Re: Terminology

Subject: Re: Terminology
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 04:49:40 -0800 (PST)

--- Richard Pineger <r -dot- pineger -at- kudos-idd -dot- com> wrote:
> I have written an internal Procedure template for a tech writing house using
> the word DEPRECATED to describe a style that is no longer to be used.
> Some of the authors here did not know the word and feel that the word is not
> really common usage.

I'm an old-fashioned type when it comes to words and their use and usage (not
the same thing, by the way). So I've gone to the online dictionary source for
some definitions, in this case "Merriam-Webster Online" (

Deprecate - To express disapproval of. To play down or make little of.

Obsolete - No loger in use or no longer useful. Of a kind or style no longer

I offer these two--one can find others, I'm sure--to point out that synonyms,
while similar are never the same. There IS no substitute for the right word.

Now what do you want to do with your situation about the use of 'deprecate'?
Well, when I read the W3C Recommendations and their use of 'deprecate', I
understand it to mean that they disapprove of, for example, the <font> tag and
intend to remove it in some future release of HTML standards, which they have
done in some of the new XHTML standards. But <font> ain't gone yet. You can
still use it. If the <font> element--to use the terminology more precisely--can
still be used, and it still is, but it is "disapproved of, played down, and
made little of" in favor of more elegant solutions. <font> is not obsolete and
may never be obsolete. So they were correct in their choice of words at W3C,
even if it sends us poor readers to the dictionary to find out what they heck
they mean the first time.

I don't see any problem in using 'deprecate' if it is the right word. That
would be my question to you. Is it the right word? I can't make that call for
you, but I would not avoid a word simply because some people don't know what it
means. I would use the opportunity to educate. I've always felt that educating
others was part of the job of a writer, particularly a Technical Writer.

Tom Murrell
Lead Technical Writer
Alliance Data Systems
Columbus, Ohio
mailto:tmurrell -at- columbus -dot- rr -dot- com
Personal Web Page -
Page Last Updated 02/02/02

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Terminology: From: Richard Pineger

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