Pet Peeve: The plural of anecdotes is not data

September 25, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Sure it is.

Data is nothing but information.  The term “data” does not confer accuracy or reliability.  Every engineer and scientist has had to deal with bogus data at some point.  Rarely is it deliberate; even when experiments run perfectly (seldom), you have to analyze the data, determine outliers, etc.

An anecdote is nothing but a story, usually a personal one, from the memory of the person telling it.  Every story contains information, ie data.

The question is:  does it contain significant data?

The answer is:  it depends.

A biography is a collection of anecdotes.

History is a collection of anecdotes.

Eyewitness accounts are nothing but anecdotes.

All of these examples contain data.  Not one of these examples are recorded in real-time as they occur.  All are documented after the fact.  All contain data.

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