When Being Inexact Is Perfectly Correct

Two years ago, the New York Times reported that on his 1996 income-tax returns, Donald Trump declared a $916 million loss.

When discussing this fact, most of us round “$916 million” up to “$1 billion.”

That’s both appropriate and advisable. In short, “one billion” is more memorable than “916 million.” Indeed, “a billion bucks” is not only easier to recall; it’s also easier to articulate.

Note: You could also round down, to $900 million. But most people, as a matter of tradition, tend to round up.

Postscript: One of my students points out an important nuance: While the headline should cite “$1B,” the article itself should use the actual number.

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