Time to think about the plural of ‘anecdote’ in new ways

Just a few thoughts based on hearing that “the plural of anecdote is not data” twice in the last week. Before digging into the origin of the saying, let me just say that I feel it is wrong. Sentences are data: unstructured data. Modern text analytics software allows us to transform a set of anecdotes into science. By this I mean we can scientifically understand the underlying themes being expressed. Of course, that does not turn the stories being told into science themselves.


Anecdotes doctor


Perhaps oddly, the original saying was actually “The plural of anecdote is data.” Raymond Wolfinger wrote that he said this during a lecture in the 1969-1970 academic year at Stanford. What he apparently meant was that all data comes from somewhere. Sometimes it comes from scientists. Sometimes it comes from journalists.

What do you think?

Anecdote BS


[Drawings by Peter FitzGerald. Peter illustrated our four customer strategy books, all available in print and Kindle versions from Amazon. He has also just published three Kindle books on the intriguing topic of sideways / rotated photography. Their titles are Land, Portrait, and Built.]