How to learn more about Making Data Meaningful

How to learn more about Making Data Meaningful

Are you great at making data meaningful? I am certainly no expert in this field; I have a t-shirt that says: “English major–You do the math.”

But I (and you) have a great resource in four practical guides (for free) from UNECE ( You can download PDFs of all four guides or request printed versions to be mailed to you (at this writing, one guide is out of stock).

The introduction to Part 1 sets the tone:

“The guide is intended as a practical tool to help managers, statisticians and media relations officers use text, tables, graphics and other information to bring statistics to life using effective writing techniques.

“It contains suggestions, guidelines and examples–but not golden rules.”

As an overview, here’s what you’ll learn in this marvelous, free resource:

  • Tell a story with your statistics; don’t just tell the statistic to your reader.
  • Write like a journalist: Tell the reader your point in your lead.
  • Start paragraphs with a theme (topic) sentence that contains no numbers.
  • Use language appropriate for your reader.
  • Write compelling headlines.
  • Use clear graphics and analytical headings.
  • Communicate more with words than numbers (like journalists do).

You’ll find great “makeovers” to illustrate all of these points (and more).

Two minor criticisms:

  1. The text is fully justified, which forces strange spaces into each line. If you’ve taken one of my classes, you might remember seeing slide pictures of the result of full justification (great big “holes” across the line of text).
  2. There’s a nice half-page meant to help management with “How to encourage good writing,” but it’s plunked down in the middle of the book with no transition to the other parts of the book. I wonder why it wasn’t the conclusion of the book.

But those are picky, picky details. Really, these guides are worth reading…took me about an hour to read each, underlining and all.

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