What's wrong with this statement?
30% of users who rely mostly on voice calls + 40% of users who rely mostly on texting = 70% of users are ready to adopt video calls
It seems pretty simple: The numbers 30+40 add up to 70, so the statement must be correct, right?
Well, maybe. The statement isn't clear about the causality of the final result, in two ways:
- About the relationship of choices: The fact that some users rely on voice and some on texting does not inherently mean they are ready to adopt video calls.
- About the complete data set: There may be other users besides voice call users and texting users, and their readiness for video may change the number for total users.
Would your copywriter catch this error or have the knowledge to avoid it?
Technical content often involves citing statistics, survey results, and other types of numeric data. A writer should check all numbers in a document to assure accurate presentation and context.
Yet many writers haven't taken a statistics class and haven't had training or experience in fact-checking skills. Some writers even have an aversion to math and believe that verifying data is someone else's problem. Indeed, it becomes your problem when an error of fact or interpretation appears in your content.
What level of numeric and statistics literacy should you expect from a technical copywriter? The points below will give you a start; add or modify them based on the needs of your content and readers.
- Ability to recognize when the right data is being used as input for a calculation or interpretation.
- Basic math: Accurate addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division and correct use of mathematic symbols.
- Basic statistics: Knows the difference between average (mean) and median and when to use each; knows how to calculate percentages and change rates.
- Financial measures: Understands the difference between return on investment (ROI) and payback as well as accounting data such as gross versus net, revenues versus profits.
- High or low? Although high, positive numbers are usually of most interest, sometimes low numbers can make a valuable point. A good writer will look through all of the available data to find the most potent numbers to convey your message, which may not be the most obvious ones.
In addition to choosing the right data sets and understanding causality, a numbers-literate copywriter knows how to handle several related issues.
Context. Presenting data without accurate context can confuse readers, perhaps even mislead them. This confusion can happen even when the statistic or data point is presented as a direct quote from the source material. A good copywriter will help the reader gain the right understanding of the data.
Source and fact checking. Data presented in marketing content doesn't always include a source citation, so it is easy to ignore the important step of source checking. Taking a few minutes for this step helps to avoid introducing errors such as typos, misinterpretations, inadequate context, and failure to comply with laws about comparisons and promotional claims.
Charts and infographics. Although these visuals may be produced by a designer, the writer should be able to provide quality input and review them for accuracy.
Best Books About Numbers for Copywriters
I recommend these books as useful references to keep at hand on your desk or computer: