When does “plausible” equal “likely”?

Posted by Dan Keeney

Reading the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this morning, I saw the story, “Injection well called ‘plausible’ culprit.” It reported on the conclusions of a study by researchers at Southern Methodist University looking into whether recent seismic activity in the area could have been caused by natural gas drilling techniques. They determined it is “plausible.” But the lead of Mike Lee’s story made me laugh out loud, stating, “A team of researchers has concluded there’s a LIKELY (my emphasis) link between a series of small earthqueakes…and an injection well….”

Mike, at what point does “plausible” become likely? Plausible means conceivable, possible, it could be the case.

In fact, according to Dictionary.com,  the definition of plausible is, “Seemingly or apparently valid, likely, or acceptable; credible: a plausible excuse.” But an alternate meaning is, “Giving a deceptive impression of truth or reliability.” So does that really make you think “likely” means the same as “plausible?” I don’t think so. It goes onto say, “The person or thing that is plausible strikes the superficial judgment favorably; it may or may not be true: a plausible argument (one that cannot be verified or believed in entirely).”

I think the Star-Telegram really blew it with that lead. Hopefully, nobody read beyond the headline.

Disclosure: No client relationships, but like everyone in North Texas, I own property in the Barnett Shale.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 11th, 2010 at 11:14 am and is filed under Public Relations Advice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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