In order to - and localization?

Subject: In order to - and localization?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Mary Dulin <Mary -dot- Dulin -at- writestuff -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 May 2006 12:56:22 -0400

Mary Dulin wondered: <<I was taught that using the phrase "in order to" in technical communication is bad, i.e., imprecise, wordy, unnecessary, and especially bad form when documents are to be translated. A co-worker was taught just the opposite - that especially in documents that will be translated, "in order to" is preferred, as the meaning comes across better when instructions are translated.>>

As in all rules of thumb, it pays to remember another rule of thumb <g>: even when the rule works for the majority of cases, it generally has numerous exceptions. In general, you should never apply such rules if you don't understand why they work--and thus, when and where they do not work.

Here, the distinction depends on where the phrase occurs within a sentence. At the start of a sentence, "To X" provides the context clearly and in the minimum number of words. That makes "in order to" two words longer than necessary.

However, in the middle of a sentence, "in order to" sometimes provides that small extra clue that avoids confusion. This is most common in a sentence that already has many other "to" clauses. "To get to Toronto to attend the meeting, it's important to head west on the 401 from Montreal, not east, in order to ensure that you're driving in the right direction." Yes, that's a bad sentence, and rewriting would help. It's only provided to illustrate the specific point rasied by Mary; I regularly encounter examples where "in order to" or "so as to" provides necessary clarification, but I'm failing to retrieve them right now. Time for more coffee!

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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in order to - and localization: From: Mary Dulin

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