Re: Compressed ("telegraphic") technical writing

Subject: Re: Compressed ("telegraphic") technical writing
From: "S.North" <north -at- HGL -dot- SIGNAAL -dot- NL>
Date: Mon, 4 Oct 1993 09:22:50 +0100

As far as this affects software error messages and such, I would strongly
agree with dropping pronouns, adverbs, articles and so on. But, let me raise
one consideration: that of non-native English readers. For this audience, to
write in telegraphic style is one of the most unfriendly things you could
possibly do. IMHO, when you drop the 'extra' words you are relying on the fact
(I have a research article somewhere that confirms this) that we only actually
ready about half of what is written, relying on our knowledge of the language
to fill in the gaps. 'Foreigners' who are not so proficient with the language
can have serious problems: you are in danger of assuming a proficiency with
the language that they do not have. Worse, when a word is not known (although
you should never use a word that you are not reasonably confident your
audience will understand) then it is the parts of the sentence that are
dropped in this style of writing that give the reader valuable clues to help
him translate it.

While this applies specifically to non-native English readers, I do have a
research report somewhere (I will try to find it some time today if nothing
else intervenes) that confirms an old suspicion of mine that these 'extra'
words also improve the comprehension level for 'normal' readers. From memory;
they aid in providing a certain amount of redundancy and they identify the key
syntactic elements of the sentence.

================= Angular momentum makes the world go round. =================
Simon North FISTC Quality Group, Software R&D
north -at- hgl -dot- signaal -dot- nl Hollandse Signaalapparaten BV
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