We Need a Good Word for “Moderately Unlikely”

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Here’s some genuinely useful information: what people think you’re saying when you tell them how likely something is. Here’s the approximate ranking:

  • 90% — Almost certainly, highly likely
  • 80% — Very good chance
  • 70% — Probably, probable, likely, we believe
  • 60% — Better than even
  • 50% — About even
  • 40% — ??
  • 30% — ??
  • 25% — Probably not, we doubt
  • 20% — Unlikely, improbable, little chance
  • 10% — Chances are slight
  • 0% — Highly unlikely, almost no chance

There are no real surprises here except for one: apparently we don’t have a common word to express moderate doubt. The entire space between 25 percent and 50 percent is empty. Why do you suppose that is?1

1The most obvious answer is that the researchers just didn’t happen to include the right phrases in their study, but that’s boring. I would like to see some more creative suggestions.


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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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