Re: Simplified English

Subject: Re: Simplified English
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 1996 07:43:00 EST


>When I have been reading earlier studies dealing with ways in which
>accessibility (readability, comprehensibility etc.) of technical texts could
>be improved, I have frequently come across simplified English as
>the solution (or a solution) to the problem. The use of simple vocabulary,
>simple sentence structure, short sentences, active voice etc. would make texts
>easier for the reader to process and understand.

>What do you think? Do you use a version of simplified English when you write
>manuals? What do you think are the pros and cons of using simplified English?
>I'd really like to hear your opinions since I am sure that at least some of
>you must have given some consideration to this matter at some point of your
>technical writing career.

>Yrs,

>Tuija
>tuija -dot- isomursu -at- ntc -dot- nokia -dot- com

We looked into various forms of simplified English, but we were concerned
that its simplified word choice could also lead to convoluted sentences.
Sometimes English words bridge concepts rather than have intrinsic meanings
of their own. Such words are often polysyllabic or otherwise unacceptable in
simplified English. So making that bridge is often so convoluted and wordy
in simplified English that it just isn't worth it.

After a lot of examination, I don't think that there is a perfect cure-all
for the problems of English, because what's a problem for one reader is a
benefit to another. If the reader has a good command of English's vocabulary
and structure, "harder" words can carry a surprisingly large freight. But of
course many readers don't have that familiarity. The only reasonable (albeit
costly and slow) solution is to narrowly focus on specific readers and write
specifically for them. I know that's not possible very often, but it seems
the only dependable way.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
Technical Documentation and Training
Voice 317.899.5882
Fax 317.899.5987
WWW: http://www.iquest.net/simply/simplywritten/


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