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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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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