judgement (was FW: Double Time -Reply) -Reply

Subject: judgement (was FW: Double Time -Reply) -Reply
From: Melissa Lowery <MLOWERY -at- GWM -dot- SC -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 11:49:25 -0400

The "judgement" vs. "judgment" debate is an example of how knowing your user (reader) and
your context is often the most important bit of information a tech writer can possess. I failed to
explain in my post that the Magistrate's Court System that I was documenting produces legal
documents such as Writs of Judgment, etc. According to SC state law (where the system is
used), the word "judgment" must be spelled exactly that way to make the documents legal.

The programmers were so involved in making the information processing and information
storage portions of the system function correctly that they didn't take the time (or want to,
perhaps) to ensure that the screen text and system reports were spelled correctly. Though
"judgement" might not cause problems in many computer systems, a misspelling such as this
could have had real legal ramifications for the county governments using the system. There could
have been cases overturned, judgments thrown out, etc. because the legal documents contained
a simple spelling error. (Don't think it could happen, ask a lawyer...anything to get a client off WILL
be tried by someone!)

Anyway, my point is that my nitpicking about spelling was important in this case. That is why I
chose to compare a misspelled word on a report or screen with a misspelled command line in a
program being compiled. Both might not cause trouble in most situations, but can cause
catastrophic problems in others. (See the recent discussions here regarding the inadvertant
dropping of the word "not" from an instruction -- might not matter in most cases....but then again,
I would hate to mistake "Do swallow the radioactive substance" with "Do not ...") The lesson:
always use good "judgment" when seeking out spelling errors! ;-)

Melissa Lowery
mlowery -at- gwm -dot- sc -dot- edu

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