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My Splitapart

I was touring teh internets and came across two articles. One that address the sins of grammar (my lowercase ramblings are heretofore exempt, but open single quotes in place of apostrophes are not – and “an” should be used when word starting with “h” begins with an unaccened syllable as far as i’m concerned), and one about stupid math.

Here’s the math one:

Too often, reporters trying to use numbers hedge so much as to make those numbers utterly meaningless. I’m talking about sentences like this:

An average caseworker might handle up to 100 cases a month or more.

OK, let’s see: up to 100 cases a month, meaning it could be anything from zero to 100, but the upper limit is 100. But wait: “or more”! So the sentence says 100 is the most it could possibly be — but it could be more. And that’s just the “average” caseworker. And it only “might” be true. In other words, the sentence says nothing; it just wastes valuable newsprint.

Once my head stops spinning, I try to get the reporter to be more specific. If that fails, I usually change the sentence to something like this:

It’s not unusual for a caseworker to handle 100 cases a month.

Not great (though I do like the sly Tom Jones reference), but it’s safe and it conveys at least some information.

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