Numbers add information that is vital in helping readers understand the story you’re telling. If you’re new to business journalism, here are five easy tips that will help you use them wisely.
Memorize the big ones
Learn the big statistics in your field. For example, among the numbers residential real estate reporters should know by heart: current mortgage rates, local median sales price per square foot, appreciation rates and inventory
Present numbers in context
Don’t just take a number you’re given at face value—dig deeper to find how similar numbers compare. For example: The stock market is up 22 points. Did it recently have a downswing, and it’s now returning to normal? Has it already been rising, and this is an additional increase? How does this rise compare with recent or historical increases?
Don’t go overboard
Use no more than three figures per paragraph. And try not to include numbers in more than one or two consecutive paragraphs. This makes it easier for your audience to understand the significance of what you are talking about without becoming overwhelmed with statistics.
Use easy-to-comprehend examples
Real-life comparison that put numbers in perspective will help your audience visualize figures. Use familiar examples to help readers understand a number’s significance. “That is as big as two football fields.” “That is twice the amount of the average American’s weekly paycheck.”
Put numbers in context
As soon as you say something is rated second—second largest, second oldest, second most popular—you must also identify which is the first in that category.