RE: what to look for in a Tech Editor

Subject: RE: what to look for in a Tech Editor
From: Watson Laughton <WLaughton -at- orphan -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 6 May 2003 15:25:13 -0500

>>No. Ebonics is a dialect of English, not a grammar. A grammar is an
attempt to describe how a language works. Contrary to >>popular belief,
there have been many different attempts to describe how English works.
Concepts like parts of speech are >>parts of grammatical systems -- attempts
to explain the language -- not parts of the language itself. There are
grammars >>that do not use parts of speech as part of their system. And the
problem with all these different grammatical systems is >>that not one of
them has proven completely adequate for describing how the language actually

A full understanding of how language works, especially given that such an
understanding does not exist, would seem to fall outside the job
requirements for most people editing technical writing material. On the
other hand, a healthy understanding of good old-fashioned Beaver
Cleaver-style rules of grammar (including ones that may be broken, such as
splitting infinitives), would seem to go a long way. Stephen Pinker may
argue in his graduate seminars that saying "if the user was to finally enter
their password, not having access to the Pentagon database is something they
would not have to put up with" results from following a genetic bent, but
even Ward and June's baby boy would know that something was amiss; be it
split infinitives, failure to use the subjunctive, using "they" as singular,
or following in Winston Churchill's footsteps by ending a sentence with a

In any case, when companies have to hire in editors from out of state
because the archaic rules are so poorly understood by the editors coming out
of that state's educational system that they can't tell clear prose from
gibberish, something ain't right.


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