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Quick tip: Here’s a great little book on statistics

So far, I’ve posted two quick tips on how to avoid shoddy statistics.

Both articles included examples from the real world.

book cover How to Lie with Statistics

You can see those here:

So how about some positive tips on how to use numbers properly?

If you’re interested in how to be careful with statistics, I have a great little book to suggest, with the amusing title How to Lie with Statistics.

Originally published in 1954, the author’s observations are still fresh and relevant today.

Perhaps more so, in an age when many people get their news from Facebook.

He warns about how statistics can be abused, and how to use them properly.

“Averages and relationships and trends and graphs are not always what they seem,” he writes. “There may be more in them than meets the eye, and there may be a good deal less.”

I’ve had this book close at hand for many years, and I always enjoy dipping into it.

It’s wry and amusing and really helps me see through the “lies, damned lies, and statistics” that surround us every day.

I can’t recommend this book enough to anyone like me, a “word person” who never took a single course in statistics…

Or to anyone who did, but has forgotten everything that course covered.

The bottom line

If you’re tempted to make some point by bending, folding, and stretching some numbers, please think twice about it.

Three reasons:

  • It’s not accurate
  • It’s not ethical
  • If your readers spot what you’ve done, your white paper will lose all the credibility you worked so hard to build

So please don’t be part of the problem with shoddy statistics. Be part of the solution.

 


For more useful tips like this, subscribe to my newsletter, White Paper World.

 

 

About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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