Re: Innumeracy in TECHWR=L

Subject: Re: Innumeracy in TECHWR=L
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Fri, 12 Apr 1996 11:30:08 +0800

Stan Brown <stbrown -at- NACS -dot- NET> was right on the money when he said:
> There is a tendency to look at something with numbers and assume that
> it actually means something -- and the more numbers, the more meaning.
> ...Part of a competent writer's job must be to quote figured so that
> they show the amount of significance they actually possess.

In the early days of metrication, you'd often see newspapers reports like:

"Witnesses described the perpetrator as being about 182.9 cm tall",

when the winesses no doubt said "about six foot", meaning somewhere between
5' 9" and 6' 3". The modern equivalent is the bogus currency translation:

"Insurers say the damage bill could top 12.7 million dollars."

This tells me that the Australian dollar was quoted at about 78.9 US cents
in this morning's paper.

When TWs repeat this mistake, they throw away part of the original infor-
mation and give the reader false and misleading precision in its place.
Stuart Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) Voice: +61 9 328 8288
Functional Software Pty Ltd Fax: +61 9 328 8616

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