RE: Pet Peeves

Subject: RE: Pet Peeves
From: "Jonathan West" <jwest -at- mvps -dot- org>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2007 16:19:13 -0000

> Not only
> should we not use colloquialisms, we should be very careful about our
> metaphors as well. During my tenure with PriceWaterhouse in the '90s, I
> reviewed a white paper that was being delivered to our colleagues in
> India. It was replete with sports metaphors such as "getting on base,"
> "hitting a home run," and "curveball." I pointed out to the writer that
> the Indians would have no concept of the meaning of these phrases as
> cricket and soccer were their sports of choice, rather than baseball.

I attended international standards committee meetings defining the new
mobile phone systems some years ago. I learned to be careful about such
things, given that my words (both written and spoken) were addressed to
delegates from all over the world, many of whom didn't have English as their
first language. I developed a standard set of rules for what I said and
wrote, including the following:

- Use short sentences.
- Use present tense wherever possible.
- Avoid long words except for defined technical terms.
- Avoid colloquialisms.
- Avoid literary references.
- Avoid sporting metaphors.
- Avoid topical references to news items in British newspapers.
- Avoid humor. (Chatting in the coffee break is a different matter to formal
- Where terms have already been defined in the standards, use the exact
wording of the defined term.
- Speak clearly and slowly, so that people whose first language isn't
English can follow.

Although the meetings were always conducted in English, I was surprised how
few of the other delegates from English-speaking countries thought to do the
same. They often couldn't get their points agreed simply because too many of
their international colleagues couldn't actually understand what they were

Jonathan West


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include single source authoring, team authoring,
Web-based technology, and PDF output.

Now shipping: Help &amp; Manual 4 with RoboHelp(r) import! New editor,
full Unicode support. Create help files, web-based help and PDF in up
to 106 languages with Help &amp; Manual:

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


RE: Pet Peeves: From: Dubin, David

Previous by Author: RE: Line spacing and tables in Word
Next by Author: RE: Geoff Lane's "arrogant PC bunch"
Previous by Thread: RE: Pet Peeves
Next by Thread: Effective use of language (was RE: Pet Peeves)

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

Sponsored Ads