Re: and then

Subject: Re: and then
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2004 14:15:54 -0700

Quoting Bonnie Granat <bgranat -at- granatedit -dot- com>:

> I'm talking about standard usage of English.

Yes, but which standard? You talk as though English was a single standard. Yet
there are not only national, but regional and even sub-cultural differences in
what is considered standard. Nor is proper English of today the proper English
of fifty or a hundred years ago. There's also standard English as taught in
academia, as opposed to standard English as used in various media outlets (which
is why each tends to have a style guide. Even dictionaries differ in what is
considered standard.

Earlier in this discussion, you implicitly admitted something of this variety,
when you wondered whether English usage was different from American. So why the
change now?

> I don't think so. Standard English grammar is particularly necessary for
> technical communication.

In another message, you raise a good point when you say that some people
mistrust instructions that have grammatical errors. From a practical
perspective, however, what matters is not so much whether you use Standard
English as a consistent standard. For example, purists may insist that "they" is
wrong when used as an indefinite pronoun, but, if you always use it, you will
still communicate.

Even if you aren't consistent, it's all a matter of signal to noise, with
inconsistencies being noise. Yet, even with a fair bit of noise, the basic
message comes across. Moreover, from my observations, most users will tolerate
considerable noise if they can still get the basic information that they want.
I'm much the same way myself when reading instructions. I notice the grammatical
inconsistencies or the faulty layout, but I put them to one side to focus on
learning what I want to know.

Certainly, a professional tries to be consistent. Yet while I have sometimes
have people criticize a manual or article for its content, I have never had
anyone criticize grammar - even on work where I have seen too many errors for
comfort have slipped by both me and my editor, and wished I had time to revise
before anybody noticed.

Bruce Byfield


ROBOHELP X5: Featuring Word 2003 support, Content Management, Multi-Author
support, PDF and XML support and much more!

WEBWORKS FINALDRAFT: New! Document review system for Word and FrameMaker
authors. Automatic browser-based drafts with unlimited reviewers. Full
online discussions -- no Web server needed!

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as:
archiver -at- techwr-l -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Re: and then: From: eric . dunn
Re: and then: From: Bonnie Granat

Previous by Author: RE: Allocated chapter numbers for specific chapter content
Next by Author: A place to get some portfolio material
Previous by Thread: Re: and then
Next by Thread: Re: and then

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads