I’ve written before about how obsession with accuracy can lead to poor writing (just click on the little icon at the bottom of my post that says “Legal Writing” to see all my posts about legal writing — not many so far). Anyway, here’s another quick tip on the subject of being accurate.
Very often, in the zeal to win a point of discussion, one will say something like “most people believe….” The problem with these assertions is that often you don’t really know what “most people believe.” You are trying to emphasize that the percentage is significant so you reflexively say something that is: (1) unprovable, and (2) almost certainly wrong. And if the person isn’t already inclined to believe your assertion then you are simply setting yourself up for easy contradiction.
So why not say “a significant percentage of people believe…” That’s really all you need to say. A “significant percentage” could be 2% in some circumstances. Your opponent will probably still reject your assertion, but at least you haven’t said anything patently disprovable. Anyway, the point is that you should think about using the word “significant” more often. Yes, it has 4 syllables and it sounds grandiose, but it’s better than saying something that can be easily challenged.