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Lauren, I am really glad that you started this discussion and that you are
sticking with it.

I agree that it is irresponsible for writers to make assumptions that they
know the correct formula when they do not. It is a sad truth that there are
too many writers who don't carefully examine their assumptions.

It is also unethical for managers to put undue pressure on writers to
release documents without adequate review. It is a sad truth that there are
many situations where writers who hold themselves to high standards are
punished while writers who have much lower standards are rewarded. There
are all too many reasons that this can happen.

Your points on ethics should actually be something that all technical
writers have internalized before adopting the job title, but unfortunately
there are people who don't even know the rules of grammar who adopt and
keep the title. The standards of entry are too low.

In my efforts to promote advanced writing skills, I find that most North
American technical writers fail to understand even the first few steps
beyond admonitions like "use active voice." It amazes me that this is true.
I also found it interesting that in 2008, a group of Brazilians easily
understood and began using my ideas on combining storycraft with learning
theory while the North Americans needed to be guided, step-by-step, through
examples and still had difficulty.

The so-called "soft skills" are not easy even though the word "soft" gives
the implicit impression that they should be easy. I contend that our
current culture, in the USA, has been slowly abandoning the teaching of
"soft skills" precisely because they are difficult.

Good writers--writers who really learn how to write--do have an inherent
power. But in the profession of technical writing, many people assume that
professional growth comes only from increased knowledge of technologies. By
acting on that assumption, writers actually abandon their inherent power.

-Elisa

On Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 9:49 PM, Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net> wrote:

> On 4/27/2017 3:20 PM, Janoff, Steven wrote:
>
>> Lauren, with all due respect... Multiplication is commutative. ab = ba.
>> That's one of the fundamental laws of algebra. (Talking about
>> multiplication of real numbers specifically.)
>>
>
> When there is a question of what the formula is, it is a matter for the
> SME and not for technical writers email list. What part of my point is
> vague? It is clear that equating by and times is wrong because the
> multiplicand and the multiplier have different functions. Elementary
> algebra theory, like what you presented, does not resolve questions of
> scientific formulas.
>
> It is irresponsible for technical writers to assume that they know the
> correct formula from a vague instruction that is missing context. If you
> disagree with my correct statement of multiplication theory, then that
> further illustrates the point that SMEs need to determine the correct
> formula.
>
> It will always be the case that 3 times 2 is 2 multiplied by 3 and that
> these two operations are only interchangeable in simple math but not in
> anything beyond simple math, like formulas. The funny thing about math
> theory is that it always proves itself correct although numbers and the
> formulas of math are abstract constructs not found in nature. So, math is
> never a fact. That is amusing. Here's another one, if you have 3 pairs of
> shoes, you have 6 shoes. Do you have 3 of 2 or 2 of 3? In the theory that
> the multiplicand and the multiplier are the same, then you have six
> identical shoes. This makes no sense. In 3 pairs of shoes, you have 2 shoes
> multiplied by 3 or 3 times 2 shoes.
>
> Also, the OP's post was not in fact linear. Why would you say that? It
> could be linear but it could also be nonlinear because we do not know what
> the missing context is. The phrase said to multiply the absorbance of the
> dilution times 20. We can see that what he is saying is to multiply
> absorbance of dilution times 20 but we do not know by what number.
> Dilution times 20 is one number and with the missing context, we do not
> know what to do with absorbance. We cannot by any stretch assume that we
> are multiplying absorbance of dilution by 20, stating that the absorbance
> and not the dilution is being multiplied by the use of the word, "times."
> That makes no sense in the context of the phrase the OP provided.
>
> Let me be clearer. "Absorbance of dilution times 20" means A of (D*20).
> "Absorbance of dilution by 20" means (A of D)*20. These are clearly
> different results. This is simple grammar and simple multiplication theory.
> We know the phrase is wrong because it gives rise to more than one
> mathematical possibility and we do not know what absorbance is being
> multiplied by.
>
> My question of ethics is whether technical writers have a duty to be
> certain that what they write is correct? In this case, some people on the
> list decided that if we did not know what the multiplicand of absorbance
> was being multiplied by, then we multiply it by multiplier being used
> against the multiplicand of dilution. Why??? How is this ethical?
>
>
>
>
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--
Elisa Rood Sawyer
~~~~~^~~~~~
Technical and Creative Writer
"Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today." Mark Twain
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