Oh, that’s funny. Ouch, that hurts! Oh. Ouch! Oh. Ouch!

My colleague Michael Anft alerted me to this send-up of science writing on the Interwebs from The Guardian. Written by Guardian blogger Martin Robbins, it could not be more savage, or funnier, or more discomfort inducing. I read it simultaneously laughing aloud and silently ticking off how many of these sins I’ve committed in print. A few choice bits:

In this paragraph I will state the main claim that the research makes, making appropriate use of “scare quotes” to ensure that it’s clear that I have no opinion about this research whatsoever.

In this paragraph I will briefly (because no paragraph should be more than one line) state which existing scientific ideas this new research “challenges.”

If the research is about a potential cure, or a solution to a problem, this paragraph will describe how it will raise hopes for a group of sufferers or victims.

I’ve included a PDF below because I don’t know how long the Guardian‘s link might stay live. (Be sure to click on the links at the end of Robbins’ screed.) Read it and laugh. Read it and weep.

This is a news website article


  1. John S. Rosenberg

    Two outstanding posts in a row, Dale. Thanks for bringing to our attention a brilliant piece of writing, and demonstrating how and why it works; and now this—a wonderful send-up of how to do science (and by extension, any technical writing) exactly wrong. The Onion‘s skewering of economics and finance reporting (http://www.theonion.com/articles/something-about-tax-cuts-or-earnings-or-money-or-s,18169/) is exactly of a piece. We are all indebted.

    John Rosenberg, Harvard Magazine

  2. David Raney, Emory Quadrangle

    Bulls, bears and opening bells . . . In addition, mutual funds, probably.

    Brilliant, both of them. And painful as you say, for all the right reasons.

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