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Scientists in a Bucket?

by Robbie Hyman |

During a live TV report a couple of years ago, a cable news correspondent said that a certain candidate in the Illinois Senate race has “a ton of support” from his party.

Interesting. I didn’t realize we could measure political support by the pound.

You’ve probably seen this type of statement in writing many times. Someone writes about using “every ounce of my energy” or about a person trying something “without a drop of experience.” Bad idea.

Phrases like these undermine the power and even the readability of your writing. That’s because they’re not precise. Most readers won’t even be aware of it consciously, but when they read these statements they lose a little respect for the document and the writer.

We don’t measure experience with a teaspoon. So when you write that a person didn’t have “a drop of experience,” you distract your reader from the point you’re making. Even if it takes only a nanosecond for your reader to realize the phrase you’ve written is actually nonsense and not meant to be taken literally, that’s still a nanosecond you’ve derailed him from following your argument. You want your reader absorbing and being persuaded by the force of your message, not focusing on your choice of words.

On a radio talk show recently, I heard another hilarious example. The host said something like, “There’s a huge bucket of scientists who don’t agree with the global warming hysteria.”

How could anyone have conducted that survey? If some pollster really stopped by the bucket to ask scientists what they thought of global warming, my guess is they would all scream, “Get me out of here!”

Be precise. It’s one more way to ensure your documents have a lot of support (rather than a ton).



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