Top tip for writing about numbers

Here’s a top tip for any writing which includes numbers: and what does not nowadays?

There are three ways of presenting numbers: use all of them.

You can have them in sentences: Tesco have 27.4%, Sainsbury’s had 15.8%, ASDA 14.3%, Morrisons 10%, Aldi 7.4%, Lidl 4.8%, the Coop 4.8%, Waitrose 4.5%, M&S 3.6% and Iceland 2.4%.

The advantage of this linear presentation is that it fits easily into the text and is easy to read.  The disadvantage is for people who may have trouble reading numbers – of which there are surprisingly many.

You can present them as tables:

Tesco 27.4%
Sainsbury’s 15.8%
ASDA 14.3%
Morrisons 10.0%
Aldi 7.4%
Lidl 4.8%
Coop 4.8%
Waitrose 4.5%
M&S 3.6%
Iceland 2.4%

This table seems to be clear but the reader, as in the first style, has to do some calculations.  The Tesco market share is almost twice as Sainsbury’s but you have to think about it.

And you can have them in a graphical form.  See this excellent pie chart from the Mail Online which includes the logos of the stores:

Mail Online’s take on market shares

You can easily see the varied slices of the pie: Tesco’s nearly twice the Sainsbury’s slice.  But there is a lot going on and you have to concentrate on it to get the information out of it.

You may have a preference.  But do you know what you readers favour?  Probably not.  So use all three in business writing.

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