Long--Replies to editing questions
LaVonna Funkhouser <lffunkhouser -at- HALNET -dot- COM>
Thu, 29 Sep 1994 15:36:41 -0500
Posted to techwr-l and copyediting-l.
This message is MS Word 9 pages long, but I've tried to organize it clearly.
The replies that I received to my editing questions are appended below.
My comments are marked by "--LF." Comments are divided by a short
line of hyphens (-----). The author of each comment is provided, and
I've tried to include the address at the first appearance of each name.
My original questions are marked by ">." Headings are in caps.
Subheadings are marked by ###.
lffunkhouser -at- halnet -dot- com
BECAUSE and SINCE
>1. _Because_ is best at showing a causal relationship, but
> is _since_ ever appropriate in technical writing? What
> about this sentence, which I think is showing a condition:
> Since/Because water is always in the process of dissolving
> or depositing solids, potential scale formation must be
> continuously addressed.
My decision was to replace since with because. I was easily convinced
on this one. Before now, I tended to leave "since" alone in other
###Here are some good reasons for avoiding "since." (13 votes)
It may be grammatically correct to use "since" in your example,
but I would use "because." The reason: "since" can also be used
as a reference to time, e.g., "since yesterday." I recently took
a course in linguistics. We learned that the brain has to search
out the proper meaning of a word if it has more than one
definition. In your example, the brain has to search out whether
the meaning is causal or time-related. This process takes only a
split second, but I think we should make technical information
as easy to read as possible.
Kevin Sporleder kevinsp -at- crt -dot- com
From the AP Stylebook:
"Use *because* to denote a specific cause-effect relationship. .
. . *Since* is acceptable in a causal sense when the first event
in a sequence led logically to the second but was not its direct
cause. . . ."
Rick Bogren e-mail: r-bogren -at- uiuc -dot- edu
Media/Communications Specialist voice: (217)333-9439
College of Agriculture
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
In answer to your first question, "since" is only used as an
expression of time in the technical writing I do (i.e., since
I subscribed, I have received a lot of mail). In your sentence
example, "Because" would be the proper choice. I'm not going to
cite sources for this rationale, although one of the rationales
stems from writing for those who speak English as a secondary
Linda Morgan <Linda_Morgan%qmgate -dot- arc -dot- nasa -dot- gov -at- internet>
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
My preference is "Because water is always in the process ...."
Reason: ~Since~ implies (to me, anyway) that time is a factor.
Lori Lathrop <76620 -dot- 456%compuserve -dot- com -at- internet>
Lathrop Media Services
Georgetown, CO 80444
When I did some contract work for IBM, our style guide specified
that "since" was to be used in its time-related sense only. Any
causality was to be shown with "because." In other words, anytime
"because" could be substituted for "since," "because" was the
proper word. Hence, "since" was pretty rare in the writing we
did, though not proscribed.
Jay Mead jmead -at- ct -dot- covia -dot- com
I replace since with because, because since implies time.
The Handbook of Technical Writing by Brusaw, Alred, Oliu
(1987) states "To express cause, 'because" is the strongest
and most specific connective (others are for, since, as,
inasmuch as, insofar as). 'Because' is unequivocal
in stating causal relationship."
Denise Monette <dmonette%arl -dot- army -dot- mil -at- internet>
This seems like a causal relationship to me, and I prefer "Because".
(The passive voice makes the sentence awkward IMHO, but you probably
have your reasons.)
Laura Johnson * lauraj -at- fc -dot- hp -dot- com * Hewlett Packard NSMD * Ft. Collins, CO
'Since' has currency in informal use, but I think that it
*might* create confusion--especially if it will be read by
non-native English speakers who are unfamiliar with our
bodafu -at- ccvax -dot- sinica -dot- edu -dot- tw
Since versus Because: Saul Carliner expends large amounts of red
ink every quarter he teaches at Southern Tech driving home the
rule that 'since' has a time connotation, not a causal connotation.
Trying to make this distinction often leads to hair splitting as
well as pulling. I'll check with Miss Thistlebottom, too.
lheard%st6000 -dot- sct -dot- edu -at- internet (Lallie Heard)
I avoid "since" because it can confuse the heck out of translators.
