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Good God, of course you can use apostrophes in technical writing, and as
with every other language tool at your disposal they should be used when
they'll help to make the sentence easier to read.
I hope you can get that !*&%!!@ editor off the case!
(sorry about reproducing the entire exchange, below, but I'm writing in Pine.)
On Tue, 16 Jul 1996, Tim Altom wrote:
> At 02:23 PM 7/16/96 +0200, you wrote:
> >My editor wants me to remove every apostrophe from my manual. This means
> >replacing not only all contractions (something I could deal with) but also
> >recasting any sentence that uses an apostrophe to form the possessive.
> >This involves a lot of work and will most likely make many sentences longer
> >and unnecessarily complex.
> >I'd like to be able to convince my boss that this change is unnecessary but
> >the editor has convinced her that technical writing standards forbid
> >apostrophes. Is this true? I learned the exact opposite in the technical
> >writing course I took. And I haven't pulled a manual off the shelf today
> >that didn't contain both contractions and possessives formed with
> >apostrophes. Any advice?
> >Michal Lastman
> >Technical Communications
> >E-mail: michal -at- aks -dot- com
> >Aladdin Knowledge Systems Ltd. Ph# +972 3 6362222
> >P.O.Box 11141 Tel-Aviv 61110 Israel Fax# +972 3 5375796
> >Visit Our WWW Home Page! http://www.aks.com
> My first reaction was to question the sanity and/or Daffy Duck education
> your editor has had, but there are esoteric reasons why you'd want to
> minimize or eliminate apostrophes. They just aren't terribly persuasive,
> IMHO. Also IMNSHO, the EDITOR convincing YOUR BOSS about something YOU
> SHOULD DO bespeaks a less than cordial working relationship, and a far less
> than ideal faith that you have in your editor. In my view, such a situation
> is untenable. Writers need to have faith in their editors, or bad, bad
> things happen.
> Like you, I consulted several sources, possibly a half-dozen in all before I
> gave up. They included the Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook,
> Technical Communication by Rebecca Burnett, Fowler, St. Martin's Handbook, a
> government printing office style guide, A Handbook for Scholars, and one of
> my favorites, The Technical Writer's Handbook by Matt Young. Most of them
> had some mention of apostrophes, but it was always in the accepted use and
> construction, not elimination.
> Now, I support the use of minimal numbers of apostrophes. All too often
> words with apostrophes are seen by foreign readers as different words, just
> as we English speakers go bonkers trying to keep straight how words change
> form in Spanish and German as the cases change. I'd recast "Move the
> keyboard's plug to the left" to "Move the plug on the keyboard to the left,"
> but that's just my own non-English suspicions talking. And you could argue
> that the word order change that such a shift makes necessary could
> disconcert a non-English reader just as badly, or worse, than a simple
> My own view to all this is...doesn't the editor have bigger fish to catch?
> It sounds like a peeve, not a real concern.
> Tim Altom
> Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
> 317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
> FrameMaker support ForeHelp support
> Makers of DuoFrame, giving you online help and paper
> documentation from a single parent FrameMaker document.
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