What do numbers have to do with communication?

"I'm not that good with numbers, I'm more the communicative type". Sentences like this or similar ones are often heard in the PR industry. Of course, mathematics is not part of our daily work, but numbers do play an important role.

Numbers can be just as much a rhetorical tool as words and are therefore an integral part of journalism and PR. Have you ever noticed, for example, that the expression "one third" has a different effect than "33 percent", or "one in three"? The same applies to "every fourth", "one in four" or "25 percent". These differences can be easily exploited, depending on the light in which the statement made should appear. 

Headings in particular often contain numbers to make them sound more appealing and catchier. Study or survey results in the form of numbers can also increase the perceived credibility of a text or its statement, as they are less often questioned than statements without numbers. The reason for this is the so-called anchor effect. It describes the psychological phenomenon in which numbers are unconsciously used as a reference point for subsequent decisions and therefore have a significant influence on human judgement.

Therefore, it is important to be careful with numbers, both as the author of a text and as the reader. Journalists, for example, should never blindly accept numbers and, as readers, they and the chosen language should also be questioned. In PR, there is often no getting around numbers, regardless of their impact. Reasons for this are surveys, studies, statistics, comparisons or even records that have to be out in writing. An example of this are press releases, which give editors a basis for journalistic publications, usually in connection with the corresponding study. 

Finally, a small rule of thumb for writing out or not writing out a number: Numbers between one and twelve are written, from 13 on the number is used. Here too, however, the individual case must be considered and any necessary adjustments made. In a nutshell, it can be said that numbers play a completely different, but just as important role in communication as in the often "hated" school subject.