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Statistically speaking: E does not always stand for excellent

August 2, 2022, 11:00 a.m. (EDT)

Statistically speaking

Statistics involves gathering data, summarizing it and interpreting it. Sometimes, statisticians put funny-looking symbols and letters in a table or use words that don’t seem to make sense. All of these technical terms may be difficult to understand. This series aims to explain the language of statistics, some of the basic rules around interpreting and publishing data, and what these terms and symbols really mean.

We have full confidence in the vast majority of data we publish. That is why most data that you will find in our reports and tables are unadorned with any symbol. At Statistics Canada, an unadorned data point is a number you can trust.

Upon occasion, however, you will find a superscripted capital E behind a number, and at that point you should exercise caution.

Increasingly, that superscripted capital E is the result of low response rates. Generally, a data point followed by a superscripted capital E accurately reflects the responses given by the Canadians who answered that particular question. However, not enough Canadians answered that particular question to confidently assert that the data point reflects the population as a whole.

The good news is that the superscripted E generally only shows up in a certain age range or population group, an industry subsector or at the provincial, territorial or census metropolitan area level of data.

The bottom line is that Canadians play a critical role in the accuracy and quality of our data. By responding to our surveys, you are helping us deliver “unadorned” data that everyone can trust.

A data point followed by a superscripted E still has value, as it accurately represents the voices of those who participated in our survey.

Just remember that E does not mean excellent, and caution should be exercised when analyzing the data.

Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free or Media Relations (