Hooray! New York Times Bans Use of “Record” Unless It’s Adjusted for Inflation

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Someone named Mental Lint tweeted this today: “Well @kdrum will be happy about that.” Excellent! But what exactly will I be happy about? Clicking the mouse to expand the conversation, I see that he’s responding to a tweet from David Leonhardt, the Washington bureau chief for the New York Times. Here is Leonhardt’s tweet:

NYT changes stylebook today to bar uses of “record” or “largest” unless inflation is taken into account.

Be still my beating heart! A second tweet apparently quotes from the new entry in the stylebook:

“This is not statistical quibbling. It is simply not accurate to describe $1,000 in 2013 dollars as “more” money than, say, $900 in 1960…”

Yes! Praise the Lord! My long, lonely1struggle has finally paid off. But this is only a start. The Times hasn’t banned comparisons of nominal figures over time, which can be every bit as deceptive. There are practical reasons for this, since sometimes inflation-adjusted figures aren’t easily available or—more rarely—aren’t appropriate or necessary. But I hope the stylebook at least strongly states a preference for money comparisons over time to be inflation adjusted unless there’s a very good reason not to. And I hope that other newspapers follow the Times’ lead here. It is, so to speak, long past time.

1OK, OK. It wasn’t really all that long. And not really all that lonely, either. Cut me some poetic license slack, here.

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