Re: Word choice (was: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... ))

Subject: Re: Word choice (was: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... ))
From: "Marie C. Paretti" <mparetti -at- vt -dot- edu>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 09:37:12 -0400

At 09:03 AM 10/5/2001 "Jane Carnall" wrote:

>Well said, Jennifer! And on that note (since I don't care whether a screen
>displays, appears, or uses the transporter) how do other technical writers
>decide what's unacceptably-jargony and what's the new standard usage?

For an excellent discussion of this issue, I'd recommend William Zinsser's book, _On Writing Well_. Zinsser is a wonderful writer (even my students like him), and in his chapter on usage, he talks about being part of the _American Heritage Dictionary_ usage panel, the kind of debates that rage, and the decisions they made on a number of "new" words.

The bottom line, for him, comes from another writer, Theodore Bernstein: "We should apply the test of convenience. Does the word fill a real need? If it does, let's give it a franchise."

IMHO, it seems that such a rule works well in our field: Do we already have a word that will do the job clearly & concisely? If so, why not go with it. If not, then bring on the new.

Zinsser's book is worth a read (or reread) - it's on the 6th addition, and his advice on clarity, simplicity, clutter, words, and usage apply to every type of writing I've ever done, from user's guides to newsletters and even (gasp) to that academic stuff.

Marie


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References:
Re: Word choice (was: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... )): From: Dick Margulis

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