RE: New TECHWR-L Poll Question

Subject: RE: New TECHWR-L Poll Question
From: "Brierley, Sean" <Sean -at- Quodata -dot- Com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001 10:42:50 -0400

I'm not sure that a poll about grammar is appropriate, as I'd think a poll
about one versus two spaces after a period/full stop would be crossing the
line. However, that not being my call, I think a technical writer should
have a good grasp of proper grammar as defined by a recognized source or two
in the country in which they are writing ;?).

Additionally, there are times that proper use of the language, including
grammar, fails to communicate efficiently or causes the reader to pause and
trip. For example, using "he" as a pronoun for things or persons of unknown
gender might be correct usage but might also trip up and offend others.
Workarounds include the he/she combo and grammatically incorrect use of the
plural, they (which I use). Similarly, his becomes his/hers or theirs. One
can easily point to other examples of correct usage that don't work or that
reduce the effectiveness of technical communication. These items, commonly
used exceptions and the like, can be cataloged in a local style guide that
is parked alongside the books that are used to define the proper grammar.

My point is that, in my experience, the position of technical writer puts
them somewhere between the rigidity of upholding the Queens English and
utter chaos of ad-hoc grammar rules. In my experience, technical writers use
a standard style guide or two augmented by a local style guide that defines
exceptions to the standard.

So, how many technical writers uphold proper usage modified by a finite set
of well-considered and consistently-applied local rules?

sean -at- quodata -dot- com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dick Margulis [SMTP:margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net]
> >re: Technical writers should avail themselves of ANYTHING that will let
> >them communicate information clearly, concisely, and correctly.
> >
> >Yes, especially graphics. Perhaps it's true that the more one "says it
> with
> >pictures" fewer grammar problems may arise. Fewer translation problems,
> >too, of course. A quick, and really pretty good path toward
> >multilingualism.
> >
> I've started to contribute to this thread a couple of times and then
> backed off, not quite having a handle on what's bothering me about it. But
> I think I see the problem more clearly now.
> I agree with both John and Kent. But there is an unstated assumption in
> both of their responses: the assumption is that the practitioner knows
> what is clear and effective, outside the standard rules.

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