Quotes on simplifying stats

What writers & others say

Quotes on simplifying stats

“Numbers, when they’re large enough, simply blow our mental fuses. People often find anything with an ‘-illion’ on the end incomprehensible.”
— Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot, authors of The Numbers Game

“Great clots of numbers dropped into a story with a steam shovel create a wall of abstraction.”
— William Blundell, author, The Art and Craft of Feature Writing

“Big numbers fuzz our brains, and that is just as true in business as it is in public policy.”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“Speaking in ‘millions’ and ‘billions’ is like your second year of Spanish: You’ve memorized the vocabulary, but it’s hard to think in the language.”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“The challenge of communicating the significance of numbers — and acting on them — is to find ways to bring them closer to people’s day-to-day experience.”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“Some commentators have tried various ways to put [numbers into] perspective — if you laid those bills end to end, how many times would they circle the earth? (If there’s one thing people have a keen intuition about, it’s the earth’s circumference, right?)”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“How can you relate to this monstrous figure in the daily-life zone”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“We’ve all heard stats like this one (which is real): 27 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the United States — enough to stretch all the way to the moon and back seven times. What to say about this? For starters, it would be a funny joke to play on the astronauts.”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“A good statistic is one that aids a decision or shapes an opinion. For a stat to do either of those, it must be dragged within the everyday. That’s your job — to do the dragging.”
— Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick

“Few members of our audience turn to The Oregonian because they’re craving a good story problem.”
— Jack Hart, managing editor, The Oregonian

“Numbers without context, especially large ones with many zeros trailing behind, are about as intelligible as vowels without consonants.”
— Daniel Okrent, The New York Times ombudsman

“Information is absorbed in direct proportion to its vividness.”
— Diane West, president and co-founder of 2Connect

“Every time you feel your fingers reaching for the top row of the keyboard, ask, ‘What’s it like?'”
— Ann Wylie, writing coach, Wylie Communications
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