The cowardice of the “expected”

The word “expected” is a clear sign of bullshit in any written material. Here’s why: Writing contains two kinds of easily distinguished statements: facts and opinions. The writer vouches for the facts. And over time, you can see if the opinions turned out to be true. But a statement with “expected” is an opinion stated … Continued

David Ortiz: Big Papi without the bullshit

The Boston Globe did a whole section focused on Red Sox slugger David Ortiz today, including a Q&A interview. I was struck by just how direct Ortiz is, especially in contrast to the bullshit-laden interview with an NBA Players Association official that I wrote about last week. Athletes of this stature usually have two modes: … Continued

Inovalon’s impenetrable Web description and how to fix it

It’s not that hard. People who visit your Web site want to know what you do. If you can’t describe your company simply in a few sentences, you’re screwed. Which is why I was astounded when a visitor to this blog suggested I look at the site for Inovalon. This is where clarity and brevity … Continued

Railing against Sturgeon’s Law

The great science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon was once asked why 90% of science fiction was crap. His justification was this: “Yes, 90% of science fiction is crap . . . but 90% of everything is crap.” Sturgeon guessed way low. Any idiot with a keyboard now can and will write and publish in some form, from … Continued

The 4 kinds of pushback that generate more powerful ideas

Being hard on ideas makes them better. Great ideas are clear, brief, and not boring. Don’t stop until you get there. For my last 8 years at Forrester — at least since I started working on my first book — I’ve had a sort of smartass attitude towards the world. If you ask people what I was like … Continued

Your regular, daily bullshit: financial markets news

Every single day, the Wall Street Journal and other financial news outlets publish a financial wrapup. And you can count on it including a healthy helping of bullshit every day, too. Here’s the problem: the numbers are facts, but news requires a “story” to wrap around the facts. Creating a story from the fluctuations of … Continued

Generalization Z: The Times reduces generation Z to a caricature

While generalization in writing is a sin, drawing broad conclusions about a whole generation is far worse. Alexandra Levit’s piece about Generation Z in the New York Times is a great — that is, awful — example. The sin of generalization has three basic flavors: generalizations hedged with weasel words; unsupported broad, sweeping statements; and generalization from one … Continued

Globe publishes pure spin from NBA Players Association director Michele Roberts

The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn interviewed NBA Players’ Association executive director Michele Roberts and got nothing but spin. So he published it. Look, I feel for sports reporters. There is so much fan appetite, so much space to fill, and so little content. But everyone knows negotiators want to negotiate, are willing to compromise, and say … Continued