## Numbers in Graphical Representation: 10 Quotes

“If statistical graphics, although born just yesterday, extends its reach every day, it is because it replaces long tables of numbers and it allows one not only to embrace at glance the series of phenomena, but also to signal the correspondences or anomalies, to find the causes, to identify the laws.” (Émile Cheysson, cca. 1877)

“The use of two or more amount scales for comparisons of series in which the units are unlike and, therefore, not comparable […] generally results in an ineffective and confusing presentation which is difficult to understand and to interpret. Comparisons of this nature can be much more clearly shown by reducing the components to a comparable basis as percentages or index numbers.” (Rufus R Lutz, “Graphic Presentation Simplified”, 1949)

“When numbers in tabular form are taboo and words will not do the work well as is often the case. There is one answer left: Draw a picture. About the simplest kind of statistical picture or graph, is the line variety. It is very useful for showing trends, something practically everybody is interested in showing or knowing about or spotting or deploring or forecasting.” (Darell Huff, “How to Lie with Statistics”, 1954)

“The precision of a number is the degree of exactness with which it is stated, while the accuracy of a number is the degree of exactness with which it is known or observed. The precision of a quantity is reported by the number of significant figures in it.” (Edmund C Berkeley & Lawrence Wainwright, Computers: Their Operation and Applications”, 1956)

“Inept graphics also flourish because many graphic artists believe that statistics are boring and tedious. It then follows that decorated graphics must pep up, animate, and all too often exaggerate what evidence there is in the data. […] If the statistics are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers.” (Edward R Tufte, “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”, 1983)

“The content and context of the numerical data determines the most appropriate mode of presentation. A few numbers can be listed, many numbers require a table. Relationships among numbers can be displayed by statistics. However, statistics, of necessity, are summary quantities so they cannot fully display the relationships, so a graph can be used to demonstrate them visually. The attractiveness of the form of the presentation is determined by word layout, data structure, and design.” (Gerald van Belle, “Statistical Rules of Thumb”, 2002)

“Statistics can certainly pronounce a fact, but they cannot explain it without an underlying context, or theory. Numbers have an unfortunate tendency to supersede other types of knowing. […] Numbers give the illusion of presenting more truth and precision than they are capable of providing.” (Ronald J Baker, “Measure what Matters to Customers: Using Key Predictive Indicators”, 2006)

“We need [graphic] techniques because figures do not speak for them. selves. Numbers alone seldom make a convincing case or polish their author’s image — the twin goals of that other great mind bender, rhetoric. While rhetoric deals in qualitative argument, its quantitative equivalent is graphics. As rhetoric has declined in popularity, so graphics have risen along with our acceptance of quantitative arguments. In graphics, figures finally find their own means of expression.” (Nicholas Strange, “Smoke and Mirrors: How to bend facts and figures to your advantage”, 2007)

“There is no ‘correct’ way to display sets of numbers: each of the plots we have used has some advantages: strip-charts show individual points, box-and-whisker plots are convenient for rapid visual summaries, and histograms give a good feel for the underlying shape of the data distribution.” (David Spiegelhalter, “The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data”, 2019)

“Numbers are ideal vehicles for promulgating bullshit. They feel objective, but are easily manipulated to tell whatever story one desires. Words are clearly constructs of human minds, but numbers? Numbers seem to come directly from Nature herself. We know words are subjective. We know they are used to bend and blur the truth. Words suggest intuition, feeling, and expressivity. But not numbers. Numbers suggest precision and imply a scientific approach. Numbers appear to have an existence separate from the humans reporting them.” (Carl T Bergstrom & Jevin D West, “Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World”, 2020)

*More quotes on “Numbers” in Graphical Representation at **sql-troubles.blogspot.com**.*