For example, in this chart, can I write, "Spending on health research generally increased during the period"?

My concern is mostly about how I use the word "generally" here.

enter image description here

  • 1
    It's grammatical but whether it's accurate enough is a matter of opinion. IMO, not.
    – TimR
    Mar 28 at 9:53
  • 1
    It would be more accurate to say something like "Spending on health research steadily increased in the 20-year period from 1984 to 2004 but then began to fall."
    – TimR
    Mar 28 at 9:58
  • 1
    It depends what you're trying to prove. The overall level of health research increased over the period. But did it increase in real terms? Are you interested in the current trend? "Generally" is sufficiently vague you can use it here, but you should think what meaning you want to convey.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 28 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


Speaking as a senior data analyst, I would be happy with that statement. The chart does show a decline during the last period, but the period immediately before was a 'spike' that represented a much greater increase than the steady climb in the earlier periods and the drop brought the figure down to a point that was still higher than where the data was before that spike. So, during that period, the metric did 'generally' increase. But I would expect some narrative to explain that spike, as it may also explain the sharp decline afterwards. You could also include a trend line or maybe even consider more data points so that the cause of that spike can be isolated and perhaps more easily explained.

From a purely English grammar point of view, you might be better with the word 'broadly' instead of 'generally'. The latter means without reference to specifics, and you are using specific data to support that statement. But the former means without reference to exceptions, and that data spike and subsequent drop is an exception.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .