Abstruse Goose: On Writing


Maybe I’ve just been reading too many scientific journals and too many memos from academics but I swear to God when I’m declared empress, my first edict is going to be, “Signal-to-noise!  Raise the signal!  Lower the noise!”



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4 thoughts on “Abstruse Goose: On Writing

  1. Ann –


    Several years ago, I was plowing through a quite technical paper on a policy-relevant question (it involved western US water management). Befuddled, I called the author and asked my usual dumb journalist questions. What I was looking for was the sort of information that could have easily been encapsulated in a nice, user-friendly data table. The paper’s author expressed frustration, because exactly the sort of thing I was looking for had been in an earlier draft of the paper, but had been squeezed out in the peer review process by a demand for more impenetrable nerdiness. Which made the paper less policy-relevant because the non-technical people who might be able to act on the information might not be able to read it.

  2. John, I can’t imagine why an editor would do something so short-sighted and I wonder how often that kind of thing happens. You must have been very annoyed and the researcher, annoyed beyond tolerance.

  3. If you cannot explain your idea on the back of my business card, you do not understand your idea.

  4. Also known as the “elevator pitch”.

    If you can’t explain your raison d’être by the time it takes to travel between a couple of floors, you haven’t got a grasp on your core business.

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