Re: Grammar Q

Subject: Re: Grammar Q
From: Tim Mantyla <TimMantyla -at- nustep -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 16:48:12 -0500

Good points below. However, my sense is that we can easily resolve most
points on writing and grammar by following Jack Valenti's advice. This,
IMHO, applies to *all* kinds of writing:

"Keep it short, sharp and punchy."

Longer, duller, more complex:

"A confirmation dialog will appear."

"Keep it very short, extremely punchy, and it will ensure readability to
make it appear sharp as well, in order to suffice the needs of a reader to
avoid ungainly and overly dramatic nuances which cannot, of themselves, be
secured or ignored--so as to say, rather imperfectly as it were; and for
this, my sincerest apologies--in order to form a more perfect

Shorter, punchier -- it makes the sentence *move*:

"A confirmation dialog pops up."

"Keep it short, sharp and punchy."

You could make an exception for a piece in a piece when you intend to lull
the reader to sleep along with the protagonist. A long, meandering
sentence, stuffed with adjectives and passive voice could mirror a sleepy
or dull tone you want to convey. Or such a sentence could describe a
particularly uneventful day or place, mirroring the feeling in words.

Tim Mantyla

NOTE: The only other kind of writing Valenti's advice does not apply to
are entries in The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. The contest is inspired
by and named for English novelist Bulwer-Lytton's lead sentence in "Paul
Clifford," quoted below. The prize-winner writes the worst, most
convoluted first sentence to an imaginary novel. Absolutely hilarious!

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at
occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which
swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling
along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps
that struggled against the darkness."
--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

> From: Janice Gelb <Janice -dot- Gelb -at- Sun -dot- COM>
> Subject: Re: Grammar Q

> J Wermont wrote:
> > McLauchlan, Kevin wrote:
> >
> > (I'm much more averse to the
> > > use of "will" than to the very occasional passive construction.)
> >
> > May I ask why? I hear this often, but I have never understood what
> > are objecting to. The following makes perfect sense and sounds fine to
> >
> > Click the Delete Tag button at the bottom of the page. A
> > dialog will appear.
> >
> > It makes sense to me because at the time the user is clicking the
> > Tag button, the appearance of the confirmation dialog *is* in the
> > So why not use the future tense?
> >
> It isn't in the future any more than clicking the
> button is in the future. When you click the button,
> the dialog box appears. It's cause and effect in
> the same time frame. Procedural writing assumes
> that readers are following the instructions and
> performing the actions in sequence. Therefore, the
> reader reads the action and clicks the button. The
> next thing that happens from the perspective of the
> readers is that the dialog box appears right before
> their eyes as they're watching, not in the future.
> Click the Delete Tag button.
> A confirmation dialog box appears.
> -- Janice

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