Today’s grammar tip: What to do with ordinals.

Today we’re talking about ordinals! First (. . . no pun intended), we should establish what cardinal numbers are versus ordinal numbers. Cardinal numbers denote quantity, as in “one, two, three,” and so on; ordinal numbers denote position or placement, as in “first, second, third,” and the like.


We’ve got a few things to cover for these numbers:

  1. When writing out dates, you do not need to use the ordinal number, even though the cardinal number is read/pronounced as an ordinal. So when you see “January 1, 2020,” you say aloud or in your head, “January first, two thousand twenty.” Similarly, if you are writing the date first, you still don’t need the ordinal: 1 January 2020.
  2. When writing the names of numbered streets, we do use the ordinal number. Regardless of if you spell out the number or leave it as a numeral, you include the ordinal. For example, “they walked to First Avenue” and “I live at 155 55th Street.”
  3. When you do use an ordinal number, do not put the ordinal itself in superscript. (If your organization specifically wants you to use superscript, or if you’re creating a layout and think the superscript looks better for your design, that’s a different story. But in running text, we don’t use the superscript, e.g., “my 16th and 21st birthdays were memorable.”)


I hope these tips help you the next time you’re writing out an invitation to So-and-So’s umpteenth birthday on July 4, 2021, to be held at 123 Fourth Street. (And I hope I’m invited.)