RE: Appropriate -- so inappropriate!

Subject: RE: Appropriate -- so inappropriate!
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Nancy Allison" <maker -at- verizon -dot- net>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 2009 14:05:54 -0600

Nancy Allison wrote:

> I am receiving comments from a reviewer who is fond of the word
> "appropriate," as in
> "Install the clamps on the appropriate location."
> "Connect the cable to the appropriate connector."
> "Follow the appropriate safety standards."
> Unless we're in the middle of a passage in which a specific danger is being
> discussed, one in which various candidates are confusingly similar . . .
> the word "appropriate" is pretty much empty fill, isn't it?
> We would hardly be telling our users to install the inappropriate clamp on
> the inappropriate location.

Most definitely inappropriate. It's at best unnecessary, as you note, and unhelpful. What if I don't know what the appropriate safety standards are?

People frequently stick in "the appropriate X" when they don't know and can't be bothered to find out exactly what X is appropriate in which circumstances.

One of my pet peeves is procedures that verbosely describe exactly how to complete a form or dialog -- including information about exactly how many characters and what kind each text field can contain, etc. -- and then when you get to the critical part, say something like "enter the appropriate parameters" or "choose the appropriate options."

BTW, that kind of nonsense frequently comes from aggressively non-technical technical writers who insist that their ignorance of the subject matter is some kind of advantage.


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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Appropriate -- so inappropriate!: From: Nancy Allison

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