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Subject:Re: Use of language From:Mark Levinson <mark -at- SD -dot- CO -dot- IL> Date:Wed, 20 Dec 1995 10:59:19 IST
Andrew Woodhouse protests "hours pondering the use of words in a
TECHNICAL DOCUMENT" where "most readers are impervious to nuances."
Andrew is right that a certain waste is involved. We all deserve
better readers. Probably better jobs, too.
But we're not just pretending that the way we write makes a difference.
The readers may not be able to describe the nuances, but I doubt
that the readers are impervious to them. True, they won't say "Gee, I
would have understood this better if you had repeated the prepositions
in your series rather than eliding them." And they won't say "I would
have grasped the structure better if your levels of heading were
better differentiated." But they will say "I don't like this manual.
This product is hard to use."
As Joseph E. Thornell, Sr., reminds us in his sig, "Quality Reading
is IMPOSSIBLE without QUALITY WRITING."
Indeed technical writing does not require much display of creativity,
but it does require a whole lot of intelligent problem-solving. For
example, if you're resolved to use neither the generic "he" nor any of
the sore-thumb alternatives-- invented words, slashed words, singular
"they," alternating genders-- then you may find that the same problem
needs to be solved differently several times a day. I think such
problems are worth discussing.
We might have a better world if people with a talent for creative writing
or literary criticism were subsidized by the government so that they
didn't need to do technical writing, but the USSR tried that and alas
they went bankrupt both financially and literarily...
||- Mark L. Levinson, mark -at- sd -dot- co -dot- il -- Box 5780, 46157 Herzlia, Israel -||
|| You can't judge right by looking at the wrong. - Willie Dixon ||