Yesterday SpaceX successfully tested their Starship prototype. The Sun ran a fine article with factually-correct headline:

SpaceX Starship explosion: $216million Mars rocket EXPLODES as it misses landing pad on first high-altitude test flight

It then continues with this factually-correct quote:

A SPACEX Starship rocket crashed and exploded in a huge fireball on Wednesday after narrowly missing its landing pad.

However, despite being factually-correct, the connotations are all wrong. The craft was not expected to land, and all three mission objectives (powered flight to altitude, initiate and control belly-flop maneuver, initiate and control landing flip) were met.

How might I effectively write to demonstrate the incorrectness of this factual work? Writing "yes, but" is not effective in changing the position of people who have been influenced by reading this piece. Stating "landing was not a mission objective" is not effective in changing the position of people who have been influenced by reading this piece.

It seems that people form opinions on the first piece of work that they read. What are effective writing methods to counter this? My goals are general-public education, and in some cases may include influencing policy-makers.

  • 2
    Just to be fair with this particular example, there was an attempt to soft-land it, which failed.
    – Alexander
    Dec 10, 2020 at 20:05
  • @Alexander: Correct. The information is factual. But the implication that a successful landing was THE measure of mission success, when it wasn't even a mission objective, is so deep into disingenuous that I would call it a lie.
    – dotancohen
    Dec 10, 2020 at 20:22
  • 2
    It also important how you define effectiveness. You can take an entire essay to thoroughly deconstruct other people's point, but you are looking for a catchy one-liner to do your rebuffing, right?
    – Alexander
    Dec 10, 2020 at 21:06
  • @Alexander: That's the part that I'm not sure about. Are one-liners effective? Are they effective for educated readers? For short-attention-span readers? For I'm-too-busy-for-this readers?
    – dotancohen
    Dec 10, 2020 at 23:49
  • 1
    Unfortunately, I think that we've seen in politics that satire is the best means to deal with these things. People have shown a breathtaking ability to ignore facts unless packaged in an opinionated and pretty bow. Applies to all political persuasions equally. So mock the media outlet. I feel a little sick even saying it.
    – DWKraus
    Dec 12, 2020 at 1:02

1 Answer 1



Let's say that I am an average person who read a decently compelling article that stated things like:

A SPACEX Starship rocket crashed and exploded in a huge fireball on Wednesday after narrowly missing its landing pad.

I now believe that the SpaceX mission was a failure. I move on with my life and this unimportant information in everyday life slips to a corner of my brain.

Now, what you want to know is, how can you change my mind?

Your options

Let's start at the very beginning of your future article. If you want a snappy one-liner to get me right at the bat, fine. If you want a long and detailed four pages of facts before you get to your point, fine.

It's really up to you on what style you will choose, and your audience. I will leave that up to you to decide.

Why don't we talk about a snappy one-liner?

You can directly address the misrepresentation in the other article (the Sun one) immediately so your reader is (a) intrigued, (b) is on the same page with you at the very beginning, and (c) if they walk away without reading the rest of the article, at least they learned something.

This snappy one-liner/paragraph could look somewhat like this:

The Sun article about the SpaceX Starship landing ran _ days ago. If you had read it, you were misled to think that the Starship's explosion was an accident. In fact, the landing was routine and completely intended...

Or, if this is not your preferred style, there are still other options.

Perhaps you would like to give a paragraph or two or three of facts first before stating your point? Also fine. Make it look something like this:

On __, at __:_, the SpaceX Starship rocket was successfully launched. This much-awaited technologic advance came after...



The Starship rocket landed at _:__. Some articles such as the Sun's __ edition incorrectly connoted the landing as a failure as it had indeed missed the landing pad, but in truth, the landing was smooth and went as intended. Earlier, Elon Musk backed this up by saying...

Not that either? Maybe you would like to not mention the Sun at all. Using this style, you would only use your information and hope that the reader makes the connection that your article is correct and that they may need to take a second look at the Sun's article.

This may look something like this:

The SpaceX landing on __ was a success. It performed exactly as it was intended to and provided more reason for the SpaceX team and Elon Musk to continue to progress their work in rocket and space technology, as phrased in an official statement released in __, which said...

Lastly, you could write a longer article that does some of all the above methods but also dives deeper into the issue while restating key points so you would be set-up to deliver the final, closing, and most compelling argument at the end.

Of course, there are plenty of other methods and I encourage you to try them and decide which works best for you and your article.

So, which should you choose?

It depends on what you're looking for. As I said, try them all. Ask for a second opinion as well.

In my opinion, I would deliver a strong opening line/sentence and then dive deeper later in the article.

Good luck!

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