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The laws of math apply to math expressions written in math language.

Expand the expression into English, and the laws of grammar can conflict with the laws of math.

You can't just rearrange things even if the grammar is correct. That might violate math laws. And vice versa.

You're right, the big point here is that it's potentially dangerous for writers to make a change just because they think it will improve the language when it might introduce an error in the procedure or the technology. I think we've seen examples of this cited in past threads (the one that cost a company millions of dollars or something? -- or maybe that was a different principle).

It's so tempting to make a change, but you really do have to resist that urge and check things out with SMEs if you're not deeply schooled in the technology of the domain.

Thanks for elaborating here.

Steve

On Thursday, April 27, 2017 9:49 PM, Lauren 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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