software-eng-ese -Reply

Subject: software-eng-ese -Reply
From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- SMTPLINK -dot- DELTECPOWER -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 1996 09:04:13 -0700

Dear Sheila Brennan:

Re: Instatiate, Uniquify

Someone you work with is playing games with suffixes. To see what's
going on, take their words (instantiate, uniquify) to any good
dictionary and look for the meanings of the suffixes (-ate, -fy) and
then go from there, backtracking to the rest of the word if
necessary. There is nothing wrong with this, per se. Just because
it isn't in the dictionary doesn't mean it can't be a word.

On the other hand, you as the technical writer or editor should ask
the question: Will our reader-users understand this word? There are
people in this world, particularly the software world, who coin words
and fall in love with them and forget that they are troublesome for
others. A major part of your job should be to translate the
hard-to-comprehend words of your workplace into language the
user-on-the-street can readily understand. I hope your people accept
your changes quietly.

I doubt you would find words like instantiate and uniquify in any
legitimate software dictionary, but you could check. You local trade
or technical bookstore selling computer books should have a section
devoted to such works, and you should have one or two in your

Playing with the word unique is a different thing and a tangent of
its own. Those of us who like to choose our words carefully pick up
our ears when we hear someone use "unique." Very little in this
world is genuinely unique. Places to look for guidance on use of
this word include The Careful Writer by Bernstein, Modern American
Usage by Follett, Modern English Usage by Fowler.

Bill Sullivan
bsullivan -at- deltecpower -dot- com
San Diego, California

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