Writers typically deal with numbers like Frankenstein’s monster.
You add them into your content material to make the topic extra alive, however the finish outcome doesn’t precisely prove the way you anticipated.
If the considered numbers sends you working within the evening, take this flip as an alternative to grow to be the writing wizard of numerals.
1. Flip numbers into folks
ORIGINAL: Over 80% of dentists surveyed suggest sugarless gum.
REVISED: 4 of 5 dentists suggest sugarless gum.
WHAT CHANGED: The revision converts the proportion to the variety of dentists.
WHY: Translating percentages into numbers of individuals (or issues) permits the reader to visualise higher who or what’s being counted or affected.
TIP: Each time you write a proportion, ask whether or not the story could be extra highly effective if readers envisioned the particular person or factor being measured. If that’s the case, you’ll be able to merely say the “p.c quantity” out of 100.
Within the instance above, it may have stated 80 of 100 dentists. However that massive quantity continues to be arduous to visualise, so basic math can cut back the proportion to the smallest complete quantity. The phrase “4 of 5 dentists” is rather more relatable – readers might visualize the place their dentist could be among the many 5.
2. Use percentages to indicate pervasiveness or lack of pervasiveness
ORIGINAL: About 4 million U.S. employees use public transportation to journey to their workplaces.
REVISED: About 2.5% of U.S. employees use public transportation to journey to their workplaces.
WHAT CHANGED: As an alternative of quantifying the variety of folks, a proportion was used.
WHY: If you wish to present how frequent or unusual one thing is, citing a proportion could be simpler. On this instance, 4 million folks feels like loads. A reader could possibly be impressed by the quantity. However when 2.5% is used, the reader realizes that comparatively few employees use public transportation.
TIP: If you wish to present commonality (or lack thereof), use a p.c determine. Now, if you wish to reveal pervasiveness (or lack thereof) AND put it in actual folks/issues phrases, use each a proportion and a quantity. About 2.5% (4 million) of U.S. employees use public transportation.
3. Rely down
ORIGINAL: One of the best film of 2023 is The First Slam Dunk. Learn on for my second by tenth place picks.
Although Rotten Tomatoes didn’t use that sentence, it did take the method of beginning with No. 1.
REVISED: The tenth greatest film of 2023 is John Wick: Chapter 4. Learn my countdown to find what leads as much as the yr’s first-place winner.
USA Today took the countdown method with its high films article.
WHAT CHANGED: The unique counted in sequential order, whereas the revision began with the best quantity and counted all the way down to No. 1.
WHY: In the event you reveal the most effective immediately, readers don’t must proceed studying to see the payoff – what’s No. 1 on the listing.
TIP: Use the countdown impact to create suspense to your reader. Readers recognize and count on a payoff (a la David Letterman’s Prime 10 lists). However don’t simply write a listing that would seem on the identical display screen. Craft compelling content that prompts the customer to maintain scrolling.
4. Rely up
ORIGINAL: Constructing a brand new house is an thrilling alternative. To get it in move-in situation, you should choose your inside paint colours, purchase the roofing supplies, get it framed, and construct a powerful basis.
REVISED: Constructing a brand new house is an thrilling alternative. To get it in move-in situation, you should:
- Construct a powerful basis
- Get it framed
- Purchase the roofing supplies
- Choose your inside paint colours
WHAT CHANGED: The to-do listing mirrors the order by which they must be accomplished – they’re in sequential order.
WHY: By incorporating the 1, 2, 3, and so forth., your readers can simply see how the large image comes collectively and/or comply with it themselves.
New Dwelling Supply did this in its article about 10 steps to construct a brand new residence.
TIP: In the event you’re educating your readers on a course of or informing them on find out how to do one thing, use numbers. Writers usually use outlines to craft their content material. Outlines are actually a proper numbering system. In the event you assume it is sensible to do a top level view, it could make sense to do a sequential listing.
BONUS TIP: Even if you happen to don’t have a course of or a high listing to share, consider using numbers. Labeling concepts with numbers – and noting that within the headline – creates an expectation for the reader on how a lot they’ll study. Plus, a numerical listing is less complicated to scan. Readers who’re aware of some suggestions can transfer on to the following.
This instance from World Nomads clearly identifies what readers can count on from the article – seven issues to know earlier than heading to Cuba – and makes use of the numbers to make it straightforward to comply with the textual content.
5. Promote the story in 150 to 160 characters
ORIGINAL: Dressing up in costumes and trick or treating are fashionable Halloween actions, however few in all probability affiliate these lighthearted fall traditions with their origins in Samhain, a three-day historical Celtic pagan competition.
That’s the unique intro for Time’s article on Halloween.
REVISED: Few in all probability affiliate the lighthearted traditions of Halloween with their origins in Samhain, an historical Celtic pagan competition.
WHAT CHANGED: Within the authentic, the lede turned the de-facto meta description showing in Google’s search outcomes. Within the revision, the meta description extra shortly addresses what the searcher needs to know – the origin of Halloween.
WHY: A searcher’s intent usually differs from the intent of the on-page reader. Whereas the lede ought to be written to seize the eye of a reader, a meta description ought to be written to seize the eye of a searcher. (And if there isn’t a meta description, Google usually showcases the start of the article.)
TIP: The act of writing a succinct, intent-based meta description (150 to 160 characters) earlier than writing the article lets you acknowledge what the main focus of the piece ought to be.
Overcome your concern of numbers
Now there, that wasn’t so dangerous, was it? You’ve bought 5 non-scary methods to make use of numbers in your content material which have your audiences seeing rainbows, not horrifying creations.
You are actually the particular person backstage – the magician who can flip numbers into folks and issues into numbers. You may conjure up countdowns that create suspense and spells to assist folks get issues executed. And eventually, you’ll be able to assist conquer the Google monster and get the suitable content material in entrance of your viewers.
And all that may occur and not using a magic calculator.
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Cowl picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content material Advertising Institute
Up to date from an October 2019 article.