Making the World More Understandable

Category Archives: Words

My thoughts and comments on the building blocks of the English language.

Word Rant: Percent

Word Rant: Percent

Language evolves. Words change meaning – sometimes to the opposite of the original definition. I get this, sometimes I encourage it, sometimes I don’t. However, there are some incorrectly used words that evolution will never fix.

Today’s rant is around the use of the word “percent.”

Simply put, percent means “of 100.” It is another way to describe a fraction, or smaller part, of something.

If you say “of 100” instead of “percent” you’re likely to get it right every time. After all, 20 of 100 (20%) makes perfect sense. On the other hand, what the heck is 200 of 100? That is the translation of 200%.

The most you can have of 100 is 100. There is no more than 100%.

The Common Problem

The problem is mainly around describing increases. At least, I rarely see improper percentage use around decreases because once you’re down 100%, you are out of whatever you are measuring. Unless we’re talking about money. Since going into debt is not a topic I want to cover today, we’ll just stick to increases.

Let’s say you are watching how many visits your website gets in a day. If yesterday you had 100 visits and today you have 125 visits, that is an increase of 25%. If yesterday you had 100 visits and today you have 200, that is twice as many visitors. 250 visitors would be 2.5 times as many.

What About Consistency?

Consistency dictates that you use the same terminology when describing increases. However, when your increases are in multiples, consistency is no longer an issue – accuracy is.

It is OK to stop speaking in parts when your increases are in multiples.

You could start speaking in fractions, but that gets extremely awkward quickly.

Just to Make Things More Confusing

Here’s another thing. If you say you have 200% of something, that’s different than a 200% increase of something.

200% of something is two. However, an increase that gets you to twice as many as you had originally is a 100% increase. So, does a 200% increase take you to three times as many or four?

No %>100And, the Rant

It doesn’t matter what you have after a 200% increase because there is no such thing as a 200% increase!

 

You CAN have twice as many, three times as many, four times as many. You CAN have double, triple, or quadruple. Yet, you can ONLY have 100 percent!

-Lorrie Nicoles

Are They Stupid, or Just Ignorant?

Are They Stupid, or Just Ignorant?

Here’s a definition subtlety for you: What’s the difference between ignorance and stupidity? Here’s what Dictionary.com has to say: So, if a person is ignorant, they are missing information or experience. That’s easily fixed. If someone is stupid, on the other hand, something more is going on. Nowhere in the definition of stupid do you… Continue Reading

What is Journalism?

What is Journalism?

As you may have heard, I’m writing a book. One of the writers that agreed to contribute said that his specialty was journalism – the problem is that he didn’t answer my questions with information I would think of as being from a journalist. So, I thought maybe I wasn’t defining the word properly. So,… Continue Reading

Provocative Words

Provocative Words

Welcome to my “Ode to the Thesaurus.” One of my favorite Facebook pages is The Writer’s Circle. I always seem to glom onto their lists of Other Words For <fill in the blank>. I’ve several of them clipped into my Blog Ideas notebook in Evernote. One I’ve been looking at a lot lately is for… Continue Reading

Words That Don’t Work: Nonplus

Words That Don’t Work: Nonplus

I believe that a person with a basic understanding of the language ought to be able to understand content published for the general population – even if they encounter a word they haven’t seen before. Obviously, text books, scientific articles, philosophical debates, and the such are likely to contain words that will send the reader… Continue Reading

Properly Pronounce!

Properly Pronounce!

In a blog that I don’t think I’ll publish, I discussed the importance of proper pronunciation. That rant focused on how commonly people drop Rs from words such as “library” and “February.” And while I do find that tendency annoying, the blog itself was just a little too pissy – even for me. That said,… Continue Reading