Re: Nit picky grammar question

Subject: Re: Nit picky grammar question
From: "Chuck Martin" <twriter -at- sonic -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 13:50:13 -0800

I think there is a point being missed in this thread. While grammar may be
full of rules, some flexible and some not so felxible, and while people may
argue over the applicaiton of both sets of rules, grammar is also about

That doesn't mean anything that sounds "right" is good grammar. But good
grammar generally does have good "ear," while "correct" grammar sometimes
does not. (An excellent book that espouses considering "ear" when
considering grammitical issues is Lyn Dupre's "Bugs in Writing."

Making sure this thread has a tech writing bent, three are also audience
considerations. Who are your readers, and will a sentence that doens't have
good "ear" cause a stumble in the reading and perhaps lead to the real
mesage being missed? Does forcing an "is" because a dictionary imples that
"heaquarters" is singular results in readers doing a mental double take
because thier experience suggests that with the "s" that an "are" should
have been used?

Most grammar books don't take "ear" into account, and are often prescriptive
at the cost of stilted or verbose language. We as technical communicators
have as one responsiblity to make sure that the message isn't being muddied
by the allegedly inflexible rules of composing that mesage.

"[Programmers] cannot successfully be asked to design for users
because...inevitably, they will make judgments based on the
difficulty of coding and not on the user's real needs."
- Alan Cooper
"About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design"

Chuck Martin
twriter "at" sonic "dot" net

"Burt, Genevieve" <GBurt -at- lrs -dot- com> wrote in message news:86240 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> To answer a question like yours, you just need to ask yourself this:
> Is the word "headquarters" an "it" or a "they"?
> The word "headquarters" MUST refer to one place, by definition: Merriam
> Webster's says that headquarters is "the administrative center of an
> enterprise," and as far as I know, there can only be one center to
> (have you ever heard of a doughnut with two holes?).
> So the word "headquarters" is referring to one thing. One thing is a
> singular noun. This means that the original version of the sentence is
> correct because it's just like asking, "Where is it?"
> So "Where is your headquarters?" is grammatically correct.

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