To The Editor:
What is the point of making diet soda if it could be more harmful to your health than normal soda? In Andrew Jacobs’s September 6th, 2019 article “Death by Diet Soda?” Jacobs said that there is a suggestion that drinking Diet Coke could be more deadly than drinking Coca-Cola Classic. Before making this claim, Jacobs presented a new study which shows that there is a 26% increase in mortality if that person is a consumer of artificially sweetened drinks. He used a bunch of different studies to try to prove that artificially sweetened drinks are harmful. However, Jacobs had no evidence that drinking Diet Coke could be more deadly than normal Coca-Cola. He says that the suggestion “grabbed headlines and created widespread angst” but shows no proof of that with any of the studies he chose to cite. If it created such angst, why didn’t he cite the source and prove his point?
As a young consumer of diet soda, Jacobs makes me question his source credibility by making claims without concrete evidence to support them. He used studies done in other countries to show that the consumption of artificially sweetened drinks lead to premature death, but none of those studies proved that Diet Coke is more deadly than Coca-Cola Classic. In fact, Diet Coke shouldn’t be more deadly than Coca-Cola Classic. In 12 fluid ounce can of Diet Coke, there are 0 grams of sugar. In a 12 fluid ounce can of Coca-Cola Classic, there are 39 grams of sugar. Diet Coke seems like it would be the healthier option, but not according to Jacobs. Reading misleading claims like this, could confuse consumers of Coca-Cola products into thinking that more sugar is less deadly. Furthermore, the baseless claim could deflate sales of the product and in turn be detrimental for the Coca-Cola Company.
So many studies have been done but none of them clearly state that consuming Diet Coke can be more harmful than Coca-Cola Classic. There are many unsolved questions about the circumstances surrounding the studies, which make it hard to fully prove or deny any claims made about mortality of diet soda drinkers. Jacobs could have made an honest mistake and forgotten to cite one of his sources, or he could have misinterpreted the data. However, a mistake like one could have caused panic for the millions of Diet Coke consumers. They could have stopped drinking Diet Coke and start to drink regular Coca-Cola, which would have put them at higher risk of diabetes, circulatory problems and heart disease. Young children could have been misled the same way which would only encourage their sweet tooth and put them at higher and early stages of the same diseases. Personally, I would have also thought twice about drinking Diet Coke if it was said to be more deadly than Coca-Cola Classic, had I not known the importance of citing your sources. Jacobs along with other authors should realize the necessity of telling readers where they got their information from. Authors should not make baseless claims with no factual evidence, and every author should make it a priority to cite their source.
Link to the Article
The passion and conviction you spend on your second and third paragraphs are thrilling, Baker, and I regret that my advice might make you dismay that you spent all that energy pointlessly. But I think you can save it, and redirect it, to the appropriate target for your frustration: the inability of science to provide definitive instructions on how to prolong life. Does that make sense to you? Give Jacobs another read and see if you can find a way to excuse him for pointing you at yet another ambiguous study. I think his article can be read as a caution NOT to jump to conclusions.
Now, let’s look at a couple of specific writing notes.
In general, Rhetorical Questions should be avoided. Completely. They don’t make clear claims and WORSE, they give readers a chance to express their own opinions before you can TELL THEM WHAT TO THINK. 🙂
Yours is doubly objectionable because, while we understand the frustration it expresses, the question would be one to ask the manufacturer, not the scientist, not the author of the article, so right off the bat we’re confused about who you’re angry with. For Coke, the point of making a diet soda is that people will buy it at a profit. That was my answer, but it didn’t do you any good for me to answer that way.
Instead, you have two legitimate questions: 1) What’s the point of DRINKING a diet soda if it does no good?, and 2) What’s the point of a scientific study that doesn’t help me choose the safer alternative? But those questions (all questions) are more fruitfully phrased as bold clear claims than as questions.
This is a classic misplaced modifier, Baker. It says that Jacobs is a young consumer of diet soda. See? Can you rephrase to eliminate the confusion?
I hope you find these Notes helpful and not too intrusive, BestBaker. I understand the danger of undermining your premise after all the work you put into crafting your argument, but it’s more productive for me to push back on your thinking than on your writing if the biggest improvement youi could make would be to clarify your purpose for writing in the first place. Please let me know how you feel about the feedback. Much as I like to give advice, I very quickly start to ignore students who don’t keep the conversation going.
1. Respond to this feedback with a Reply.
2. Open your post in Edit and make revisions.
3. Update your post without creating a new one and without changing its title.
4. Leave me another Reply to alert me that you’ve made changes.
I look forward to seeing your revisions.
Thank you for your feedback Prof! I understand completely that my passion needs to be directed elsewhere. Your thoughts and feedback are extremely helpful and not intrusive at all! Will be back with a new version soon!
I’m sorry I posted really late. I changed articles like 4 times because I didn’t feel passionate about the topics. I think I finally found the one. Please give me some feedback whenever you have the chance. Thank you!
Hey, Baker! I’m glad you found a story that sparks your passion. I’ve read the first paragraph and have some reactions to share.
First, I understand your “what is the point?” reaction. It’s frustrating to go so often to research hoping for clear guidance and finding none. But I think your frustration might be misplaced. It’s not Jacobs’ fault that the research is inconclusive. In fact, we might thank him for sharing that observation. Right? If science hasn’t found a way to prove Diet Coke is killing us, how is that Jacobs’ fault? Should he publish the story? Another good question. Maybe the answer is: before we jump to any hasty conclusions and give up our favorite beverages, let’s be clear: nobody knows for sure.
On that basis, I can’t agree with your claim that “He used a bunch of different studies to try to prove that artificially sweetened drinks are harmful.” To my eye, he appears to be warning us NOT to over-conclude.
His article does contain a link to the original study, which I followed and found that indeed the study does not conclude “Diet Coke is killing people.” It suggests just a correlation, not a cause. Something about Diet Coke drinkers causes them to die a little earlier than those who don’t drink it.
In other words, to improve your letter, I suggest you redirect your frustration to the impotence of science to provide us clear guidance in our beverage choices! 🙂 In that attitude, Jacobs appears to be your teammate.
I do agree with you when you say it’s not Jacob’s fault that there is no concrete evidence to prove that “Diet Coke is killing us.” I do think I misplaced my frustration but I will work on that soon and make changes according to your feedback! Thank you for your time and thoughts 🙂