Re: Request for Change (long)

Subject: Re: Request for Change (long)
From: Karen Gwynn/Datatel <Karen_Gwynn -at- DATATEL -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 1996 08:50:04 EDT

I wasn't going to respond to Eric's request regarding the subject of recent
postings to this list, because at first blush I agreed. But now that I have
thought about it some more, I want to provide my $0.02.

I do agree that the members of this list get carried away sometimes with the
finer points of grammar and style. And I wholeheartedly agree with whomever
said that everyone should choose a style guide and a grammar book and stick
with it. But I don't think that means we don't sometimes have the need to
discuss these items.

Several years ago, the documentation specialists here began meeting on a
monthly basis for the purpose of solidifying our standards. We agreed early on
that things like spelling, punctuation, capitalization, hyphenation, and so
forth would be determined first by our dictionary, then as necessary by Chicago
and then, only if a clear standard was not found (or we had reason to reject
these published standards), would we decide on our own (in which case we
documented that in our style guide).

We spent the most of our time in the first years discussing the difference
between "that" and "which," deciding where punctuation should go and how we
should word specific types of phrases. Our manager at the time was not a writer
and she didn't attend our meetings because she couldn't deal with our
anal-retentive tendencies (we, on the other hand, loved the discussions).

Its now been about four years since this all started. We still meet on a
monthly basis but the course of our discussions has changed dramatically. Very
rarely does someone put on the agenda a topic dealing with pure style or
grammar. This is because (1) we've covered most of them by now and (2) we are
all much more comfortable in our corporate style and in the use of reference
sources, so we don't need to have lengthy discussions about whether its "on
line" or "online."

My point (yes, Virginia, there is a point): everyone at some time or another
needs to have these discussions. I realize from reading this list that there
are a lot of tech writers out there who don't have the benefit of working
directly with other writers and therefore they must use this list as their
sounding board. And because our use of language is forever evolving, sometimes
the "standards" published in a reference source even a couple of years old just
doesn't hit the mark and thus we need to discuss the alternatives. So I think
it is perfectly acceptable to have these discussions on the list. If everyone
kept the subject line the same, you can delete responses once you grow tired of
the discussion (that's what I do). Also, when the person who original posted
the question gets enough information, please post a "wrap-up" in which you
thank everyone for their response and then end the discussion. At that point,
no one else should respond.

Okay, I'm done and will go back to writing my introductions (ugh!).

Karen Gwynn, Senior Documentation Specialist
Datatel, Inc.
e-mail kwg -at- datatel -dot- com

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