Word choices (was Offensive language ...)

Subject: Word choices (was Offensive language ...)
From: Kris Olberg <kjolberg -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 1996 12:28:09 -0800

At 12:42 PM 11/19/96 -0600, Chris Hamilton wrote:
>I'm not saying that concerns of offending people are not without merit,
>but we seem to be in the business in these posts of saying that "all
>technical writers everywhere should always avoid these terms because
>they might offend someone". This is being done without any quanititative
>proof and in such a way that it's almost impossible to refute the claims
>of possible offense. The instances being discussed now seem to be, for
>the most part, reasonable, but the list is long and getting longer.
>Where do we stop it?

Chris, your post made me stop and think about word choices in general.
Choosing words is an fundamental thing for writers. What makes us choose one
word over another?

I'm going to go out on a limb and propose that lack of standard (or at least
common) terminology is one reason that technical documentation is sometimes
viewed in a bad light. How many times have you picked up two software
manuals, one that said, "The screen appears" and one that said, "The screen
is displayed." This is a benign example, but many small differences can add
up to a big difference.

How does our readership respond to differences in terminology? Do word
choices really affect how effectively we communicate?

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