“It is possible to offend somebody unintentionally,” said Schwartz. “Sensitivity is the order of the day. Sometimes humor can have a hard edge that turns people off.” She occasionally uses a bit of humor at the top of a story to engage her readers before getting to the nitty-gritty details of her topic.
And not everyone gets it. She once wrote a story about textiles created from spun petroleum with a lead along the lines of “Save oil, go naked.” An editor didn’t understand, and the story was rejected, but Schwartz still thinks it was a good approach to a materials science story, “which can be really boring.”