Re: Use of language

Subject: Re: Use of language
From: Andrew Woodhouse <awoodhou -at- MPC-UK -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 1995 16:14:05 GMT

Wolf Lahti <wduby -at- techcenter -dot- paccar -dot- com> writes:

> A few subscribers are complaining about the discussion of language on this
> list, one saying that we are 'users' of language, not its definers.

> Everyone who uses language serves to define it. That's how language came to
> be in the first place and how it continues to exist and evolve.

> If you want to simply use language and don't care whether you use it well
> and with elegance--which is what I perceive these 'irrelevant' language
> discussions to be about--then why are you subscribed to a list about tech
> writing? What do you perceive a tech writing list to be about if not use of
> language?

> -------------------------------------------------
> "Those who take this seriously deserve to."
> -- Donna Barr
> -------------------------------------------------

It's one thing to use language well and with eloquence, but quite another to
spend hours pondering the use of words in a TECHNICAL DOCUMENT where:

a) most readers are impervious to nuances

b) the subject matter of *most* tech. documentation (with the possible exception
of creative/games packages) is not suited to rich, metaphoric language - which
is, necessarily, how language evolves (I can explain this further to people if
they want). It doesn't just make the documentation overtly ebulliant, it
actually *harms* its effectiveness.

Anyway, the above is redundant, since the discussions on language on this list
are *NOT* about using elegant language. For the most part they are pedantic
people discussing the "correct" ways to write. Paradoxically, such people are
attempting to standardise a very non-standardised thing!

Lastly, what do I perceive a technical writing list to be about?
documentation systems, electronic/online delivery, writing help text, document

PS: here's some serious playing with language (by Frank Stevenson
<t22001 -at- cc -dot- ntnu -dot- edu -dot- tw>) - hope he doesn't mind me quoting him!


politically correct xmas

saint klaus, nicklaus = niko-leos ("conqueror of the people") in greek
st. close (inner sanctum, instant sanka) = st. claws

plastered against sky on insect-antennaed rooftops across Am-ri-ka
pussy-footed fat honky in rubber boots descends smokeless chimneys
while tiny pink cocks poke forth timid heads from stocking tops
and high-voltage-pulsing green tree opens budding cones to infinity

Merry Christmas

Andrew Woodhouse

------------ Technical Writer ------------
email (work) : andrew -dot- woodhouse -at- isysg -dot- com
email (home) : awoodho -at- ibm -dot- net
Nothing in this message represents the
views or opinions of U S WEST ISG.

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