Re: Political Correctness (Was Re: Master/Slave)

Subject: Re: Political Correctness (Was Re: Master/Slave)
From: Jeff Hanvey <jewahe -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 15 May 2000 10:01:41 -0700 (PDT)

> As writers, I think it is our job to address the
> audience in a way that engages
> them rather than in a way that causes them to
> disengage from the document... How will my audience
> to the language I am using
> (have used or intend to use)?>

As *technical* writers, we have a mandate to inform
our audience of things they do not know and/or
understand. As part of that mandate, yes, we should
make them engage with the document.

However, another part of that mandate is introducing
our audience to the langauge used in a particular
field. Usually that language is standard - and we
cannot go around changing the standards. If we did,
there would be no standards.

In these situations, we have to make our audience as
comfortable as possible with those terms, usually by
explaining their meaning in this particular context.

> When someone asks, "Should I continue to use
> such-and-such a term," as the
> writer who initiated the "Master/Slave" thread did,
> they are performing an
> essential writing task.

True, but again, we cannot change the essential
language used in an entire field. Doing so would
require the agreement (in this case) of writers,
programmers, hardware engineers, et cetera. And if we
writers can't agree, how can we expect the others to

This questioning is
> less a matter of being held
> hostage to some nebulous conspiracy enforcing
> Political Correctness and more a
> matter of writers maintaining an awareness of who
> their audience is and how
> that audience will react to the language choices the
> writer makes.

I think the question here is more of "how much is too
much political correctness?" If we concerned that our
audience will giggle like Beavis and Butthead every
time we use a term with the most remote sexual
connotation or that our company will be sued for
discrimination for every hint of racial history or
that we'll be fired for even a suggestion of stepping
on toes, then political correctness has gone too far.

Plainly and simplely, writers have to use the standard
language of a field, no matter how "offensive" it may
be outside of that field.

Jeff Hanvey
Memphis, TN

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