Numeracy Primer: How to Write About Numbers

About this product

Your guide to writing about numbers accurately, ethically and elegantly, with a quick review of how to calculate the basics.


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That journalists are notoriously bad at math is an old cliche … but like many cliches and tired jokes, it does have the faintest glimmer of truth.

Reporters on the business beat or covering city government expect to deal with numbers in most stories, but they’re not the only ones. Numbers crop up in media stories in the most unexpected places. Science and health reporting. Education. Food stories. Weather: I challenge you to find a story about climate change, drought, even forest fires that is not chock full of numbers.

And as journalism confronts the age of Big Data, more numbers are appearing in more and more places. Only now, they’re dressed up as data and hobnob with fancy friends like “correlation” and “analytics.” What’s a hapless journalist to do?

The Numeracy Primer is here to help you confront these numbers head-on and write about them accurately, ethically and elegantly.


  • What percent, percentage point and percent change mean
  • The importance of both precision and rounding
  • How to calculate rate


Any journalist that wants to be able to write about numbers in a way both they and the readers understand

Pam Hogle 

Pamela Hogle is a freelance writer and editor. She holds master’s degrees in journalism and canine studies. Pam has taught editing at USFSP and worked as a copy editor at The Jerusalem Report and as a technical and marketing writer for NDS Technologies.