September 25, 2017

Make numbers count

Tools for numerical comparisons

Looking for statistics to give your numbers context? These resources will help you find comparisons to make your numbers more interesting and understandable to your audience members:

Make numbers count

Numbers game Use these tools to discover comparisons to make statistics understandable. Image by Mike Hales

You’ll find raw data, tools and geodata covering topics from agriculture to wholesale trade and sources ranging from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to the White House. Download the data in formats including CSV, XML, Excel and KML.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is helping the U.K. government make its public sector information accessible. Just enter a search term to find topics like “absenteeism from primary schools in Wales” and “statistics on women in Northern Ireland.” Plus, you’ll find apps for research like reviewing the full text of inspections of the nursing home you’re considering for Dear Old Da.


This website bills itself as “the gateway to statistics for over 100 federal agencies.”

You’ll find statistics on everything from how much wine Americans drink (less than one-third of a gallon a year, which means I’m definitely upping the averages!) to the average income of Salt Lake Citians.

Don’t miss MapStats for comprehensive data on the 50 states.


You can’t beat it for finding, say, a list of the top-paid U.S. CEOs, the budget of Uganda or things that are worth $770 million.

Plug in … oh, let’s say, $10 million. You’ll get 24.5 million hits (really!), including one about the CEO who spent — gulp! — $10 million on his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.

Get statistics, demographics and other information about 25,000 U.S. communities here. That makes this great for writing to a local or regional audience.

If I were writing about a 20-minute surgical procedure for a health system client in my hometown, for instance, I’d do a little research here. Then I’d be able to report that the surgeon could perform the procedure in less time than it takes the average Kansas Citian to drive to work.

There’s certainly something here you can use to compare to your big number to make it more understandable to your readers.

Get more resources for numerical comparisons.

  • Take the ‘Numb’ Out of Numbers

    Make statistics understandable and interesting

    If your readers are like most, they have, on average, below basic numeracy, or numerical literacy, according a massive international literacy study.

    So how well are they understanding your quarterly results?

    “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.

    Cut Through the Clutter - Ann Wylie's concise writing master class on April 17-18, 2018 in New YorkAt Cut Through the Clutter — a two-day concise-writing master class on April 17-18, 2018 in New York — 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.

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Register for Cut Through the Clutter - Ann Wylie's concise writing master class on April 17-18, 2018 in New York

    Browse all upcoming Master Classes.

    Would you like to hold an in-house Cut Through the Clutter workshop? Contact Ann directly.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

%d bloggers like this: