# Average Oxidation State - Utility?

What is the purpose of calculating an average oxidation state for a certain element in a compound?

Hence the “average oxidation state” of carbon in acetic acid is 0.

And

the oxidation state value for carbon atoms in acetic acid is, however, computed as zero. This latter value represents an average of the values for the two carbon atoms derived by the rigorous assignment rules.

What does this tell me? Why not just stick with individual oxidation states? Is there something the overall oxidation state is supposed to tell me about acetic acid?

The only reason I can think of is that perhaps this average oxidation state of 0 for the carbon atoms tells me that acetic acid has some ionic character. Hence the oxidation state of 0 for carbon (as opposed to +4 for carbon in its elemental form).