Re: Left hand side

Subject: Re: Left hand side
From: John Gear <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 1995 17:15:00 PST

someone writes (re: left-hand side vs. left side):

>I'm with you, it's redundant. Also irrelevant, unless what you're
>talking about has something to do with hands. Also cumbersome.

Are the terms "clockwise" and "counterclockwise" also irrelevant unless what
you're talking about has something to do with time or clocks?

What about a warning that includes this: "the edges are razor sharp"--when
we aren't talking about shaving?

I'm not eager to dispense with common referents that are nearly universally
shared; it's *hard* to find such simple, evocative, and virtually
unambiguous terms.

And besides, perhaps good instructions do more than just convey information
precisely. Some people may prefer the term "left-hand side" to "left side"
just *because* it suggests some recognition by the writer that the reader is
a person with a left-hand side and a right-hand side.

All too many instructions seem written by people who have forgotten the
readers' humanity and desire for concrete, human-scale, and human-experience
images and metaphors. So much technical writing today seems sterile . . .
the result of removing all the "irrelevant" terms?

I know I enjoy technical writing--especially instructions--most when it
"sounds" like people I know ... a good number of whom say "left-hand side"
when left side would, in theory, do as well.

Just more comments; again, I don't have any research to back this.

But maybe we can see "eye-to-eye" on this anyway--even if we aren't talking
about vision ;-)


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