Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!



Using Statistics in Writing

Statistics allow writers to support their arguments with convincing evidence. They also enable writers to draw conclusions and argue specific sides of issues without sounding speculative or vague. However, when faced with the task of writing a research or persuasive essay, there are some important suggestions to keep in mind regarding statistics.

Support Claims with Statistical Evidence

In order to argue persuasively, it is important to support all claims with specific evidence. Consider the following examples arguing that higher education improves standards of living:

Example A: Individuals who have university degrees have higher salaries.

Example B: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, full-time employees in the United States who earned high school diplomas or GEDs received a median income of $25,000 in 2009, whereas those who earned Bachelor’s degrees received a median income of $40,000.

In an essay arguing that higher education improves living standards, Example B is much more effective. Example B incorporates specific data collected from a reliable source and clearly illustrates the gap in earnings between high school and college graduates. In contrast, Example A makes a claim without any specific evidence offering support. It may be commonly known that high education leads to higher salaries, but Example A should use statistics to prove this point! 


Use Relevant Statistics

In order to support claims with statistics, it is important to ensure that your statistical evidence relates to the topic at hand. Consider the following examples arguing that exercise helps to prevent weight gain:

Example A: Individuals who exercise can maintain their current weights. In a study conducted by the American Medical Association, 38 of 120 participants exercised at high intensity for 114 minutes each week. Their daily caloric intake consisted of 15.8% protein.

Example B: Individuals who exercise can maintain their current weights. In a study of 120 randomly selected participants conducted by the American Medical Association, researchers concluded that burning 1500 calories per week with physical activity was enough to prevent weight gain in men who had previously lost an average of 12 kilograms through diet and exercise.

In an essay arguing that exercise promotes weight maintenance, Example B is significantly more effective, because it makes a claim and directly supports this claim with a relevant example. In contrast, the statistical evidence given by Example A, “38 of 120 participants exercised at high intensity for 114 minutes each week. Their daily caloric intake consisted of 15.8% protein,” is irrelevant because it does not explain how either of these factors (vigorous exercise or protein intake) actually results in weight maintenance.


Present Statistical Evidence Clearly

In addition to supporting claims with statistical evidence and ensuring that the statistical evidence is relevant, information should be presented clearly so readers can easily interpret what the information means.

Consider the following examples arguing that exercise helps to prevent weight gain:

Example A: In addition, the AMA study found that four independent measures of central obesity exhibited a strong dose-response.

Example B: In addition, the AMA study found that in four independent cases, participants’ waist sizes were negatively related to the amount of weekly exercise they performed.

In an essay arguing that exercise promotes weight maintenance, Example B is significantly more effective, because it translates vague terms like “central obesity” and “dose-response” into detailed characteristics of the study. From Example B, it is clear that the more participants of the AMA study exercised, the smaller their waists became. Example A attempts to communicate the same information but fails to do so clearly because it does not clarify the terms “central obesity” and “dose-response.