double hyphens; use the HTML entity. 

    2. Don't place spaces on either side. There shouldn't be any space between the word or words next to an em dash and the en dash. 

  8. Use an en dash (HTML entity 8211, "–") to indicate a range of numbers or dates.