Re: Avoid the Semicolon in Tech Writing?

Subject: Re: Avoid the Semicolon in Tech Writing?
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: dmbrown -at- brown-inc -dot- com, TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 15:11:50 -0400

dmbrown -at- brown-inc -dot- com wrote on 08/18/2003 01:41:49 PM:

> None of us are proposing use of semicolons in cases that
> would result in
> ambiguity, so your argument is specious.

No one is arguing that the semicolon be used in ambiguous circumstances?
The original a,b,c example was posted in support of using the semicolon
and I certainly feel that it will cause errors used in that manner. And
the argument is particularly pertinent when addressing the argument that
the whole issue of avoiding semicolons is somehow covering for WRITERS
that do not sufficiently know their craft.

I maintain that a writer that has no clue how to use a semicolon but
writes clear instructions directed at the user's needs is infinitely more
valuable than a writer that knows how to use a semi-colon but cannot write
to the user's needs. On this we seem to be in agreement.

As for the arcane inter-relations in examples we might come up with on
list, I have to ask why is it important to show those
differences/interrelation with the use of a semicolon? And if it IS
important, we must as technical writers provide the information in a way
semicolon deficient users will understand. If it isn't important for the
user to understand, it isn't required in the manual.

Therefore, even if a reader isn't tripped up by the use of a semicolon and
gets 'sufficient' information, the writer has failed because the reader
has failed to fully understand what the writer was attempting to
communicate. So, semicolons should be avoided QED. (Unless you have
supporting evidence your audience is semicolon aware.)

Eric L. Dunn
Senior Technical Writer

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