Response to PJ Rose

Subject: Response to PJ Rose
From: Susan Purcell <spurcell -at- WC -dot- NOVELL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 22 Dec 1994 11:20:29 PST

PJ Rose misleads a bit.

1. "Sounding" or "reading" better

> 2. I split infinitives whenever it will make the sentence read better. (I
> used to do it just because it made my 9th grade English teacher
> apoplexic [sic].)

The idea of making a sentence sound or read better gives the impression
that the writer is making an improvement that will inevitably appeal to
everyone. It's a fallacy to assume so. Surely his 9th grade English teacher
would not think that a sentence with a split infinitive reads better. Rose
thinks it does, but we're only talking opinions here, not facts. In other words,
Rose assumes that his/her own preferences are supreme in determining what
is better or worse. I have yet to read a sentence with a split infinitive that
be improved by rephrasing it to remove the split infinitive. Neither Rose nor I
are "right" about this. But using the idea of "making a sentence read better"
hides a fallacy that mistakes personal preferences for universally accepted
facts. Just because the majority of people think it's OK to steal office
from their employers doesn't make it OK. And just because some people
think that a split infinitive "reads better" doesn't make it correct grammar.

Could it be that the 9th grade English student within Rose enjoys acting
out? <evil grin>

2. Trademarks, law, and grammar

> Now, we are seeing a strange anomaly: grammatical usage of registered (and
> unregistered) trademarks is dictated by law.

What Rose is talking about is the idea that trademark words are considered
adjectives, not nouns. The danger, which has been argued in court, is that
when trademarks are used as nouns, their specificity is diluted, and their
standing as a particular and protected designator gives way to a generally
accepted sense of the trademark as a generic word. "Kleenex" is a good
example. However, I doubt that any law requires a writer to rephrase
his or her copy to transform nominal uses of trademarks into adjectives. A
trademark owner can require that other people use the owner's marks as
adjectives, but no law does so. The trademark owner has the option under
the law to ask for it and even to pursue it in a civil suit, but the onus is on
the trademark owner, not on the writer, to make the writer use the trademark
in a way that protects the owner's right of asserted ownership.

Todd Freter
tfreter -at- wc -dot- novell -dot- com

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