Re: The "or" list

Subject: Re: The "or" list
From: "Gallagher, Susan" <sgallagher -at- STARBASECORP -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 17:07:16 -0700

Steve Evanina writes:

Using an economy of words and keeping the readability index low, the
is instructed to "do one of the following." How could this be possibly
misconstrued as a series of steps?

Mark Levinson answers:

One answer is that the reader, being lazy and impatient, will pay
only to the list itself, which looks important and interesting, and not
the introductory sentence at all.

..and I'll take it one step further.

The reader may indeed read the introductory sentence -- at least the first
half -- "To create a new file" -- and stop there -- "success! I found what I
want to do!"

The reader may jump into the middle of the document, not be familiar with
the conventions used in the book, and assume that a bulleted list presents

The reader may read every word but be in such a hurry (or so frustrated)
that the words "one of", tho read, are not absorbed -- they simply disappear
(ever try one of those word puzzles where you're supposed to count the
number of f's in a sentence???).

Moral: No matter how explicit we try to be, and whether we believe that a
sentence could be misconstrued or not, when it gets out into the real world
-- with phones ringing and customers, collegues, and bosses demanding -- no
matter how careful we've been, our words *will* be misconstrued somewhere by
someone. Our only defense is to be *overly* explicit and hope for the best.

Sue Gallagher
StarBase Corp, Irvine CA
sgallagher -at- starbasecorp -dot- com

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