Effective Technical Writing in the Information Age

Using Statistics in Figures and Tables


As you prepare figures and tables, remember how not to lie with statistics. One could accurately report that the real income of United States households was nearly the same in 1969 and 1992. However, according to an April 24, 1995, article in Forbes magazine, the real income per person grew by almost 40 percent in that span of time, because average family size and average household size declined. As this example demonstrates, effective data presentation and description often require you to set proper context.

For an excellent review of how to achieve graphical excellence, chase down and study Edward R. Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. To gain insight into how to avoid choosing statistics merely for the occasion, track down a copy of Darrell Huff’s ironically titled classic, How to Lie with Statistics.