Monday, November 01, 2004


A couple of style points from AP to remember for the election:

It's Election Day, capital E, capital D.

election returns Use figures, with commas every three digits starting at the right and counting left. Use the word to (not a hyphen) in separating different totals listed together: Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford 40,827,292 to 39,146,157 in 1976 (this is the actual final figure).
Use the word votes if there is any possibility that the figures could be confused with a ratio: Nixon defeated McGovern 16 votes to 3 votes in Dixville Notch.
Do not attempt to create adjectival forms such as the 40,827,292-39,146,157 vote.

majority, plurality Majority means more than half of an amount.
Plurality means more than the next highest number.
COMPUTING MAJORITY: To describe how large a majority is, take the figure that is more than half and subtract everything else from it: If 100,000 votes were cast in an election and one candidate received 60,000 while opponents received 40,000, the winner would have a majority of 20,000 votes.
COMPUTING PLURALITY: To describe how large a plurality is, take the highest number and subtract from it the next highest number: If, in the election example above, the second-place finisher had 25,000 votes, the winner's plurality would be 35,000 votes.
Suppose, however, that no candidate in this example had a majority. If the first-place finisher had 40,000 votes and the second-place finisher had 30,000, for example, the leader's plurality would be 10,000 votes.
USAGE: When majority and plurality are used alone, they take singular verbs and pronouns: The majority has made its decision.
If a plural word follows an of construction, the decision on whether to use a singular or plural verb depends on the sense of the sentence: A majority of two votes is not adequate to control the committee. The majority of the houses on the block were destroyed.

postelection, pre-election

ratios Use figures and hyphens: the ratio was 2-to-1, a ratio of 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio. As illustrated, the word to should be omitted when the numbers precede the word ratio.
Always use the word ratio or a phrase such as a 2-1 majority to avoid confusion with actual figures. (Be careful; writers will often say a 2-to-1 margin. But margin is the difference. So, it's a 600-vote margin, a 6-to-1 ratio.)

re-elect, re-election


At 3:00 AM, November 02, 2004, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

My prediction: an Electoral College tie. So, it goes to the House, which fails to provide the needed 26 conclusive votes, so it goes to the Senate, which splits 50-50. Cheney suffers “the big one” and can’t cast the tie-breaking vote. So it comes down to a series of coin flips. Result: John Kerry will be named president, with Laura Bush remaining as first lady.

At 12:55 PM, November 02, 2004, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

... Constitutionally, they'd have to sleep in the same bed. I just looked it up. It seems Ben Franklin insisted on that clause.

At 7:01 PM, November 02, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So has anyone got an elegant answer to "He won by a margin of 3 to 2." It's "ratio," of course, but "by a 3 to 2 ratio" is awkward and counterintuitive.

At 10:22 AM, November 04, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

It doesn't sound too awkward to me. But perhaps better are "a 3-2 victory" or "a ratio of 3 to 2"?

Really, I think many people are just used to hearing it wrong.


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