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Dick Margulis reports a solution: <<I was helping a pediatrician friend with
some instruction sheets that she hands to mothers of newborns, and this
presented an interesting challenge. First, the audience is cognitively
impaired. I'm not being facetious. New mothers are almost always
sleep-deprived. Further, their brains are soaking in high levels of all
sorts of wonderful hormones that help them bond with their babies but that
do nothing for their reading abilities.>>
I'm now selling tickets for the pool on Dick's life expectancy. (Sorry, 5
minutes is already taken.) Act fast--he may not be around much longer. <g>
<<The question on the floor was how to refer to the baby. "Baby this" and
"Baby that" and "Baby the other thing" gets tedious and does not aid
readability. The pediatrician's simplifying convention of always referring
to mother as she and baby as he, which is fine for professional literature,
does not work when you are addressing the mother of a girl... And using
they, while I can justify it on historical grounds and don't mind using it
in business writing, similarly won't cut it with mothers. The solution? Two
versions of every handout, one for boys, one for girls. We'll cross the
bridge of boy-girl twins when we come to it. The cost? Nothing. These are
produced a few copies at a time, not printed by the thousand; or they are
emailed as PDFs.>>
That's a reasonably clever solution, but why not go one step further? If
these are post-partum printouts, odds are good you'll know the baby's name
by the time anyone's ready to read the brochures, and can simply insert it
with a global search and replace. So instead of "Make sure his diapers are
dry", you can write "Make sure Dick has an around the clock bodyguard until
the PC police have deemed it safe for him to walk around unescorted."
--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
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"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."--Goethe
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