Rather than stopping to think "Is this going to be translated?",
I just avoid "since." I've yet to find an instance where "since"
would've been preferable, IMHO.
ldkunz -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
I believe that "since" should be reserved for time-relative clauses;
e.g., "Since we changed the editing system..." "Since" has devolved
to mean "because" in colloquial English, but I don't believe "since"
should be used that way formally.
I *hate* "since" being used for "because." Probably just a
personal peeve of mine, but I reserve "since" for use only in
relation to time (eg, "Since the invention of the car, society is...")
"Since" isn't always technically wrong to mean "because," but
"because" is direct and unambiguous. Same as "due to"--I hate
that, too, and much prefer "because of."
Brian Battles <bbattles%arrl -dot- org -at- internet>
To use another example, what if one wrote:
Since the electricity failed, we have had no heat.
Does this mean "because" the electricity failed, or "from the time
that" the electricity failed? The meaning in this sentence is
ambiguous. I think if a technical writer keeps the meaning of
these two words (since/because) in mind, he/she should use whichever
is appropriate to understand the sentence.
In your example, I'd use "because."
"Colleen Kelley" <cxkell2%denitqm -dot- ecte -dot- uswc -dot- uswest -dot- com -at- internet>
###Some people didn't mind "since." (6 votes)
I use them interchangeably.
Richard Mateosian Technical Writer in Berkeley CA srm -at- c2 -dot- org
Both Webster and Oxford dictionaries list one of the definitions of
'since' as 'because'. IMHO, whether 'since' is appropriate in
technical writing is irrelevant since it is perfectly correct to
use it to show a causal relationship.
yunwan -at- merlion -dot- iseas -dot- ac -dot- sg
OK, because it's not ambiguous. No one could think the "since"
has to do with time.
Mark L. Levinson | E-mail: mark -at- sd -dot- co -dot- il
Summit EDA Technologies
I've talked to writers who will never use "since" in this situation
because "since" can imply that time has passed. I usually use
"because" because I think it's more precise. However, the dictionaries
on my shelf provide "as a result of the fact that" (I guess that
means "because") as a definition for "since", and it certainly is
widely used without (apparent) misunderstanding. I never mark "since"
in other people's writing--I think it's a matter of personal choice.
Pam Tatge, Member Group Technical Staff
Texas Instruments Semiconductor Group, Houston
pamt -at- steinbeck -dot- sc -dot- ti -dot- com
No difference between the two.
Sally Marquigny Network Imaging Systems
sallym -at- msmailhq -dot- netimage -dot- com Herndon, VA
"Since" sounds acceptable to me.
Sue Fisher Vaughn suev -at- URIACC -dot- URI -dot- EDU
###Rewrite (1 votes)
.....For me, it's not the choice of one or the other; both are correct.
Your problem may be with beginning the clause & sentence with it. You
could try "Water is always dissolving or depositing solids; therefore
potential scale formation ...."
Doug Montalbano <doug_montalbano%cc -dot- chiron -dot- com -at- internet>
HAVING or WITH?
>2. Is _having_ stronger or better in this phrase, and if so, why?
> wells with scaling tendencies
> wells having scaling tendencies
For question 2, I opted for a rewrite: "wells that tend to scale."
Judith Tarutz writes in _Technical Editing_ (super book, BTW) that
if changing a single word doesn't help, consider rewriting the sentence.
(I didn't quote because I didn't mark the page.) I really didn't like
"having," but "with" had some problems when read as part of the whole
sentence. Rewriting was the way to go.--LF
###Rewrite (8 votes)
How about "Wells that tend to scale. . ."?
A tendency *to* scale
Perhaps neither ~with~ or ~having~ conveys the concept well. Would
another word, such as ~exhibiting~ or ~possessing~ make the concept
clearer? BTW, if you must choose between ~with~ or ~having~, I think
~with~ is preferable; IMHO, it just reads a little better that way.
Wells that (tend to) produce scale.
I prefer "that have". I can't find anything about this right now--it
may just be personal preference.
wells that have scaling tendencies
Virginia <9408227802 -dot- AA780267883 -at- okway -dot- okstate -dot- edu>
I assume that you mean that the "wells have a tendency to scale"? or
that "scaling" occurs [in?] wells?
Or "Wells that have scaling tendencies"? I try to use whatever sounds
most concrete, unambiguous, direct and least wordy. Go for as much
active voice as possible and chuck all pretentiousness.
