Re: What would you do?

Subject: Re: What would you do?
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 1996 10:50:05 -0700

At 09:17 AM 7/30/96 -0500, Ruth Glaser wrote:
>Sue wondered if her standards for quality writing were too high. Before I
>answer that, I have a few questions. (Please no flaming - my ignorance may
>show here.)

>1. In the sentence "Contacts are a subset of a prospect," is it the use
>of "subset" as jargon that bothers you? Having worked with Contact
>Management software, I can see an appropriate use for this construction.

Mostly, I react unfavorably to the bizzar mix of singular and plural.
The sentence is awkward, even if it is accurate. Recasting the sentence
to all singular or all plural would help a lot. -- A contact is a
subset of a prospect. -- Contacts are subsets of prospects. --
Anything like that would be better.

>2. My reference material (Hodges' Habrace College Handbook) has the
>following rule:
> Do not use commas to set off restrictive (necessary) clauses,
> restrictive phrases, and restrictive appositives.
> Note: Although some writers prefer to use "that" at the
> beginning of restrictive clauses, "which" is also acceptable.

Yes, and most tech writers agree that using "that" for restrictive
clauses and "which" for non-restrictive eliminates any ambiguity.
However, I did say that this is one of the more forgivable errors.

I use the Chicago Manual of Style myself. Para 5.42 states:

"A distinction has traditionally been made between the
relative pronouns _which_ and _that_, the latter having
long been regarded as introducing a restrictive clause,
and the former, a nonrestrictive one. Although the
distinction is often disregarded in contemporary writing,
the careful writer and editor should bear in mind that such
indifference may result in misreading or uncertainty, as in
the sentence below: (examples omitted)"

>I do not use a comma before a restrictive clause introduced by "which".
>Is this incorrect?

Correct, allowable, and open to misinterpretation.

Thanks for your comments, Ruth. I hope I've made my objectsions a
little clearer now.

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com
-- The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate.

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