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Style Chapter 14: Statistics
vandanagoyal wrote in visionindia2047

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881) 
 
Using statistics in your writing is  very tricky. When writing an opinion, their use should be minimal. Limited and selected use of statistics could benefit your writing but an injudicious overuse could kill it.
 
Here is an article destroyed by statistics. A taste of the Russian pie at Live Mint.com by Poonam Madan is an example of how an article peppered with statistics which reader cannot relate to, impresses no one. It only exposes the writer's lack of first hand knowledge of the subject.
 
Good writing should have very few numerals. Words work better because passion is best expressed in words. A writer without knowledge of a subject uses overdose of statistics to impress. The effect usually is the exact opposite. Writing with statistics needs to find the crucial balance between presenting facts to a casual reader unfamiliar with the subject and stuffing an article with them.
 
Opinions based on statistics do not need to detail them. They just need to be cited so that the reader can make his own interpretation. Statistics are used to support a persuasive argument and enable the reader to reconstruct your argument . If the article gives a point of view that readers may see with skepticism, it may then be supported with evidence.
 
Statistics cannot replace facts and logic. Statistics are considered manipulation of truth. You can't persuade anyone if they are convinced that you are manipulating them.
 
Readers relate better to empty numbers if they are given a comparison. For example this article from National Geographic gives daunting numbers, 'The human heart beats 100,000 times a day propelling six quarts of blood through 60,000 miles of vessels- 20 times the distance across the US from coast to coast.' But it goes down well even with readers not familiar with the intricacies of human body because the converted distance gives it a perspective. 

Similarly in this headline from the Daily Mail, '£2trillion - the terrifying total of our national debt... that's £33,000 for every man, woman and child in Britain.' the comparison makes an empty grand amount of 2 trillion into a  frightening reality that strikes a chord.

Be especially wary of using  numbers that are not from a known source. Such numbers maybe poorly researched or completely wrong. It also gives a better credibility to the article if you can name the source. For eg.' Interleague games averaged 34,900 fans per game, 15% more than intraleague contests, according to Forbes.'


©2008 VisionIndia2047

Style Chapter 15: Numbers
vandanagoyal wrote in visionindia2047

 
It is inevitable that certain numbers - dates, age, measurements etc,  will be part of your writing.

Some guidelines to follow when writing numbers:
  • Any number less than nine should be spelt out.55 bags, four pens, eight men.
  • When numbers appear together, combine numerals and words to avoid confusion.5 seventh-floor flats,  Eight 60-Watt bulbs.
  • Prefer million and billion to lakhs and crores. In the global media age, audience can be gloal and we should follow international standards.
  • Approximate numbers above a million should be written as numeral and word. About 1 million not about 1000000.
  • Fraction figures should be written as words. One quarter of the pie, a sixth of the students, a half of the bottle. They should also be hyphenated when appearing like this: six-seventh.
  • Use hyphen for 'to' when it appears between figures, not between words. 20-25 people but not six - eight cars.
  • Ages should be in numerals. The minister, 48, is survived by his wife ,35 and a son, 7.
  • Do not begin a sentence with a numeral. Number should either be written in words as in Fifty two people attended the wedding or the sentence should be rewritten. Instead of saying 5000 copies were sold of the first edition, it can be rephrased as The first edition sold 5000 copies.
  • All modifying numbers maybe written in numerals. 120kmph, 20 percent, page 67.
  • Unit of measurement when qualifying a noun should be in numerals and be separated with a hyphen.50-foot barge, 30-cm ruler, 10-minute delay.
  • When many numbers are involved, use all numerals. The Fibonacci sequence 0,1,1,2,3,5,8....forms the basis of many mathematical formulae.
  • For decimals use numerals.1.68, 2.05.
  • Dates should be written in numerals and without ordinals. February 14, 2009. Not February 14th.
  • For money write in numerals. Rs. 35.50 apiece. Also write  Rs.180 or Rs. 180.25 but not Rs.180.00.
  • While comparing do not mix fractions and percentages. It is wrong to say that There were 62.5 % men  and only 30½ % boys under nine.
  • For a ratio qualifying a noun, figures and hyphens should be used. 60-40 proportion.
©2008 VisionIndia2047