When the CDC writes:
"Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people."...What they mean is:
Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of annual flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.It's funny. I think of writing as 'fuzzy' compared to math, but lately I've realized there's a precision to writing, too.
The first sentence means 3,000 over 30 years.
The second sentence, the one the CDC should have written, means 3,000 per year, in some but not all years.
I still question universal flu shots (although I certainly don't object to people getting flu shots if they like), especially given the fact that flu shots aren't particularly effective. Flu vaccine isn't like measles or mumps vaccine; the composition of each year's shot is an informed guess as to which viruses will be making the rounds this year.
As I think I mentioned in the earlier post, I recall a time when health authorities recommended flu shots only for vulnerable populations, not for the entire country. Vulnerable populations included the elderly (for whom vaccine isn't as effective), small children, and, I think, people with respiratory ailments (hence: flu-associated deaths).
Reading between the lines on the CDC page, I wonder whether the universal flu-shot campaign is intended to reduce exposure of vulnerable populations to the flu by reducing the incidence of influenza in non-vulnerable populations.
The elderly don't respond particularly well to flu vaccine.
Their best protection comes from other people not getting the flu, and thus not exposing them.
Thinking about flu shots, I'm reminded of my friend in LA who refused to get flu shots because the only time she ever lost any weight was when she got the flu.
Speaking of precision
Speaking of precision, I'm reading a fascinating study of college writing quality as defined by "expert raters ... using a holistic rubric."
(And, yes, that construction does give me pause. Expert raters using a holistic rubric are the people who decided that my SAT essay on freedom and macroeconomics was worse than my son's SAT essay citing Martin Luther King.)
A major finding: good writing, to an expert rater using a holistic rubric, isn't any more cohesive than bad writing.
Cohesion, pretty much the sine qua non of good writing outside of college, has no bearing one way or another on an expert rater.
Instead, what matters are:
- Using lots of words before getting to the main verb (more is better)
- Using lots of different words
- Using low-frequency words (aka big words)
Good writing as defined by composition textbooks and style guides isn't good writing as defined by the people grading papers.