When writing with statistics, ask ‘What’s it like?’
When the late, great Kansas City Star columnist C.W. Gusewelle wanted to help readers understand the fragility of monarch butterflies as they migrate south for the winter, he wrote:
Consulting the literature, I find that the average weight of an adult monarch may be expressed as 0.0176 of an ounce, about the same as a good-sized snowflake.
I don’t know whether I appreciate the analogy more or the four decimal points of precision!
Both make the point: It’s not enough just to communicate the numbers. You also need to help readers see them.
The best way to do that: Turn numbers into things. In other words, clarify data by giving it context.
Make statistics understandable and interesting
“Numbers without context, especially large ones with many zeros trailing behind, are about as intelligible as vowels without consonants,” writes Daniel Okrent, former New York Times ombudsman.
Indeed, poorly handled, statistics can make your readers’ eyes glaze over.
At Cut Through the Clutter — our two-day concise-writing master class on August 17-18, in San Francisco — you’ll master the art of making numbers understandable as well as interesting.
Specifically, you’ll learn how to:
- Avoid statistics soup and data dumps using three simple steps.
- Help readers understand your numbers by asking one key question every time your fingers reach for the top row of the keyboard.
- Make numbers more emotional by turning them into people, places and things.
- Create meaningful — not discombobulating — charts and graphs.
- Find free tools that create attractive charts for you.
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn the latest best practices in tight writing. This is the only concise-writing workshop we have scheduled for 2017.
Save $100 when you register by July 17.
Learn to Master the Art of the Storyteller, Catch Your Readers, Get Clicked, Cut Through the Clutter and more
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