Generally, "generally" is OK

Subject: Generally, "generally" is OK
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 08:43:08 -0500

That most frequent of writers, Anonymous, wondered about a few things in
general:

<<As you might guess, the manager wants all of the books to look like they
were written by the same person (let's not go there).>>

Hmmm.... why not? There are a lot of advantages writing in a consistent
style. The analogy I use is that reading a skilled author is like putting on
a comfortable, well-worn pair of jeans: once you develop a comfortable house
style, the reader will gradually stop noticing the style and start
concentrating on the content. ("Nothing comes between me and my user
guide."--Brooke Shields)

<<I am asking what you think about writing the books using a term like
typically or generally, prior to telling what the reader/user should do. For
example: Typically, on a rainy day you use an umbrella.>>

Lots of editors would veto the usage simply on the principle that starting a
sentence with an adverb is verboten in their style books; it _isn't_
verboten, though it can easily be used badly or overused. Your main concern
(that the term is wishy washy) is a better argument against this practice:
in general <g>, you're safe in assuming that readers will take any advice as
being general unless you specifically state a unique context in which the
advice applies. That makes the use of "generally" et al. redundant and
unnecessarily wordy, and just like sprinkling pepper in a stew, you can
overdo it and start drawing attention to the word rather than the meaning.
To mollify your manager, I'd try to preserve the occasional "generally",
primarily where you really do need to establish that the context for the
advice is general, but kill off most of the remaining ones. Same advice for
the other adverbs.

--Geoff Hart, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"The paperless office will arrive when the paperless toilet
arrives."--Matthew Stevens




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