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“These giants, averaged 23 to 27 millimeters in length, nearly double the size of crickets used in Mainland China.”

Is “averaged” used correctly here?

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All that Richard says is true, but the problem is not so much with the arithmetic meaning of average, as it is the punctuation or grammar.

Here are two possible alternatives, (which are both grammatical, unlike your sentence):

"These giants, averaging 23 to 27 millimeters in length, were/are nearly double the size...


"These giants averaged 23 to 27 millimeters in length, nearly double the size...[no comma after giants]

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I think a better way of putting your point would be "It could be grammatical, but only if you omit the comma after giants: these giants, averaging 23... would be a good alternative." I haven't edited because I'm not exactly sure what you mean by interpretations. – TimLymington Mar 22 '12 at 12:33
@TimLymington: I hesitated to say "corrections" because the faq states we don't do proofreading. Go ahead and edit if you think you have improvements. – Jim Mar 22 '12 at 15:01

Agree with Jim, but I think a more fitting usage without the comma would be

These giants average 23 to 27 millimeters in length, nearly double the size of crickets used in Mainland China.

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I think the choice of tense should be the writer's. If, for example this came from a documentary about a trip that had been taken, and they were recounting the size of the crickets they saw, past tense would be perfectly fine. – Jim Mar 22 '12 at 14:56

Your sample's form is

X, averaged P to Q, nearly double Y

where X, Y are noun phrases and P, Q are numbers. The only verb in the sample is averaged. It occurs in a phrase that is punctuated like an appositive in the sense of a noun phrase "placed with another as an explanatory equivalent ... having the same syntactic function in the sentence." But "averaged P to Q" is not a noun phrase, so cannot be an appositive in this sense. Some rewritings to deal with that problem (with verbs in bold italics) were suggested in previous answers:

X, averaging P to Q, are nearly double Y.
X averaged P to Q, nearly double Y.
X average P to Q, nearly double Y.

Note that these sentences are of muddled meaning because an average is a single number, not a range. Of course that single number may lie within some stated range. When an average is given in a form like "25 mm ± 2 mm", conventionally it represents a claim that at some previously-stated level of confidence (eg 95%) the population mean is within specified limits, for example 23 to 27 mm. The convention does not extend to treating the gauche "averaged 23 to 27 mm" the same as the proper "an average of 25 mm ± 2 mm".

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I think you've misunderstood: averaged is the only possible main verb for the sentence, so it can't be a participle within a phrase (comma notwithstanding). – TimLymington Mar 22 '12 at 14:39
@Tim, There are multiple ways of showing that the commas are wrong. Your "averaged is the only possible main verb" route may be a direct way; the way I gave is indirect, showing that the wrong punctuation leads to incorrect grammar. – jwpat7 Mar 22 '12 at 14:54

No, but it is a common usage.

It combines the actual meaning of average (aka arithmetic mean) with the domain of the set of values, with the outliers ignored.

So I would infer from your example that 99% of the crickets are between 23 and 27 mm.


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Where did 99% come from? Why not 96%, or 99.4%, etc? You have not inferred, you have guessed. – jwpat7 Mar 22 '12 at 7:33
I have inferred from common usage. I am very precise with my language; I would never use an expression in the way the question presents. I would use "tends to be between..." or "average" in the arithmetic sense. In dealing with people who don't use language precisely, my experience has been that this is what they mean. – Richard Haven Mar 23 '12 at 6:07

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