Re: Messages. . .

Subject: Re: Messages. . .
From: Andrew Shires <andrews -at- HARLEQUIN -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Tue, 25 May 1993 15:08:25 BST

Andrew> A number of subscribers have expressed frustration at how
Andrew> our job is perceived by others -- with prejudice to overcome
Andrew> before we even start, the worst thing we can do is shoot
Andrew> ourselves in the collective foot by letting self-discipline
Andrew> slip.

Joe> However, we could also shoot the profession in the other
Joe> foot by perpetuating and amplifying an image of editors as
Joe> peckish pedants who do nothing but pick typos, and who, in
Joe> so doing, view themselves as sentinels protecting society
Joe> from the barbarian hordes.

I agree that this is an image we could well do without, especially
because it is emotive. If people see editors in this light, it points
to a fundamental problem we will have to address one day before
everything gets out of hand and we have to abandon all standards for
fear of offending people. If you showed me that I was doing something
wrong, I'd be grateful, not resentful -- just as I would be grateful
if you pointed out a misconception I had about programming style.
There are many aspects of the English language that I don't properly
understand, and I'd rather be corrected than remain unaware of a
mistake I was regularly making.

The point is to be diplomatic, and to appreciate when it is, and
isn't, important to get something written properly. Those who
believe in correctness are getting a bad name because of the petty
motives of a few.

In a professional forum such as this, net or no net, I believe that
it _is_ important to take the time to check for typos and use words as
clearly as one can. This is evidently a view not shared by some
writers here, and it frustrates me, because I do not want to be judged
as someone who doesn't care about what they write for public

Joe> I like a well-turned phrase and respect spelling, grammar,
Joe> and punctuation as much as the next technical communicator.
Joe> However, one must recognize that the networks are usually
Joe> (though not necessarily) informal, shoot-from-the-hip media --
Joe> not professional publications, much less the archival
Joe> literature.

It's an unfortunate coincidence that what we claim to be our
professional skill is on display whenever we write something for the
list, but are we really so challenged by the demands our jobs that we
have to take a break when we're not writing in a professional context?

Joe> What's more, it is my considered opinion that well-meaning
Joe> netters who flame the mechanics of a posting without saying
Joe> anything about its content are a plague upon the network.

I agree with you, but I'm not arguing for a free-for-all on
pedantry, I'm arguing for taking extra care in the first place.

Joe> In addition to coming across as gratuitously nasty, they
Joe> inhibit participation -- the kiss of death in an inherently
Joe> participatory medium. Misc.writing went through such a bad
Joe> stretch of this kind of thing that one of the initial
Joe> enthusiasts -- an engineer who helped found a writing group! --
Joe> quit for a while in disgust. I'd hate to see that happen here.

So would I; I don't see it happening yet, though, and we can each
help to prevent it by exercising a little of our professional skill to
give the pedants fewer morsels upon which to feed. No-one should
indulge in linguistic point-scoring, true: it's childish and negative.
Nonetheless, the righteous vilification of pedants should not provide
us with excuses for laziness.

Andrew Shires Harlequin Ltd.,
Technical Author Barrington Hall,
andrews -at- harlequin -dot- co -dot- uk Cambridge,
andrews -at- harlequin -dot- com ENGLAND.

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