Re: Tina the Techwriter Reopens the Great Debate

Subject: Re: Tina the Techwriter Reopens the Great Debate
From: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 07:32:59 -0700 (PDT)

Jones, Donna wrote:
I tend to be fairly grammatically correct in my everyday speaking and writing because that's the wayI think. Does everyone else think in sentence fragments riddled with dangling modifiers, split infinitives, and phonetic spelling?

There have been numerous, way too many in fact, linguistic studies on how people speak that include exact transcriptions. These studies demonstrate, even if in a peripheral way, that people rarely speak in complete sentences. Spoken language is riddled with false starts, incomplete sentences, incomplete thoughts in fact, and misuse of prescriptive grammar. (Hense garden path sentences.) You can interpret this in whatever way you want, but, in my opinion, it comes down to just a few causes.

* We structure our speech as we are structuring the thoughts that we are articulating.
* We respond to the reactions of those who are listening to us.
* We are more concerned with communication than grammatical correctness and when a one-word sentence fragment gets the message across, we use it.

Here's a little experiment. Get a tape recorder and record yourself in normal conversation. Or better yet, get someone else to record you when you least expect it, that way you will be caught speaking in your "natural" voice as opposed to your "oh I'm being recorded" voice. I bet you'll be surprised at how ungrammatical you actually are. :-)

As for thoughts, I can't say because I'm not a mind reader, but I bet if the kitchen stove caught fire, you wouldn't be thinking "With what shall I extinguish this fire." Although, maybe you would. ;-)

Sean Hower - tech writer

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