RE: Question about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Technical Writing"

Subject: RE: Question about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Technical Writing"
From: "Tim J. Slager" <TSlager -at- isdcorporation -dot- com>
To: Tony Chung <tonyc -at- tonychung -dot- ca>, "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2011 09:00:04 -0400

It is, at best, ambiguous. "Idiot's" modifies guide, and "complete" may modify either. Most style guides require a hyphen for compound modifiers when there is a possibility of ambiguity. So, assuming that rule applies, "complete" modifies "guide."

Of course, "complete idiot" is an idiomatic phrase. So there's the joke. By now, you may be thinking I'm one for defending the title. But I still like it. Probably not good marketing, but still clever and attention-getting. And Socratic. God knows, we could use more Socrates in an age of vocal know-it-alls.

tims

From: Tony Chung [mailto:tonyc -at- tonychung -dot- ca]
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 3:44 PM
To: McLauchlan, Kevin
Cc: Tim J. Slager; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Question about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Technical Writing"

On Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 8:40 AM, McLauchlan, Kevin <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com<mailto:Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>> wrote:
Having already decided not to buy any of them, I
still read "Complete Idiot's..." as a phrase
modifying "Guide".

You're right Kevin. "Complete" modifies Idiot. "Complete Idiot's" modifies Guide.


So... um... techwriter-ish question:

How could it have been modified in order to ensure
the desired clustering of modifiers in the mind of
the average reader? Any punctuation you can think
of that might have worked with the same word-order
to adjust the emPHAsis? Any word order that would
have done the job without hopelessly contorting
the title?

The Complete Guide to {noteworthy subject} for the Everyday Idiot.

The Guide to {noteworthy subject} That Makes You LESS of an Idiot.

The {noteworthy subject} Guide to bash the Idiot out of All of Us.

heh heh.

-Tony
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Follow-Ups:

References:
RE: Question about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Technical Writing": From: Krista Van Laan
RE: Question about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Technical Writing": From: McLauchlan, Kevin
RE: Question about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Technical Writing": From: Tim J. Slager
RE: Question about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Technical Writing": From: McLauchlan, Kevin
Re: Question about "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Technical Writing": From: Tony Chung

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