Re: forbidden to apostrophize

Subject: Re: forbidden to apostrophize
From: Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 09:07:00 -0600

>I'd like to be able to convince my boss that this change is unnecessary
>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?

My first reaction was a direct quote from my favorite hamster, Penfold:
"Oooh, ick!"

After recovering enough to be coherent, I'll chime in with similar advice
to what you've already heard:

First, request a source for this. Do this gently, as there's a lot of
politics and ego involved here. I'd take a copy of an authoritative style
guide with me to my boss, and show her where it talks about the proper use
of apostrophes. A discussion of their proper use implies it is proper to
use them. I'd point out that the complete elimination of apostrophes is an
accepted dogma of formal scholastic writing, but (bringing manuals from
commercial products as evidence) that the trend in professional tech
writing is away from such dry, formal writing. Explain the readability
issues. Tell her you're concerned about the direction this editor has
chosen to take the company's docs in bucking this particular professional
trend, and that you're also concerned that the editor felt a stylistic
point such as this needed to be made with her, and not with you. (Assuming
that this discussion didn't in fact start between you and then escalate
upwards after you disputed it.)

Keep calm and keep cool. Your concern is not that the editor is requesting
a change to your deathless prose, but that you think this particular change
is bad for the company, and you're attempting to show the reasons why.
Doing this can help shift the focus point away from personalities to the
decision at hand. If successful, you're at least going to see what
"standards" the editor is choosing to live by.

If the decision goes against you, I'd recommend two things. If your company
allows you to sign your work in any way, re-evaluate whether you want to
put your name to it (depends upon how drastic the changes are). And update
the old resume. A writer and editor have to trust one another. The editor
obviously doesn't trust you. Taking the decision to your boss first fairly
shouts that. And you obviously have problems with the editor. To quote from
_Man of LaMancha_, "Whether the pitcher hits the stone, or the stone hits
the pitcher, it's going to be bad for the pitcher."

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.

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