Wordiness and Complete Sentences

Subject: Wordiness and Complete Sentences
From: John Russell <JRussell -at- DATAWARE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 1996 14:24:00 -0400

I'm writing a system configuration manual for a new product and the
developers are telling me that it's too "wordy."

In place of my complete sentences, they are recommending *in*complete
sentences.

The target audience: system administrators, and maybe some programmers.

In giving the programmer's the benefit of the doubt I consulted my
resident linguist, who presented me with a compelling argument to take
the programmers' advice. His two most intriguing points:

* "you're dealing with people who are both impatient and informed"

* "a complete sentence is one that, in context, completes a thought"

"Impatient an informed" struck a serious chord with me, because that
immediately identified all of the programmer's I work with. They don't
want to read; they want bulleted lists and tables, and they get testy
when the information they want is burried in a ... complete sentence.

To convey the "complete sentence" idea, he held up two cups, one red and
one white, and asked me which cup I wanted. My response: "The red
one." Hardly a complete sentence, but in context it expressed the
complete thought: I want the red cup. He understood my response and
handed me the red cup.

I am leaning toward reworking a significant portion of the manual in
favor of incomplete sentences where appropriate/useful/necessary.

What would/do you do? Agree? Disagree? Thoughts? Comments?


--

kjr
jrussell -at- dataware -dot- com

K. John Russell Anagram of the year:
Dataware Technologies, Inc
5 Computer Drive South Information Superhighway
Albany, New York 12205 New utopia? Horrifying Sham!

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