English: Square root of x formula. Symbol of mathematics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There’s been a fair amount of buzz lately that Apple, in the next couple of years, will become a trillion dollar company. Yes, that is the numeral one, followed by twelve zeros: 1,000,000,000,000.
Of course, as this New York Times article continues, Microsoft’s market capitalization hit an all-time high of $616.3 billion in 1999. Since then, the company has slid down the side of the mountain and is currently valued at a mere $261 billion.
But my point is not the number itself, but the way we “see” the number. 1,000,000,000,000 is sort of meaningless, because we perceive it as a really, really big number, without any context. Adding or subtracting a zero would not really change our belief that it is indeed a truly large number. But so is a billion. Or even a paltry million.
But how about this example, from ytsknews, to put some sense and scale behind it. A million seconds is 12 days. But a billion seconds, though it sounds similar, is much longer. It’s 31 years. And a trillion seconds? An unbelievable 31,688 years! But you see how much easier it is to grasp the enormous differences when presented in this manner, instead of just a string of zeros.
Point is, when you paint a word picture, using metaphors and analogies, or tell stories, your (occasionally) tedious, technical and simply overwritten copy can come to life, freeing the facts to do their task of informing and persuading, rather than boring and confusing.
And if I’ve asked you once, I’ve asked you a trillion times: got the idea?