Re: Grammar vs Content

Subject: Re: Grammar vs Content
From: Karla McMaster <mcmaster%pcmail -dot- cti-pet -dot- com -at- CTI-PET -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 09:21:40 EST

Boy...I've been following this thread with interest!

Glen Accardo's notes (can't remember who started the thread) have really struck
a chord with me. I've been amazed at the number of people who have suggested he
is not interested in hearing about grammar and punctuation errors, or that he
just isn't taking enough time up front.

I'm not sure you all know how supercilious your postings sound. Some people
have offered some really good advice, like the person who suggested a training
session. Unfortunately, for someone like me, that's a little difficult, as I am
a "department" of 1, and the person over me neither knows much about nor cares
to know about what I do. I'd have difficulty getting support for such a
project. I am going to try more informal communication about the type of edit I
need, however.

As far as those who suggested that one needs to present a wonderful draft, I
see the validity in that. However, as a department of 1, I can edit my own
documents till I'm blue in the face and I guarantee that there will still be
grammatical errors and spelling errors that the spell checker misdiagnosed (see
Owed to a Spell Checker). In addition, time crunches are particularly relevant.
I don't have time to go through a ton of revisions before it goes out for the
internal review.

I agree with Marilynne that reviewers may tend to focus on grammer, spelling
and format because they see it. It IS harder to focus on "whether the topic is
covered correctly and completely." I like the levels of edit Marilynne
describes. I'll have to see if I can get the booklet from STC.

I've seen people go round and round on grammar until the third or fourth edit,
at which point they realize that the document doesn't say the right thing. So
they go back and have to go through three or four more edits, because they
essentially started from scratch.

As Glen said, good grammar doesn't require intimate product/process knowledge.
Perhaps what I will do, based on all these comments, is to see if I can get one
of the secretaries to do a grammar and spell-check review before I send it to
the developers...

I should reveal my prejudice here, in that I've temped for environmental
subcontracting firms, where engineers write the copy and large departments edit
the copy--with no substantial editing built in to the process (in fact it was
discouraged from it). Going round and round on grammar, punctuation,
capitalization, etc., seemed a waste of time to me when many times the papers
weren't organized very well, or were far too wordy. As Marilynne said, it
seemed to me like "painting the garbage cans."

I'm rambling, but just wanted to get a toe hold in this discussion, because I
feel so strongly about it.

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


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