Monday, April 16, 2012

From the Department of Made-Up Statistics

I admit it—I'm a data geek. (Shocking, right?) Give me some data, and I can't help but analyze it at least a little. I've even made graphs to analyze my writing.

I've often heard people claim you can make statistics say anything you want. That's not entirely true, but you can usually frame them in a way that leans in a certain direction, even if that direction is misleading. Some easy ways to do this are asking your question in a particular way, choosing a biased sample, and setting up a graph with an inappropriate axis. (All of these will get you labeled a bad statistician, though.)

Sometimes, it's easier just to skip all the technical steps and just make up results. So here are some claims that are entirely made up based only on my gut instinct. If anyone finds hard data on any of them, feel free to let me know.

  • 47% of cancer survivors will (attempt to) write a memoir on the topic.
  • 72% of drivers don't know how to merge properly.
  • 96% of literate Americans don't know how to use a semicolon.
  • 83% of teenagers declare something boring a minimum of twice every school day.
  • Chocolate makes everything better 99.9% of the time.
  • I remember 74% of the useless minutiae I come across, but only 51% of the information I actually need.
  • 2% of the people who protest that a given book should be banned have actually read the book.

Go ahead and make up some of your own statistics, or let me know if you think my percentages are off on any of the above. It's fun and makes you sound knowledgeable. ;)


Kristina said...

Interesting post! :)
Based on instinct, right? Okay...
1) 98% of YouTube comments have terrible grammar and spelling.
2) 40% of people who claim they're Justin Bieber's fans do so only to be spared cyber bullying by his true fans.
3) 80% of writers will easily find out what's bad about someone else's query, but spotting that in their own queries is impossible for them.
4) Only 15% of teens read more than 100 books during their life.
5) 60% of people on social media don't know the difference between it's and its, where and were, etc.
6) 90% of YA readers have an everyday habit to compare The Hunger Games with Twilight.
7) 35% of adults who'd swear on a stack of Bibles they hate Twilight just don't want to admit they'd changed their mind.

Brent Stratford said...

First of all 80% of all statistics are made up and 90% of all statistics are wrong by 5% or more.

I also strongly disagree with the 72% of drivers not knowing how to merge properly.

If you are talking global drivers than the percentage is actually higher. There is no real traffic control in China, or Brazil. They just go wherever they want, merging ad nauseam. Globally proper merging knowledge is actually 84%

If you are talking about the United States than you clearly did not take into consideration that 99% of drivers in the North East do not know how to merge. It is not their fault. With stop signs at the end of highway on ramps the very structure of the roads discourages proper merging. So taking that into account only about 51% of drivers know how to merge properly (note: "properly" is defined as the instruction for merging as taught in every drivers ed course outside the state of New York).

From these statistics we learn that the inability to merge is the 12th highest rated way we, Americans, annoy other countries when we visit (the #1 is the expectation that everyone speak English)

Brent Stratford said...

Kristina, I am definitely in the 80% who can't critique my own query. I think, for me, it stems from being so close to the book that I forget the reader doesn't know everything I do. The other problem is once I get that, I want to share EVERYTHING with them. Writing my query has been much tougher than writing, and revising, and revising, and revising, and revising my novel.

Jean Oram said...

With the banning, I think only 2% have actually read the book--no really. Scary, huh? Often librarians give them a form and ask them to fill it out, highlighting passages that particularly bother them. They never come back. They're not actually going to READ the book!

Love your stats though! (Just um, actually knew the truth on that one.)

I love making up stats. On my kids site, I make stuff up. Did you know there are 853 different ways to tie your shoes. :D