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Making big numbers relatable

When you’re dealing with a huge sum—say, a proposed $1.9 trillion spending package, or adding $160 billion to the national debt—it pays to break it down into something the audience can relate to. Instead of throwing a massive number at them, engage them by putting the number in more easily understandable context.

Most people may have a hard time picturing how much $1.9 trillion actually is. Something much easier to comprehend is the cost of weekend passes to Disneyland or a brand-new Tesla. Try playing around with those types of figures in order to translate large sums into a more relatable representation of what that money can do.

Depending on how you want to break down the numbers, the price tag can seem like it goes a long way or like they it doesn’t go far enough when you compare it to other forms of spending.

For example, $1.9 trillion equates to:

When you write a story that involves large numbers, taking the time to break down those gargantuan sums into something more relatable and understandable for the average consumer can make all the difference, allowing average readers to be more informed and engaged with the economy.


  • Julianne Culey

    Julianne is the deputy director of the Reynolds Center with expertise in marketing and communications and holds a master's in Sociology from Arizona State University.

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