Re: British English in _tech writing_

Subject: Re: British English in _tech writing_
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 11:37:00 EST

At 09:35 AM 3/29/96 EST, you wrote:
>On Thu, 28 Mar 1996, I wrote:

>Just in case anybody else wants to respond to this, please,
>please, please read what I asked for and consider that this
>*is* the technical writing list, not the OffTopic list. I
>said that the hood/bonnet stuff was _irrelevant_ to tech
>writing. Could somebody think of some examples that *are*
>relevant to tech writing? Other stuff is amusing, but it
>should go on private notes to friends or on some other list,
>not here.

>When my original message is quoted, I kind of expect the
>response to respond to it. Go figure. I mean, if we can't
>read and respond to directions, what kind of tech writers
>are we?

>Melissa Hunter-Kilmer
>mhunterk -at- bna -dot- com
>(standard disclaimer)

The problem, of course, is managing to decide what's relevant BEFORE it's
posted. I detect a software bias in your messages, Melissa, which is
understandable in light of the fact that the majority of technical
communications is in the software industry.

But there are many other arenas of communication between Yanks and Brits.
The sciences spring to mind, although there is much more common terminology
in the sciences than in technology. In hardware...oh my, are there major
differences, mostly because hard technology (hydraulics, pneumatics,
mechanicals, and so forth) hasn't changed as rapidly as either science or
software. The "wrench/spanner" example wasn't just a sorta-kinda-gosh-maybe
example. It's real. And "hood/bonnet" wasn't just a facetious comment to
somebody writing in the automotive industry.

And the situation isn't magically resolved by just writing in formal
English, because many of the problems aren't with formal sentence structure,
but with terminology, and the verbs that we use for the terms. The
"wrench/spanner" example is one of these. The worst situation is when we, as
Yanks, don't know if the Brits have a comparable word, or even a comparable
piece of equipment. If I write for an American audience knowledgable about
machining that a part should be checked to a tolerance of X on a
"dimensional measuring machine," I don't know for certain that anybody else,
British or otherwise, will know what I mean, or will have such a device.
Americans almost always have one. It's a situation that's even more fraught
with peril than translations, because when a piece is translated, at least
you have a translator who can point out questionable passages. If you're
writing for the Brits (or other nationals, too, I might add) in English, you
may never test your wording until people start calling you up.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice)
317.899.5987 (fax)

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