Re: Rule of Thumb

Subject: Re: Rule of Thumb
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 1995 07:05:51 PST

Susan M. Leslie writes;

>When I knowingly use phrases that will upset someone else I take
>responsibility for how that interferes with receiption of the concept
>I am trying to communicate.

True, but much depends on the nature of the INTENDED audience, not
some other audience.

Hypersensitive might object to dog breeders referring to their bitches,
to machinists having a set of bastard files, or, however implasibly,
to members of technical fields and their rules of thumb. But
such terms are completely innocuous in their respective spheres.
If you invent a set of rules defining people's intent by their
words rather than their actions, you're going to find professional
jargon to be a fertile field for stupid mistakes.

Personally, I follow the same rule for the term "rule of thumb" that
I do for "bitch." Is the term well-understood within the profession?
It the term's use within the profession non-political and non-personal?
If the answer to both questions is "yes," then the term is just a term.
Readers have to check their own bagage when contronted with unavoidable
terms within a profession; it's of no use for me to avoid using an
innocuous phrase that's used all around me.

-- Robert

P.S. My alma mater is Oregon State University, home of the Beavers!
Some have considered this name to be Demeaning to All Women(TM), but
no one paid much attention at the time.

Robert Plamondon * President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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