RE: George Hayhoe, a rant, and a resignation

Subject: RE: George Hayhoe, a rant, and a resignation
From: David Hailey <david -dot- hailey -at- usu -dot- edu>
To: "Pinkham, Jim" <Jim -dot- Pinkham -at- voith -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 2009 08:46:29 -0600

GEORGE:
A few years ago I ran into George Hayhoe at a conference in San Francisco. He was sufficiently upset with TECHWR-L that it was the first thing he wanted to discuss. Before I proceed, you should know that as long-time editor of TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION and a working professional of several decades, Hayhoe is possibly the best resource TECHWR-L ever had. But you drove him away. Why? There was a community of know it alls who were prepared to trot out their uninformed opinions, like Shetland ponies at a Clydesdale show, in response to every single post. Hayhoe finally concluded that there was nothing he could contribute to the community as long as these people persisted in disrupting every conversation with trivia. So he resigned from the forum.

A RANT:
I posted a message titled "Grammar," where I said:
Back in the ninth grade we were taught "grammar." In reality that is not grammar; it is a study of mechanical processes and a truly insignificant part of what grammarians study. Even undergraduate writing classes barely touch on the larger issue that is grammar. Let me try to explain."

Within the day I had a response: "It seems to me, David, that you use "grammar" here in a way that could be construed as interchangeable with "style," and I'm not sure that blurring that distinction is altogether helpful. I'm inclined to think of grammar as more normative, and style as more preference."

This is one of those uninformed opinions that drove Hayhoe crazy. It is like saying, "You are talking about punctuation, not grammar." But style is an important part of the larger issue. Think about it. Why do we punctuate? We punctuate for clarity and style. What was I talking about when I suggested we have no grammar for this forum? Clarity and style. More important, my post was not based on my opinion, it was based on the results of hundreds of years of research by people much smarter than me.

In THE CAMBRIGE GRAMMER OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, they extensively discuss the issue of style as a component of grammar, having headings such as, "Confusing Ungrammatical Style with Ungrammaticality." Recognizing that style is a part of grammar is critical to recognizing that the rules of grammar lead to effectively controlling style in your writing. BTW, if you really want to understand this topic, check out http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/cam033/2001025630.pdf.

By trotting out his opinion, Jim basically said, "You are wrong because you don't know the difference between grammar and style," when he might have looked at my posting, done a GoogleScholar search and a little research, and come back with meaningful contribution. That done, we could have had a discussion over an issue important to the forum. Instead, he shut the topic down because there is no arguing with uninformed opinions without offending someone.


A RESIGNATION:

Like Hayhoe, I joined the forum in hopes of keeping my finger on important issues in the field, and perhaps from time to time contributing something. But I have found that there are no important issues on this forum - just ongoing quibbling over insignificant issues. Moreover, I have found the forum uninterested in anything I might contribute. That said, I am wasting all of our time remaining here. Still, I wish you all the best.


David E. Hailey, Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Professional and Technical Communication
Utah State University

david -dot- hailey -at- usu -dot- edu
1 435 797 2741



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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Wrong? Poor style? OK?: From: Michael West
RE: Grammar: From: David Hailey
RE: Grammar: From: Pinkham, Jim

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