Writing An Essay Numbers

Writing An Essay Numbers-55
We've known the basic guidelines for writing for the Web since our earliest studies in 1997.A key finding is that most website users don't read all your words.

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Many people think that statistics can speak for themselves.

But numbers are as ambiguous as words and need just as much explanation.

(There are a few exceptions to this rule: lower-literacy users can't scan, while higher-literacy users read the entire page if they're really interested or in desperate need of the information.

But it's the height of arrogance to assume that all of your customers are extraordinarily interested in everything you write — more likely, they'll read a few pages and scan the rest.) One of eyetracking's greatest benefits is that it lets us follow users' reading behaviors in great detail, especially when we watch slow-motion gaze replays after test sessions.

Even when users aren't scanning for data, having your facts stand out visually by presenting them as numerals is an easy way to enhance credibility by making your page seem more useful.

Full eyetracking report on how users read on the web is available for download.Thus, the detailed design guideline to explain TB might remain in force for only a few years.In contrast, the general usability guideline to explain unusual units will probably stay valid forever.However, this same power can also make numbers and statistics intimidating.That is, we too often accept them as gospel, without ever questioning their veracity or appropriateness.On the other hand, it's better to use numerals when stating the exact number (e.g., "we have tested 2,692 users").Disclosing the exact number also increases the statement's credibility.—Mark Twain The purpose of this handout is to help you use statistics to make your argument as effectively as possible. Apparently freed of all the squishiness and ambiguity of words, numbers and statistics are powerful pieces of evidence that can effectively strengthen any argument. As simple and straightforward as these little numbers promise to be, statistics, if not used carefully, can create more problems than they solve.Many writers lack a firm grasp of the statistics they are using.In addition to spelling out extremely big numbers, you might also need to explain them if you write for a non-scientific audience.You might, for example, say that a trillion is a thousand billions.


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