Have you ever wondered how great “good” really is? Or how terrible “abysmal” is compared to, say, “awful”?
Well wonder no more, as a survey from UK-based pollster YouGov has endeavored to answer the question. They gave about 1,000 people a list of 24 adjectives, and asked them to rate their positivity by giving each one a score from zero (very negative) to 10 (very positive).
“Go shopping online and just about everything you look at will have a star rating based on reviews by previous customers,” Matthew Smith wrote for YouGov. “Alas, it is less easy to quantify things in such a way in day-to-day life – if for instance your friend was reviewing a product to you, where would their description fall on the star scale?”
And the results were interesting. At the bottom of the scale, the five most negative terms were found to be "abysmal" (1.21), "awful" (1.72), "terrible" (1.75), "very bad" (1.76), and "really bad" (1.85).
The most positive term was deemed to be "incredible", scoring a pretty incredible 8.81, followed by "brilliant" (8.77), "superb" (8.77), "fantastic" (8.74), and then a bit of a drop to "very good" (7.90).
Of the middling terms, "average" scored 5.09, deemed to be slightly better than "mediocre" at 4.29. "Not bad" scored a not bad 5.13, with "OK" just above on 5.51.
“However it is worth noting that ‘average’ is a much better word to use as a mid-point on a sentiment scale, as 66 percent of respondents scored the word a 5 on the scale, compared to only 33 percent who did for ‘not bad’," Smith noted.
Perhaps most surprising was the rating for "great" at 7.76. It fell below "really good" on 7.78 and "very good" on 7.9 which just seems kind of odd to us. "Good" and "bad" were also found not to be mirrors of each other, as "good" was deemed to be less good as "bad" was bad. If that makes sense.
In fact, many of the mirror terms – such as "pretty good" compared to "pretty bad" – had a similar pattern. People rated the good term less positive than the bad term was negative.
So there you have it. If something is the best it can be, use incredible. The opposite, pluck for abysmal. And if it's bang average, then average should be fine. OK, even.