Note on figures and percentages

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 13 Oct 2020

We all know that figures can vary widely from various publications, and usually precise figures are irrelevant. 

Some texts favor listing the range that has been published without giving a 'best guess ballpark figure'. We feel this is not entirely useful as it often generates very wide ranges which are hard to remember and are of little help: e.g. 5-72%

When you encounter such a problem please try and collapse the figures to a rough average that agrees with most of the figures and includes the range as well, with appropriate references. Text books have done this often, using multiple sources to arrive at a ball-park.

The resulting number should look like: ~35% (range 12-72%) 1-5

Note the following structure: 

  • ~  indicates that this is an approximation (this symbol is technically known as the tilde)
    • occasionally a double tilde '≈' is used, with more precision than with a '~'
    • when the '~' or '≈' is used, there should not be a space after it, e.g. "~15"
  • figure is rounded off
    • to nearest 5 for numbers between 15-85% is usually appropriate
    • at either extreme precise numbers are probably best
  • the range is in brackets 
  • references included to support this range

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