From: meAnd the reply,
Date: Aug 17, 2004
Dear Mr. Okrent,
I know there are plenty of more important things out there, but do you think you could get the Times to stop misusing the term "exponential growth?" The common mistake is to use it to indicate rapidly increasing growth, as in "Charters are expected to grow exponentially under the new federal education law" from today's article Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal.
Actually, exponential growth (or decay) means growing (or shrinking) by a rate that is a percentage. So increasing the number of schools by a steady 1% per year is exponential growth, but a sudden one-shot increase in the number of charter schools is probably not.
If every occurence of "exponentially" were replaced by "rapidly" then in almost every case the desired meaning would be better communicated.
Dear Aram Harrow,Instead of explaining why the dictionary is wrong (and why it's possible for dictionaries to be wrong), I gave up.
Maybe I've overlooked something here but the dictionary definition seems appropriate for use this way in the article.
2 entries found for exponential. To select an entry, click on it.
Main Entry: ex·po·nen·tial
1 : of or relating to an exponent
2 : involving a variable in an exponent <10x is an exponential expression>
3 : expressible or approximately expressible by an exponential function; especially : characterized by or being an extremely rapid increase (as in size or extent)
- ex·po·nen·tial·ly /-'nench-(&-)lE/ adverb
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