Re: "Type" vs. "Enter"

Subject: Re: "Type" vs. "Enter"
From: "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 2004 17:48:58 -0700

----- Original Message -----
From: "Chuck Martin" <cm -at- writeforyou -dot- com>
Newsgroups: techwr-l
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Friday, October 22, 2004 11:02 AM
Subject: "Type" vs. "Enter"

> but then I'm surprised at what I just read in the online edition of the
> Microsoft manual of Style:

It is good to see this comment. The Microsoft Manual of Style for Tech Pubs
(familiar name is MicMoS) is a great foil for style-concious commentators!
Because so many employers cite it, beyond all reason, as the lighthouse of
stylistic decisions and guidelines for dependable communications, my inner
screed writer sleeps with one eye open, ready to rant any time a style
decision from MicMos runs counter to my ear for language.

For example, several years ago, my editor and manager aligned in sympatico
with the MicMoS dictum against the specific word "via" and Foreign Words in
general. To be fair, they didn't take MicMos as their final arbiter; they
went to the well for a general prohibition in all IT documentation against
using anything literal from Latin (and 'via' fit this category) as being
unfamiliar to most readers. Since that bitter day, when I saw the value of
my college education go into the toilet, I have been nurturing the idea of a
new annotated edition (MicMoS "A") for "writers and editors who pitch their
tents above the high water line."

The following is a draft of the encapsulated rationale for the annotated

"In modern English, any word that survives literally intact and
recognizible, across thousands of years of continuous widespread usage, is
obviously possessed of the desireable linguistic quality of great vigor. The
presence of such words in our vocabulary today can be taken as complete
prima facia evidence supporting the existence of "perfect words" (aka
"elemental words").

What are perfect words? Perfect words are words that have acquired a life of
their own, by virtue of being blueprinted both for human articulation, and
as apt primitive elements of human mental models. Such words ride
effortlessly in the mouth and the mind. Through millenia of gradual wear
and polish, these words have gained a unique fit and finish that identifies
them as worthy full partners in human language. Perfect words are made of
pure unobtainium--no one can manufacture a new perfect word, or get a
replacement for one you destroy.

The meaning of perfect words rests on bedrock. The words and their meaning,
as far back as history shows, have never changed. We can only assume that
perfect words evolved, selected by Darwinian forces. But as far as the
record shows, they could have been born fully fledged, doing the same job on
day one that they still do today. These words have demonstrated a most
cryptic and fascinating immunity to Darwinian mutation--their persistence in
a dynamic language, unchanged yet a part of a changing system, suggests
biological mechanisms like reproduction by cloning, or even parasitism (food
for thought: a poor parasite eventually kills its host, but a perfect one
eventually becomes an organic part of the host, and may even confer
benefits). Alive or not, perfect words seem to be memes, leaping across
time, culture, and the space between people, as if they possess a
skellington key to pass with precision through barriers that block
assimilation and use of less perfect words. They have attained stature and
cachet beyond any sense of style or fashion. They pass unmolested between
speech and thought. They circulate gracefully among us, conveying their
intended meaning without friction or contention, in both conceptual and in
concrete domains. Any such word shows its backside to arbiters who would
deprecate its usage in any style-compliant communications.

"Via" is one such word, and a tragic casualty of the MicMoS' wholesale rules
against using Foreign Words and Phrases. Mic MoS "A" embraces 'via' as a
highly prized elemental word that is above suspicion--usages are allowed in
any specialized or general writing in English. Though MicMoS proscribes it,
yet MicMoS "A" (and several hundred generations of our ancestors) would be
lost without it. MicMoS "A" celebrates it as a 'soul' word that expresses,
in a most profound and direct sense, the unaccountable-but-characteristic
human prediliction for giving directions.

"MicMoS "A" edifies the reader with examples underscoring the ironic results
of pursuing instructional clarity by abandoning the paved, polished,
hand-me-down sensibilities of time-honored usage, in favor of a leaner, more
efficient bee-line course to the goal of clear meaning. MicMoS "A" asks the
hard questions, such as how MicMoS is functionally any different from the
pirate's trick of extinguishing the light in the lighthouse, and erecting a
replacement navigation light on a shoal. Are the arbiters of MicMos Style
luring technical writing onto the rocks, wrecking our shipments, and
plundering our masterpieces? To answer that question for yourself, ask
yourself if you think "via" is the wrong word.

Be sure to drop by the MicMosA store for your "Four Thousand More Years" and
"Via is just alright with me" campaign paraphenalia.

Via is asking for your vote.

> Wow, I did a search on the list and didn't find anything. I'm surprised,
> but then I'm surprised at what I just read in the online edition of the
> Microsoft manual of Style:

Hope the list doesn't mind returning a genny-wine Ed Wordsmith screed result
to future searches >:-)

Ned Bedinger
Ed Wordsmith Technical Communications


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