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I am doing the Kaggle competition House Prices: Advanced Regression Techniques to learn more about data analysis. I would like to apply multiple models to the data(Regularized LR, Random Forests, Neural Networks, and ensemble methods).

When inspecting the data, I found many fields were ordinal data represented as categorical data. Two examples:

```
HeatingQC: Heating quality and condition
Ex Excellent
Gd Good
TA Average/Typical
Fa Fair
Po Poor
LotShape: General shape of property
Reg Regular
IR1 Slightly irregular
IR2 Moderately Irregular
IR3 Irregular
```

I was wondering whether I should keep the fields like this, or whether I should turn encode them as integers(i.e. give each class in the category a number like 1,2,3 or 4) . Since the question probably is 'it depends', I hope you could give me some more general insight in when I should keep this data ordinal, or when to transform it into integers.