Category Archives: Getting the Numbers Right

Reading Log Graphs, Illustrated

This great, short video explains what we’re seeing on the graphs that take over our news feed these days. This is just about the math. The graphs use a logarithmic scale, and that is not something most people are used to reading. The animations in this video make this a lot easier to understand.

Another difference in these familiar graphs is that the time scale is based on the number of days that have passed, not on a calendar point. Again, the animation helps drive this point home.

(Note they promise to post this on YouTube April 28.)

Check out the whole blog series.

For more tips on finding number errors in the materials you edit, and presenting data clearly and honestly, check out Getting the Numbers Right. Available now on Lulu.

Working With Tables: Get Your Free Booklet

If you’ve found this series on editing tables helpful, download it all in one concise, updated ebook. Links to the demo videos are included, plus you’ll get exclusive access to a checklist for quality control and a self-check exercise with answer keys for various style guides. Download it now, free for your preferred ebook reader.*

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Tables are one of the great functions that Word offers over an old typewriter. You can change the format and content without retyping! You can give a table complex or simple formatting with just a few clicks. And you can quickly convert typed tables into true tables, or vice versa. This booklet summarizes everything you need to know to work with tables in MS Word 365 whether on a Windows computer or Mac. Be sure to watch the 11 demo videos and download the exercise file to test your learning, too. Just follow the links inside and use the password given in the book.

*Don’t have an ebook reader? Download a free emulator app for computer or phone:

Got a gnarly Word problem? Submit your problem and we’ll try to answer it in the Q&A thread.

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© This blog and all materials in it are copyright Adrienne Montgomerie on the date of publication. All rights reserved. No portion may be stored or distributed without express written permission. Asking is easy!

Check out all the other posts in this series about Working with Tables and download your free multimedia ebook of them all!

Volume Graphs and Timeline Skews — Graphing Pitfalls

Below is a beautiful graph that uses images to convey a whole lot of information — this picture literally takes the place of a thousand words, probably more. But it also illustrates a common problem we encounter when the relative size of each “fuzzy ball” represents the relative data; in this case, the number of deaths caused by each virus.

The problem remains that a ball with twice the area or volume doesn’t look twice as big, like a bar on a graph would — not even in the second half of this graphic, which does a more accurate job of presenting relatively sized images. There, for example, the Black Death (bubonic plague) doesn’t look four times bigger than the Spanish flu, even though it probably is — we would have to calculate to comprehend the relationship. Placing the data labels beside each image was a very smart idea.

The bigger problem is seen in the top portion of this visual: while trying to show a timeline diminishing into the far distance, the relative size of the balls gets so skewed that Black Death (bubonic plague) looks half the size of Spanish flu, not four times larger!

This approach conveys a lot of information at a glance, and the colours are very engaging. Clearly, a choice was made to sacrifice the relative size in order to illustrate the timeline. That is an editorial decision best made with purpose, not incidentally, and is definitely never to be made in order to misrepresent data. (We have no reason to assume anything but good intentions, here. It does make a great example!)

The problem with area graphs and skewed views.
Click here to see the original.

This image comes to us via “Visualizing the History of Pandemics,” on the Visual Capitalist blog.

For more information on problems to watch for in numbers, check out Getting the Numbers Right, now available.

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