Mark Liberman at Language Log is surprised that a writer might not be good at math.
I gather from this that there are educated, intelligent and otherwise skilled adults who are not sure how to turn two numbers into a percentage change, and that some of them are working as public relations professionals. I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm just truly and sincerely surprised.
Let's see if I can help Mark understand. First, in my experience most writers in PR, advertising, or communications have humanities educations. Remember back in college there were all those people taking English courses and their parents would say, "What are you going to do with that?" Well, that's what they're doing with that. And second, if the last time you were asked to figure out a percentage change was 20 years ago, when you were more focused on the cute potential mate in the seat across the way, you might be a little rusty.
[Update: I'm SOOOO misunderstood (see Mark's update to his OP). I don't blame Mark--I wasn't feeling very verbose yesterday. By pointing out that most writers are have humanities education, I didn't mean to dump on English majors. I have a degree in English. I meant actually, to poke a little fun at Mark's intellectual snobbery. First of all, most writers have a different specialization than scientists. And second, they really don't want to be doing their jobs. The joke in advertising is that they are all frustrated novelists.
As for this:
But, but, percentages are taught in the 5th grade
c'mon, how much does anybody remember from 5th grade? And to the previous point, it's not like writers are doing math every day (figuring tips is easily fudged).
As for Holly Cordner's claim
If you can’t even do elementary math, how did you get through your formal education? How did you get a college degree?
I'd say pretty easily, I don't know about her school, but Temple only required a "Math for Humanities" course that was pretty pathetic. Anyway, it's really besides the point. English majors spend a lot of time learning about other things. Their expertise is elsewhere. They don't need to double major in math.]