## Tuesday, May 24, 2011

### Problematic Percentage Paragraphs

A percentage is a fraction or ratio (with 100 commonly understood to be the denominator). This is equivalent to parts per hundred.

Today we will look at examples of how we describe percentages in paragraphs. Just as you wouldn't write "He owes me \$5 dollars" so you shouldn't write "He lost 50% percent of his marbles" or "4 out of 10% of voters". I noticed many creative (sloppy, incorrect, ugly, redundant) examples today.

Here's what I mean:
• Barnes & Noble's Nook accounts for 28 percent of the market. The new Nook has 50 percent more contrast and 80% less "flashing..."
• The passing percentage for girls is 86.93% compared to boys at 77.83%. The overall results increased to 81.71% per cent this year against last year's 79.87%.
• The combined turnout percentage was 23.5 percent, instead of the 24.4 percent first reported. Democrats had 22.2 percent compared with 16.5 percent; Republicans had 25.4 percent, instead of 37.2 percent. An error on a summary page led to the mistakes.
• Among receivers, Royal’s 3.28% drop percentage (DP) ranked 5th; Lloyd ranked 8th with a 4.94% percentage; Marshall ranked 46th with an ugly 13.13% percentage.
• Stein has a .707 slugging percentage, a .508 on-base percentage and a .976 fielding percentage.
• Portugal has 81% of its total foreign reserves in gold. Italy has 69.2%, Greece has 79.3% and Ireland has 13.3% of its reserves in gold.
• You need to know how far each wedge shot will fly. Think of that distance as a full swing with about 85-percent effort . . . swinging harder isn't necessary, and 100-percent-effort swings will only go higher, not farther.
• The share of Americans who say the price of gasoline is causing them serious financial hardship now tops 4 in 10. Overall, 71 percent said prices cause some hardship. 41 percent call it a "serious" hardship. Just 29 percent said gas prices are not adversely impacting their finances.
• Friday the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.7 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.8 percent. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.7 percent. Each index fell by more than 0.3 percent for the week.
• People in San Diego are physically active, eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, have a low percentage of smokers and a low percentage of people with heart disease. However, we seem to have a high percentage of people with mental health problems and fewer golf courses per capita than other cities.
• The company surveyed more than 6,000 of its clients, 70 percent of whom thought their equipment was suitable. It also surveyed sales staff, who revealed that a like percentage of their clients would benefit from equipment changes.
OK, enough examples. What have I shown?

16 examples of a number followed by the word percent - 70 percent
12 examples of the word percentage following a number - slugging percentage
12 examples of the percent sign following a number - 65%
3 examples of redundant expressions - 13.13% percentage
2 examples of a hyphenated number-word combination - 85-percent
1 example of a ratio found in a context of percents - 4 in 10
1 example of a redundant expression with per cent as 2 words - 87.1% per cent

Some people who apparently didn't like accurate numbers - judging from the expressions like percentage, low percentage and high percentage. Others must prefer precision, because they say 86.93% or .707. One number (13.13%) was described as "ugly".

A novel ratio was introduced in the San Diego example - the golf courses per capita ratio.

A startling number of my examples seem to deal with sports - but I'll let you calculate that per % cent ratio!

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