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Reid’s Table*

Nonspecific measures are often used in articles and in speech to represent real quantities. Until the publication of Ried’s Table, you did not know how many people actually turned out when an article referred to “half a million rock fans” attended a concert, or how many experts a reporter consulted to conclude that “most authorities agree that writers should use more precise terminology.”

Although I found a paper copy of this table many years ago, I love it so much I’ve reproduced it here for your edification and enjoyment!

Table of Absolute Values
for Common American Phrases Denoting Nonspecific Quantities
Common PhraseAbsolute value(s)
Only one1
A couple2 to 4
A few3 to 5
Quite a few3 to 6
Some, several3 to 9
Many3 to 8
Most (e.g., “most authorities”)4 to 6
Half a dozen5 to 7
About a half dozen4 to 8
A lot6 to 10
Quite a lot7 to 11
A whole lot8 to 17
Ten**9 to 11
Around ten7 to 13
A dozen11 to 13
About a dozen9 to 15
A bunch8 to 15
A whole bunch9 to 19
Two dozen22 to 26
About two dozen21 to 27
A few hundred75 to 125
A couple of hundred99 to 139
Two or three hundred140 to 175
Half a million (e.g., news reporter’s estimate of crowd size)90,000 to 125,000
Most (when expressed as a percentage)10% to 20%
A majority50% + 1
A clear majority51%
A vast majority52% to 60%
An overwhelming majority61% to 70%
Almost all / everyone71% to 75%
Practically all / everyone76% to 80%
All / everyone81% to 86%
Absolutely all / everyone86% to 90%
100% of those surveyed91% to 95%
Street value: narcotics agent’s valuationDivide by 100 to find actual value.
*Don Ried, a technical writer, quantified the first values. Usually just called “Ried’s Table.”
**Applies to any round number, ranges from -10% to +10%, e.g., ‘ten people’ really means 9, 10 or 11.

This web page was last updated on September 30, 2003.

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