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  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: Use of phrase " times less than"

    Quote Originally Posted by View Post
    I get upset when I hear or read the media regularly using poorly constructed sentences ( especially when the meaning may be ambiguous ) which then seem to become the norm very quickly with young native English speakers.
    Don't we all! (OK, most of us).

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Use of phrase " times less than"

    Quote Originally Posted by View Post
    I have noticed the increasing use of what I consider to be incorrect comparison within the english media and would value another opinion regarding this. An example taken from the BBC today follows:
    "the UCI said the concentration found by the laboratory was estimated at 50 picograms - 400 times less than anti-doping laboratories"

    Could someone please tell me what this statement means and also what the writer may think that it means.

    This seems to be used very often and I am not sure if it is deemed to be correct and I am out of date or if it is just poor use of the language.
    Yes, you are out of date - but so am I.

    I assume that the speaker means that the anti-doping laboratories' concentration was estimated at 400 x 50 = 20,000, but one cannot be certain. S/he might meaning that the reduction was 20,000, so the anti-doping laboratories' concentration was 20,040. Such expressions lack clarity.

    I have seen similar confusion with: We had 50 enquiries today, 100% less than yesterday. I assume that the speaker meant that there were 100 enquiries yesterday, though that would seem to me to be 50% less (or fewer!).

    In my own speaking and writing I try to avoid using such expressions unless I can be absolutely clear, as in: The January sales of 120m were 20% up on the December figures of 100m, the biggest percentage increase for eleven months.

    Note that in my example I put in the actual figures for January and the word percentage. It may well be that last July's figure's were 500m and August's were 550m. This is a a bigger increas (50m as against 20m), but a smaller percentage (10% as against 20%).

    My only suggestion is to take verbal descriptions of figures using percentages or such expressions as times, more than, less than, etc with a large pinch of salt. If you can, ask the writer/reader to give you the actual figure.

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