###Use "having" (0 votes)
###Use "with" (8 votes)
I like "with" better than "having." Having might imply ownership to
an inanimate object. I think this one can work either way, but you
might not want two -ing words together.
I prefer "with" but I don't know why.
I prefer 'with' because it indicates association rather than possession.
"with" is a little better. Both are OK, but the double "ing" is clanky.
[In answer to "Is 'having' stronger..."]
No. It sounds rather pompous, actually.
"SuePStewrt" <SuePStewrt%aol -dot- com -at- internet>
No. I think the gerund ("having") requires the reader to expend a
few more ergs.
**_having_ is weaker--not as concise. Also a bit too alliterative
To my mind, both sentences are similar because both contain phrases
that modify "wells"--one being a prepositional phrase, the other
being a participle phrase. For use in technical writing, I'd choose
the prepositional phrase because, to my mind, it's cleaner, tighter
writing (or simply, a shorter word!).
###No Strong Opinion (2 votes)
I have no helpful insight for question 2; either way is suitable from
the fragment given.
Both are appropriate; I don't detect any difference in emphasis but
IMHO the first 'sounds' better without two 'ing' words following each
other and is shorter. But if the text isn't going to be made into an
audio tape, usage of with/having probably isn't worth battling over!
THE QUESTION OF HYPHENS
>3. Are hyphens needed in these class names when the noun "scale"
> is not present, as in this example:
> Scale types can be divided roughly into three classes:
> - Water soluble
> - Acid soluble
> - Acid insoluble
IMHO, this is the toughest question. FWIW, the votes show to omit
the hyphens, and so far I am still leaving them out. My team leader
and others (see comments) provide some interesting arguments for
putting them in.--LF
###Use them (6 votes)
Is there already a style sheet for this document or a series it may
belong to? There are several styles of hyphenation accepted by the
various authorities, so as long as you're consistent and are not
contradicted by whatever reference the powers-that-be accept, do
whatever seems to enhance clarity most. Personally, I'm fond of
hyphens--I think they clarify word relationships and thereby assist
flow and readability--but others differ. Sounds like your audience
will be used to science/chemistry style, and therefore accustomed
to seeing and deriving meaning from hyphen-laden text.
WordShaper (freelance writing/editing/graphic design)
74407,437 -at- CompuServe -dot- com/(602)482-5475
In the American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd ed., "water-soluble" is
entered as a single hyphenated word. This makes sense to me. In the
examples cited above, the terms "not hyphenated when they occur
after a noun" (e.g., first quarter, bluish green) can be construed
by themselves as noun phrases, i.e., as an adjective modifying a
noun. In the phrases "water soluble, acid soluble," etc., no such
ambiguity exists: the second term is in adjectival form no matter
how you look at it, and the first term limits or describes the second.
Thus, it seems logical to me that all three would be hyphenated.
Cdinucci -at- usva5 -dot- dyncorp -dot- com
I would use the hyphens.
'Scale' *is* implied, so I'd hyphenate.
Should have hyphens. The relationship between the words is not
one you'd find in an unhyphenated construction.
###Don't use them (12 votes)
From the AP Stylebook: "Many combinations that are hyphenated
before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun."
i.e. first quarter, full time, bluish green. "But when a
modifier that would be hyphenated before a noun occurs after a
form of the verb *to be*, the hyphen usually must be retained to
From the U.S. News & World Report Stylebook: "If an expression
is clear without a hyphen, drop it."
Regarding question 3, hyphens are not needed in this particular instance.
...Nah, not for this clear list.
The list items in this example do not require hyphens.
No, the hyphens are used if the two words modify the following noun.
Because the noun precedes the modifiers, the hyphens are unnecessary.
No hyphens required.
It seems OK, just my humble opinion! However, if they were written out,
I'd hyphenate: water-soluble/acid-soluble/acid-insoluble scale ...
No, they're not needed.
Heck no. I think that requiring hyphens here would be a hypercorrection.
I sincerely doubt that the lack of hyphens would lead to reader
confusion. The Gregg Reference says yes, but we overruled them in
our style guide.
I wouldn't use the hyphen
I'd leave 'em unhyphenated in that format, but I'd stick in a
hyphen when they're used as modifiers, eg, "The water-soluble
scales are used for..." Makes it clear that the scales are water
soluble, not that the soluble scales are made of water!
