Re: Things not to put after a full stop.

Subject: Re: Things not to put after a full stop.
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 23 Jul 2002 09:02:27 -0400

Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:

>I agree with the notion that readers can recognize the "well-formed utterance" and
>distinguish it from the "ill-formed utterance." I'm not sure I would limit the
>recognition to native speakers alone, however. (But then I suspect you didn't intend
>to rule out the competent reader form whom English is not the primary language or
>the first language learned.

Uh, yeah, I kinda did. As I understand "native speaker," it's a term of art and it refers to people who learned a language very young. This is related to stages of brain development, not ability to learn languages as an adult. I will grant you, though, that some people at the tail end of the bell curve are remarkable polyglots who are truly fluent in multiple languages. So if that's who you meant by the competent reader, I'll agree with you. Linguistics--from the Latin for tongue--is about sound, not reading. And the phenomenon I'm talking about is the ability to distinguish by ear, not by analysis, whether an utterance is a sentence. Can a good non-native speaker do it? Absolutely. Does the non-native speaker do it in the same way or with the same facility as a native speaker? I'm not sure. I think it depends on the individual.

>Gee, I am troubled by the notion that we sustain our jobs by the development of a
>set of rules so arcane that only we can properly execute them, thereby insuring that
>we have employment. I don't know how much of my job is dependent on knowing and
>following the rules and how much of it is dependent on how effectively I help people
>communicate information. I know that if I can more effectively communicate by
>breaking the rules, I do so. But I also know that technical writing is not about
>having arguments with SMEs and readers over things like comma use or whether there
>should or should not be a semi-colon here or there or whether a sentence can be
>started with a conjunction.

We agree there. I did not mean to imply that we should be memorizing arcane rules or that our livelihood should depend on it. I meant that we writers allegedly do a better job of communicating because we more easily and more consistently produce well-formed sentences than some other people do.


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