I'm not sure where statistics get their power—but put one in an article or headline and people pay attention. Though statistics are a catchy device to get attention, and are often used to prove a point, the numbers themselves say little without interpretation. And therein lies the challenge. Numbers without context mean little or nothing.
Writers create the context and as we create the context for any statistic we need to be careful that we don't ascribe more power to a statistic than it deserves. We especially need to be careful that we don't make unqualified assumptions, recommendations, or recommend ministry actions on a number that can be interpreted in various ways.
A recent example of this is in a number that has been advertised recently from the Barna organization. They are launching a new series of books on various topics and one of their primary selling points seems to be the short length of the books. They seem to base their decision to produce these, at least in part, on the following statistic from a recent survey they conducted that said:
When it comes to books, one of the most conventional informational format, more than one-third of adults (35%) say that while they enjoy reading, they feel most books are too long. From: https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/641-3-trends-redefining-the-information-age#.UmcK3BCXaSo
It's fine to want to produce short books and short books can be of great value to busy, stressed people, but the statistic above is anything but a reason for short books because if you simply reverse it, just under two-thirds of adults (65%) don't feel books are too long. When you reserve the statistic, it shows most people are happy with the length books are now.
Length is not the only challenge to reading
Length is only one of the factors that determine if a book will be read or not. The importance or interest to the reader is one of the most important. No matter how long or tedious a textbook might be, if our passing a class that determines if we get a degree we need, we'll read it. For leisure reading, skill of the author determines whether we lose ourselves in the words or are bored after a chapter or two.
Any content can be made harder to read if the print is too small and the layout is cramped. Conversely, even the most dense content is more accessible (and we'll stick with it longer) if the layout if pleasing, if there are subheads, captions, and illustrations to guide us.
If you don't need a statistic to make your point, you probably don't need the statistic
When you are tempted to use a statistic in your writing, remember the example here and always reverse it. If reversing the statistic shows the opposite of the point you want to make, leave out the statistic.
Sometimes statistics shed light on issues or offer insights we wouldn't see any other way, but always look at all sides of one before you use it so that readers won't be able to turn it around to prove the opposite of the point you are attempting to make.