I'd not hyphenate the words in a list unless each item is followed
by the noun. Guess I'm old fashioned. I'm sure people will have
eloquent arguments for hyphenating.
COMMA IN A COMPOUND IMPERATIVE SENTENCE?
>4. Last but not least--Is the comma necessary/unnecessary or
> recommended/not recommended when two imperative statements
> are joined?
> Keep this in mind when recommending Product and make the
> operator aware of this characteristic.
Despite opposition from my manager and no clear guidance from reference
books, I took the majority advice and decided that the sentence needs
the comma. BTW, the rest of the editing staff agrees.--LF
Note: I probably should have given you some context. In context, the
word "this" makes sense. Yes, the two sentences refer to the same thing.--LF
###Either use a comma or make it two sentences (16 votes--Clear majority)
I don't have a reference to cite here, but I'd use a comma to
avoid confusion in this case.
Here's a reference I neglected to include earlier because it's
rather vague. From AP Stylebook: "When a conjunction such as
and, but, or for links two clauses that could stand alone as
separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction in most
cases. . . . As a rule of thumb, use a comma if the subject of
each clause is expressly stated. . . ."
The first reference supports using a comma. Since the subject of
*each* clause is implied, I think you could use the same line of
reasoning as in the second reference.--Rick
For question 4, a comma is necessary because you are joining
two main clauses with a conjunction; the imperative doesn't
change that rule.
...I strongly recommend the comma. Or leave out the "and" and
either use a semicolon or make the second clause a second sentence.
I'd use a comma when joining the two statements.
As a rule, a comma is placed between two independent clauses.
Again, the Handbook of Technical Writing (Brusaw, et al. 1987)
states "Although many writers omit the comma when clauses are
short and closely related, the comma can never be wrong."
Needs a comma. Even better, kill the "and" and break it into
two sentences. It also needs a transition to tie the seemingly
disparate pieces together.
Fowler recommends that commas be used between connected but
independent sentences. I think this guideline applies to the
sentence: the first statement asks the salesperson to be aware
of 'this' when selling the Product while the second statement
asks the salesperson/trainer to inform the user/operator about 'this'.
Necessary, IMHO. The sentence is difficult to parse as written.
I'd punctuate. It provides a clue that the phase following
'Product' is not the second element in a list that goes:
o recommending Product
o making something-or-other
If a line break fell after 'Product and', a reader would be left
Should have a comma, like any other compound sentence that is
not very short and closely related (i.e. not like "Straighten up
and fly right").
No comma. Use a period instead--this should be two sentences.***
suepstewrt -at- aol -dot- com
Punctuating compound imperatives: I can't cite a source, so my guess
is that you would follow the rules of punctuating any other compound
sentence: use a comma and a coordinating conjunction, a semicolon, or a
conjunctive adverb like however preceded by a semicolon and followed
by a comma. There is, I suppose, a case to be made for the
construction being a compound predicate with the understood subject
being the subject of both verbs, so no punctuation would be required.
I recommend the comma. Again, the sentence, as written, requires
an extra erg or two to figure out that I'm not recommending
Product-and-something, but I'm recommending-and-doing-something-else.
Gregg and Little, Brown say yes, but I know I've read other
references that say it's not necessary when the independent
clauses are short and the ideas are closely related (I spent
a few minutes looking for this, but can't find it). In this
example, I'd definitely include the comma because the first
"this" is defined in another sentence--I know our editor wouldn't
believe that the ideas expressed in the two main clauses
were closely related "enough".
Yes unless the two imperatives are short, e.g., Sit down and shut up. ;)
RB> I don't have a reference to cite here, but I'd use a comma to
RB> avoid confusion in this case.
Me, too. I go by one basic rule when I'm confused or can't
find a logical rule to apply: The purpose of writing is to
communicate--the text must be written/edited to best communicate
its intended meaning to most readers. The point isn't to impress anyone!
###Don't need the comma (1 vote)
I don't think that the comma is necessary.
###Either way (1 vote)
At my work, a comma is at the writer's discretion when two
independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction.
I think the Handbook of Technical Writing states the same.
[Actually, the Handbook states, "the comma can never be wrong."--LF]
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