Re: and/or?

Subject: Re: and/or?
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 10:37:41 -0700

nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il wrote:
> Raj wrote:
>> Technical documentation does not have any place for
>> ambiguities like "and/or".
> Like any expression, it can be used sloppily.
> But Merriam-Webster has no trouble defining it.
> The Microsoft Encarta dictionary has no
> trouble defining it. The American Heritage
> dictionary has no trouble defining it. If
> it's ambiguous in context, I think that's
> the fault of the writer rather than of
> the expression.

I agree entirely with Mark's position, and I wonder when 'and/or'
appeared in everyday English. I imagine it was at a time when math or
science, or math and science were undergoing popularization, maybe
around the mid-20th century when college became more common as an
educational path.

'And/or', BTW, is straight out of Boolean algebra, as the standard
written English form of a symbolic logical notation. The relationship
it denotes is as logical and unmistakable as any correctly used words in
English. It expresses a true statement perfectly. If you think you know
of a case where it introduces unclarity, DON'T simply "fix" it by
expanding the logical operator phrases. Check for an underlying fallacy
in the logical proposition itself.

I expect that tech writing in English, by and large, is not destined for
translation, but for the small fraction of it that is, I see that
special considerations apply. I'll echo Janice's advice about this
because I believe she knows what she's talking about, not because I have
ever written for translation (I haven't) or been responsible for
managing translations.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

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Re: and/or?: From: nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il

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