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Do not repeat numbers from tables or figures in the text (except in unusual cases when the numbers have special significance)!

Inexperienced writers tend to report values in both the tables (or figures) and in the text. Rather than repeating values, the text should emphasize relationships.

Consider the following hypothetical example.

 

Table 2. Effect of treatments A, B, C, and D on plant height and plant mass.

Treatment

Plant height (cm)

Plant mass (g)

A

98 a

202 a

B

20 c

101 c

C

60 b

166 b

D

63 b

175 b

 Values are the means of five replicates. Means in a column followed by a different letter are significantly different according to DMRT at P < 0.05.

In the text of the Results section, an inexperienced scientist will write:

Plant height was 98, 20, 60, and 63 cm in treatments A, B, C, D, and E, respectively (Table 1). Plant mass was 202, 101, 166, and 175 cm in treatments A, B, C, D, and E, respectively.

 

There are several problems here. First, it wastes the reader's time. Reading is often hard work, and readers are usually busy. They therefore do not want to look at any more words or numbers than is necessary. In this example, the reader can easily obtain the values from the table and gains nothing by having to read them in the text. Forcing the reader to wade through needless numbers in text will irritate the reader. Second, this is a form of redundancy. So, repeating values wastes reader time and wastes journal space.The text of the Results section should read:

 

Plant height and mass were greatest in treatment A, least in treatment B, and intermediate in treatments C and D (Table 1).

 

Writers who repeat values in the text are often the same writers who report biologically meaningless numbers of decimal places. Their Table 2 will be as follows:

 

Table 2. Effect of treatments A, B, C, and D on plant height and plant mass.

Treatment

Plant height (cm)

Plant mass (g)

A

98.12 a

202.08 a

B

20.38 c

101.29 c

C

60.97 b

166.77 b

D

63.11 b

175.52 b

The added numbers reduce the effectiveness of the writing because they increase reader work without increasing reader comprehension (they of course reduce reader comprehension because the reader wastes brain energy looking at scientifically meaningless numbers).. Read about rounding off. The inexperienced scientist then makes the problem worse by writing in the text of the Results:

 

Plant height was 98.12, 20.38, 60.97, and 63.11 cm in treatments A, B, C, D, and E, respectively (Table 1).

 

This kind of mindless data presentation will even anger some readers, who will ask themselves "Why is the author wasting my time?" "Do I want to read more of this?" "Would my day be better and my life be easier if just stopped reading and rejected this paper?"

 

On the other hand, some numbers have special significance and can be reported both in the table/figure and in the text. You will need to use your judgement here but if you are uncertain, do not repeat the numbers in the text.

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