Re[2]: Corruption of Language

Subject: Re[2]: Corruption of Language
From: Karla McMaster <mcmaster%pcmail -dot- cti-pet -dot- com -at- CTI-PET -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 16 May 1994 09:37:17 EST

Dan Dieterich had several good points in his note about corruption of language--
that we all use language to shape attitudes.

That reminded me of why I got out of journalism when I was a grad student at
the University of Minnesota (back before they had technical writing degrees, I
was in Science Journalism). After a year of journalism classes on the side,
while working full time, I got a job working for the U's daily newspaper and
went to school full time. I had really bought all the stuff about journalists
being objective--and then it came to an assignment my editor gave me. He
thought there was something dirty going on. I spent a long time investigating
and talking to the principals involved, and was convinced there wasn't. He said
write the story anyway. I did. He rewrote it to fit his vision. I pulled my
name from the article and lost my naivete. I came to the conclusion that there
is no such thing as objectivity. We all write what we see, and that is colored
by our personalities, what we've seen and experienced. (It may also be colored
by profit motive, or a drive to be recognized for something spectacular.)

I think, like Dan, that the same thing is true in technical writing. Because we
write about "scientific" subjects, we may have the illusion that we are closer
to the truth, just as "science" tends to be represented as absolute truth. In
fact, both are subject to interpretation.

Karla McMaster, technical writer
CTI-PET Systems, Inc., Knoxville, TN
mcmaster -at- cti-pet -dot- com


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