This exercise is to help you to avoid common mistakes in the use of the language of approximation that students make in report writing assignments.
(This page is also available as a MS
In report writing it is good style to use 'approximation' in the Findings,
Conclusions and Recommendations. Approximation means describing numbers or
statistics by using a fraction that is similar to the exact number; e.g. using
'about one-third' instead of 34.76%, or an easy-to-remember number such as 'just under one million' instead of
There are a number of reasons for doing this. Firstly, it is easier
for people to understand and remember. Secondly, the numbers or statistics may
be more detailed than necessary.
Here are some examples:
||about two-thirds of
||over a thousand
||just over a quarter of
||over a hundred
||about a fifth
||fewer than ten
||just under a half of
||a small number
||almost three-quarters of
||a third of
||about three-quarters of a million
||over 1.2 billion
- don't use fractions where the denominator (the number under the line) is
greater than 5 - many people do not know that 1/6 = 16%
or that 7/8 = 87.5%
- don't forget the hyphen in fractions; e.g. 'one-third' (but not
after 'a'; e.g. use 'a third')
- don't forget to add an 's' on the end of fractions starting with two or
greater; e.g. 'two-thirds', 'three-quarters'
- most fractions can be followed by the preposition 'of '; e.g.
'Three-quarters of the staff were satisfied with working conditions.'
- most fractions are followed by a plural noun; e.g. 'half of the books',
except uncountable nouns; e.g. 'Half of the staff were satisfied with
working conditions' (the verb is 'were', not 'was', because 'staff ' is
thought of as a plural after fractions)
- in strictly correct grammar use 'fewer than' for countable nouns and 'less
than' for uncountable nouns
- it is more natural to use 'a' instead of 'one' in front of fractions; e.g.
'a third of ...'
- in front of 'half ' you do not need to use 'a' or 'one-'; e.g. 'Half of
the staff were satisfied with their working relationships.'
- do not use a number at the start of a sentence, because it's bad style.
Use words; e.g. '
100 One hundred of the staff were
satisfied with working conditions.'
- be careful of the spelling of 'several' - it's not 'serveral'
- remember that 'only' and 'just' often have a negative meanings, so use
them only if you want to show that something is bad; e.g. 'Only 1% of our
staff were satisfied with working conditions.'
Correct the errors in the following sentences. There may be more than one error
in each sentence.
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