Sloppy numbers in story on sex offenses at Coast Guard Academy

This is in reference to your article, “Reports of sexual offenses up over past years at Coast Guard Academy," (March 1). While I applaud your coverage of this important issue, your statistics leave something to be desired. An increase from 8 percent to 12.4 percent is not "over 4" or 4.4 percent, it's a 55 percent increase (8 divided by 4.4). And you don't tell us, at least in the lede, percentage of what? Percentage of female cadets reporting at least one incident? Percentage of incidents reported? Some other percentage?

It would have been better to focus on number of reports. Then the percentage increase would be easier to understand and we would know exactly what increased. You could back this up with, "12.4 percent of female cadets reported at least one incident, up from 8 percent two years ago." (Yeah, I know that the AP stylesheet says not to start a sentence with a number, but I can't do all your work for you.)

Sloppy use of figures leads to sloppy thinking, and we already have enough of that. 

Edward (Ned) Ruete

MS Operations Research

East Lyme


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