Posted by: brian | September 8, 2007

Comp 1001: Writing to convey information

Let me regale you with another example (is that really something one can be “regaled” with?) of poor textbook writing from my GIS text. The authors are discussing maps, and the issue of map scale – that is, the ratio that tells how much of real life distance is represented by a specified unit of measure on the map. One common way to show the scale is with a representative fraction (RF)….

This is a simple ratio in the form of 1:1,000,000 or 1/1,000,000. In an RF, the number on the left side is the map distance, and its value is always unity.

Unity. Not 1 (or one). Presumably that would be too…. pedestrian? I mean after all, we’re academics. We’re supposed to be smarter than other people, and we ought to express ourselves in such a way as to make clear how smart we are. Am I right? By using the term unity in its mathematical sense as a reference to the numerical value of 1, we show the reader, who has never met us, that the tops of all our hats have worn thin in the center.

Then, just for giggles, let’s look at the brief mention of temporal scale as it applies to maps: “The unit of measurement of a temporal scale can be years, months, days, hours, minutes, or seconds.” But nothing else, apparently. Decades, centuries, and larger units are not to be used (it would seem).



  1. You are only as smart as the dumbest person you are able to teach.

    on that note this morning I thought a guy that using his index finger is a much better way to pick boogs then his thumb, that’s genius baby!

    I wrote this wisdom into text and it reads as such.

    On occasion stalagmites may form in the nasal cavity in which the wind presser produced by ones circulatory system can not dislodge, and there is a need for digit excavation, due to unrefined motor skills from minimal usage,under developed muscles and deminished range of movement the small digit or digitus pinkylus, this is not the proper digit to use. The thumb or digitus separates us from animalus is far too large in diameter; there for the likely choice would be to use your digitus boogus extractus or index finger.

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