Re: forbidden to apostrophize

Subject: Re: forbidden to apostrophize
From: James Owens <ad354 -at- FREENET -dot- CARLETON -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 12:24:11 GMT

Michal Lastman (michall -at- aks -dot- com) writes:

> The only other technical writer at my office has joined sides with the
> editor who bans apostrophes.

There has to be politics involved here. I can't believe there are two
technical writers on the planet, much less two in the same organization,
who think every apostrophe should be purged. (I can believe there are
people who _think_ they are writers and want to wipe out the apostrophe.)
Contractions are often a sign of informal writing, but if they are a sign
of sloppy writing, then every writer I have ever read is sloppy!

There are philosophy departments that might entertain the thesis that an
object cannot "possess" anything, but this is a metaphysical question.
Loosely speaking an object may "possess" mass, colour, texture, and other
properties, not to mention handles, wheels, and other components. Does he
mean they can't buy or sell anything?

As for banning personal possessives for "clarity and consistency", if he
wants to be clear and consistent, he should follow commonly accepted
practice instead of forcing bizarre rules on his writing.

> He referred me to the "Chicago Manual of Style" in which I have yet to
find > such a rule but have instead found several examples that contradict

Open any technical manual in your office. You have so many
counter-examples at your fingertips that the onus is on them, not merely
to name a big important book, but actually to find the passage that proves
their point. Don't worry, they won't.

Here's some ammunition. The Canadian Deprtment of National Defence
_Preparation of Technical Manuscripts By Contractors_ says:

The apostrophe is used to:

a. indicate the omission of letters, eg, cap'n for captain;
b. indicate the possessive of nouns, eg, the mechanic's tools; and
c. indicate the plural of letters, numbers and symbols, eg, three t's.

The American military must have a similar document with a similar
paragraph. I know that MIL-STD-499A(USAF) says, Section 4 (GENERAL

"The contractor's engineering management shall conform to the
following general criteria."

MIL-STD-1472C, _Ambient Lighting and Color-coding
Exclusion_ says:

"Color-coding shall not be used as a primary identification medium
if the spectral characteristics of ambient light during the
mission, or the operator's adaptation to that light. . . "

Surely if it's good enough for the Army it's good enough for your boss? Or
is the US military too sloppy for him?

James Owens ad354 -at- Freenet -dot- carleton -dot- ca
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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