Technical writing style question

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  • #1
BWV
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Curious on thoughts here about writing with negative numbers, i.e. do you write

A) xxx declined -2%

or

B) xxx declined 2%

this is for the general public, if that makes a difference

Argue about this at work, have not seen any style guide addressing this.
 

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  • #2
fresh_42
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I think C) declined by 2% is the least ambiguous wording.
 
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  • #3
Klystron
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I never understood the reliance on percentages to explain or describe technology and science to the general public. Perhaps people become accustomed to using percents from school grades and report cards. If real numbers are difficult for the general public to comprehend, would not graphs and related constructs provide more information and improve understanding?

Do not mean to go off topic. I agree with @fresh_42 that people generally understand negative numbers as positive integers with appropriate gerunds direction on a number line such as decline, reduce, diminish, go down; that indicate a negative.

[Edit 20200110: This thread prompted me to review how contemporary mathematics teachers describe negative integers, reals and complex numbers to a student audience as displacement or distance from the origin on number lines.

While doing so, I modified my ideas about the use of percents in technical papers. The basic rule "know your audience" applies to both fiction and non-fiction publications. In this thread the intended audience, "the general public", likely benefits from the familiar comparison of values expressed as percentages. My technical writing produced in conjunction with engineering projects and a few corporate IPO's had an intended audience of scientists, engineers and senior management, not the general public, with appropriate use of scientific notation, lists and graphs. Thanks.]
 
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  • #4
Wrichik Basu
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When teachers at my school used to shout that they would deduct -20 marks from the copies of students who were adopting unfair means during an exam, we always wondered why those students should be getting 20 extra marks for doing something wrong. 🤔
 
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  • #5
sysprog
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Do not mean to go off topic. I agree with @fresh_42 that people generally understand negative numbers as positive integers with appropriate gerunds such as decline, reduce, diminish, go down; that indicate a negative.
Those words aren't gerunds. A gerund is a verb used as a noun. A good discussion of what is a gerund (and of other kinds of words ending in 'ing', such as present participles) is available at https://linguapress.com/grammar/gerunds.htm
 
  • #6
Klystron
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Those words aren't gerunds. A gerund is a verb used as a noun. A good discussion of what is a gerund (and of other kinds of words ending in 'ing', such as present participles) is available at https://linguapress.com/grammar/gerunds.htm
Thanks for the information. I meant to edit my response but lacked time, as is true today.

[Edit on 20200110: corrected my previous post, one hopes, for clarity.]
 
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