Writing numbers and dates in web content

Last updated: June 27, 2022

Guidance for numbers, dates and measurements to support accessibility and readability.

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When to use numerals or words

Numerals (2, 3, 4 etc.) attract the eye and improve people’s ability to scan for specific data.

Use numerical figures for ‘2’ and above to represent facts or data. The numbers ‘0’ and ‘1’ may be confused with ‘o’, ‘l’ or ‘7’. Instead, use the words ‘zero’ and ‘one’ to avoid confusion.

However, if the number doesn’t represent data (ex.: one way, four options) you may not want to draw the reader’s eye to that number. In that case, spell it out so it flows with the rest of the sentence.

For rounded numbers over 999,999 use a combination of numerals and words:

  • 12 million

The exceptions:

  • Spell out numbers when they’re the first word in a sentence
  • Use numerals when referencing parts of a whole such as ‘Section 1’, ‘page 1’
  • For money and sums over 999,999 use a combination such as 12 million
  • Use numerals in tables

Decimals and fractions

Don't include decimals unless a $ or % symbol is also being used:

  • $10.80
  • $10.8 million
  • $10.8-million project
  • 4.5%

When the number is four digits or longer, separate it with commas:

  • 1,000
  • 10,000
  • 100,000

Fractions

Write out fractions that don’t include a whole number:

  • Two-thirds of people registered
  • A quarter or one quarter (not ¼)
  • Half (not ½)

Unless the written form is long, or the fraction is part of a technical measurement or calculation:

  • 5/32 inch

Measurements and weight

Use the metric system for all measurements. Always use Canadian spelling and abbreviations for metric terms:

  • Celsius is ‘°C’
  • Hour is ‘h’
  • Kilometre is ‘km’
  • Kilogram is ‘kg’
  • Metre is ‘m’
  • Metric tonne is ‘t’
  • Millilitre is ‘mL’
  • Litre is ‘L’

Use a space between the number and the measurement, except when writing temperatures.

If the number is spelled out, also spell out the metric term:

  • The project site is three kilometres from town
  • The speed limit is 30 km/h

Use a hyphen (-) and spell out the metric term only when the metric quantity is an adjective:

  • A 10-kilogram sack

For all units, do not add an 's' for plural forms:

  • 100 km, not 100 kms

Data storage measurements

Data storage measurements are used for digital storage space and files:

  • Byte → B
  • Kilobyte → KB
  • Megabyte → MB
  • Gigabyte → GB
  • Terabyte → TB

File type and size

When linking to a document include the file type, such as PDF, DOC, XLS, CSV, in brackets after the title. Include the size of the file up to two decimal points. Do not use a space between the number and the measurement, for example:

This lets people know it's a file and how big it is before they choose to open or download it.


Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers show the order or position of something in a sequence. Such as: first, second or third.

Write out ordinal numbers under 10, except in charts or tables. In charts and tables, you can use 1st, 2nd, 3rd but do not use superscript:

  • 1st, not 1st
  • 10th avenue, 150th anniversary

Do not use ordinals in dates.

  • January 18, 2003, not January 18th, 2003

Phone numbers

Use a hyphen (-) to separate each block of digits in phone numbers:

  • 604-660-2421
  • 1-800-663-7867

Hyperlink phone numbers so people can call a number by clicking on it.

Years and periods of time

See punctuation for information on using dashes for periods of time.

Months

Write out the full name of the month. If the year is already clear you do not need to include it:

  • Saturday, December 31, 2016
  • December 31, 2016
  • December 31

When space is limited, abbreviate month names by using the first three letters of the month, except for March, April, May, June and July, which are never abbreviated.

Dates

Write out days of the week, when space is limited abbreviate to the first three letters, with no punctuation:

  • Monday or Mon
  • Thu, Jan 1, 2015

Use the numeric date, YYYY-MM-DD, separated by hyphens only when space is limited such is in a form or table.  

Use numerical figures when writing about decades:

  • The 1990s, the ’90s

Time

Hours without the minute time are written numerically with no zeros or colon. Include a space after the number. Do not use periods or capitalize am or pm:

  • 9 am

Hours with the minute time have a colon:

  • 9:45 pm

Write noon and midnight, not 12 noon or 12 midnight.

Separate date from time with a comma:

  • September 25, 2015, 1:30 pm

Time zones

Do not include the time zone unless you're providing information on multiple time zones.

Capitalize Pacific, Atlantic and Newfoundland when the time zone is written out, but not mountain, central and eastern. For example:

  • Pacific time, mountain standard time

Time zones are abbreviated and capitalized when included as part of a clock time. For example:

  • 9:30 pm AST

Use Pacific time rather than Pacific standard time (PST) or Pacific daylight time (PDT) if including the time zone. PST is observed from early November to mid-March. PDT is observed from mid-March to early November.