I would like to describe the indication of some numerical index, let us say x. I would like to say that if x << n then this indicate positive impact however x >> n this indicate negative impact.

In such context, I should say :

"Low values of x indicate positive impact "


"Small values of x indicate positive impact ".

Which one is correct ? If both, which one is more suitable in my notion ( scientific one)? does it really differ if I use Low instead of small?

Thank you in advance.

  • What is the context of your index? Mathematical? Financial? Social? – Peter Jan 26 '16 at 10:15
  • @Peter I stated it is numerical, in fact it is the outcome of a mathematical formula. – Nizar Jan 26 '16 at 10:24
  • @Nizar I think Peter's question is about the context of the formula. – Era Feb 25 '16 at 17:37
  • Did you mean to use the "much less than" symbol? (i.e., "<<"). If so, I'm not sure if either statement accurately conveys what you are saying mathematically. It might be better to say, "Values of x which are much smaller than n indicate positive impact." – J.R. Feb 25 '16 at 17:46

In my mind there is a subtle difference, although most people would view small and low values of x as meaning the same thing.

To me, 'low' is a comparison to 'normal' or 'high'. If 15,000 units is a typical value, 5,000 units could be a low value, even though it isn't a small value. If a normal score is 2, then a score of -43 would be very low.

A 'small' value to me is a measure of magnitude and indicates a value close to zero. It is somewhat dependent on the range of the data. If we're talking about data that ranges from -1 to 1, -0.0003 might be a small value and -0.75 could be a large value depending on the context. If we're talking about a range of 0 to 100, 20 could be a small value.

  • I agree with this. The two are synonyms when speaking casually, but when used more precisely small refers to a small magnitude (aka absolute value) whereas low refers to a lesser value (as in less than). – Era Feb 25 '16 at 17:35

It doesn't make any difference which one you use. They both mean the same thing, and they both sound fine to say. I would probably say small if I was writing it, but if you said low, that would work just as well.

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