Re: Left hand side

Subject: Re: Left hand side
From: Bill Burns <WBURNS -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 1995 11:35:51 MDT

Bev Parks asks:

>> Does anyone else out there have a problem with saying

"...on the left hand side of...." (or right hand side; no matter)?

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I have to write to an audience
with widely divergent reading skills. My first basic rule is to eliminate as
many high-register terms from my vocabulary (mostly Latin and French
derivatives) as I can. My second rule is to retain familiar orientation cues
such as "right-hand side." When I refer operators to the keypad on the
left-hand side, they can relate to body position rather than machine
orientation. As long as the phrases are not slang or jargon, I don't see any
harm in using them. The user's familiarity of the language can help us get
the meaning across.

These rules of mine desn't work in all instances, and they aren't
appropriate for all audiences. (I certainly don't depend on them when I write
literary criticism.) Sometimes, however, technical writing is not about
brevity but about clarity, and brief isn't always clear.

This discussion reminds me of when I used to play music gigs around the Pacific
Northwest. When we would set up the light show, the lighting director would
always tell us to put such and such on the left side of the stage. He always
meant STAGE left, of course. He finally got so sick of people placing his
stage-left lighting equipment on stage right that he started referring only to
stage left or stage right.

Bill Burns *
Assm. Technical Writer/Editor * "Purgamentum init,
Micron Technology, Inc. * exit purgamentum."
Boise, ID *
WBURNS -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM * Henricus Barbatus

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