Thursday, February 27, 2014

SU Elections: Presidential Grammar

With one very tiny exception at the end, I'm not going to talk about the platforms of any candidates in this year's SU elections. I'm not a student anymore, and it's probably time that I leave things be.

That being said, I was reading some of the platforms for the presidential candidates, and I found the grammar too much to bear. For instance, this is a page from one candidate's platform I copied and commented on (click to zoom):

And here's one from another candidate:

Come on guys. Apostrophes are taught to children. Capitalization is usually for proper nouns. "High jacked" sounds like an adjective shopping list for bros at an Amsterdam gym.

Grammar aside, I have to take massive exception to this graph in one candidate's platform:

If I looked at that, and not the numbers, I'd think "Wow, international tuition is WAY higher than domestic tuition!"

(Aside: the domestic tuition in the source is actually only $5,269.20. That's sort of irrelevant though.)

What is going on in this graph? A quick math guess tells me that 19 thousand dollars is only about 3-4 times 5 thousand dollars (precise ratio: 3.55). This appears to be the heights of the circles in this graph. In other words, this graph could and ought to be presented like this:

Sure, this still looks bad, but not NEARLY as bad as the previous graph because we're not implicitly pretending that the area of the section is what's being compared. The original graph massively skews axes and subtly suggests that international tuition is about 13 times domestic tuition by using circle areas instead of bars. This is a technique covered on Chapter 6 of "How to Lie with Statistics", which is a wonderful read if you're into that kind of thing. If we were to be truly honest with this graph, it could look something like this:

This is admittedly far less alarming, but also less likely to mislead people.

I've said my bit. Now go have a fun campaign, and I'll hopefully get back to you with my model predictions next week!


Anonymous said...

honestly, you need to get a life. it's been too long since you graduated from university. Your 'friends' say that it's really sad that you're still sticking around. Move on, see the world.

Andrew Ovens said...

Not sure who ^ this assbag(should this be hyphenated?) is, but keep on being awesome Mike, this post was great.

Tessa Ryan said...

Nice troll comment there, Anon. Grow a pair and use your real name if you're going to make statements like that.

Great post. I wouldn't even consider voting for a candidate who writes like this, so it's fun to see the absurdity pointed out. Stats nerd in me enjoyed seeing the circle graph lie pointed out also.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I lurve me some Mike Ross !
Keep it up! I love this blog!

PS. Thanks again for the tshirt XD goo mythbusters!

Anonymous said...

This is amazing, love it.

jwoo said...

if you will not put the effort into your platform (which btw is probably one of the most important pieces of work youre going top put out there for your campaign), why would you put effort into the actual job? totally agree with this blog. these are BASIC BASIC mistakes.

Civatrix said...

There are so many mistakes in the first one I can't even track which line goes where. On the bright side they did use a semicolon correctly.