Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?

Subject: Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?
From: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:28:44 -0700

On 4/26/2017 9:38 PM, Dave C wrote:

Itâs very fun and entertaining to guess at the original authorâs meaning, but isnât time to ask the client, a SME, to clarify?

Weâve come up with several *possible* answers, but only one is correct.

We do not know if âoneâ is correct, the answers could all be wrong. This thread raises questions for me about technical writers.

Do technical writers have an ethical duty to validate their assumptions about the context and rules of an instruction before asserting their assumptions as rules in a document? Or is it ethical to make the assumptions and then require an SME to validate accuracy?

My point in my first post in this thread was when I pointed out that the phrase had multiple meanings and that context was necessary to determine what the scientist was trying to say. I donât know why people continued to argue math (with errors) when context of the phrase was vague. The original question was about correct usage of âbyâ or âtimesâ in a phrase that called for multiplication. The discussion of grammar could not begin until the science was clear, and it was not. We could only speculate meaning but that is enough for the purposes of discussion.

What is enlightening is that there are many technical writers here who do not know the significance of basic math theory. In this discussion, there were many misstatements of math rules concerning the significance of the usage of âbyâ and âtimesâ; these words do not mean the same thing. I hope that the OP defers the language used for math to the SMEs.

One thing I have learned in this thread is why teaching math arrays today is so important. When people think that 2 x 3 = 6 means the same thing at 3 x 2 = 6 because the result is the same, we have a problem. While the similarity works in simple math theory, it does not work in advanced math theory and it does not work in grammar, as it gives the same meaning to each, the multiplicand and the multiplier, calling each an âoperand.â This is wrong in basic math and basic grammar.

Multiplicand and multiplier are operands but that is not the final reduction of their significance. You multiply the multiplicand *by* the multiplier to get the product. The product of multiplication is the multiplier *times* the multiplicand.

Third grade math arrays show this better.

1 1 \
1 1 This array means 3 by 2, or 2 times 3.
1 1 /

1 1 1 \
1 1 1 / This array means 2 by 3, or 3 times 2.

Both arrays equal 6 but they get there different ways. In simple math, 1 = 1; in advanced math and in science, 1 may be a container for something else, like a complex set of operations. Repeating an operation three times on a thing valued at 2 is not the same as repeating the same operation twice on a thing valued at 3.

I am amazed at the example this discussion has shown. Writers argued math and did it wrong, they also made assumptions about the science behind the phrase being discussed that led to wrong conclusions about the process being documented. A writer following such bad advice could mislead the users of the document.

Here is a good (and simple) example of what I have been saying about multiplication and that 2 x 3 and 3 x 2 are *not* the same.

I like this statement...

âBut the product, that is, the amount you get after you multiply is the same so why bother even talking about it? Why is there debate? Why is one more/most correct?

Because numbers describe reality numerically thatâs why.

The order is universally LxWxH.

Carpenters who stray from this find themselves in trouble, and might end up making doors for some very corpulent midgets.â

Visit TechWhirl for the latest on content technology, content strategy and content development |


You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-
To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-leave -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Looking for articles on Technical Communications? Head over to our online magazine at

Looking for the archived Techwr-l email discussions? Search our public email archives @


Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Emoto
RE: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Lauren
Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Dave C

Previous by Author: Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?
Next by Author: Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?
Previous by Thread: Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?
Next by Thread: RE: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads