Correct Wording for Examples - an ESL's opinion!

Subject: Correct Wording for Examples - an ESL's opinion!
From: "Peter Ring, PRC" <prc -at- PIP -dot- DKNET -dot- DK>
Date: Sat, 23 Nov 1996 14:28:36 +1

Gillian McGarvey wrote:

> Is it correct that we generally shouldn't use abbreviations like
> "e.g." and "i.e." in order to avoid giving the user any extraneaous
> terms that cause the reader to process more info than they must
> already?

and Stephen Victor answered:

> Some consider these abbreviations difficult for non-native
> speakers of English to understand. They might also be a problem for
> translators, who often are themselves not native speakers of
> English. Instead (so the story goes), we should use their full
> English equivalents ("for example" and "that is").

First: If you are writing for "weak readers", avoid abbreviations in
general, and make the sentences as SHORT as possible. Examples:
... xxx, e.g. yyy ... => ... xxx. Example: yyy ...
... xxx, i.e. yyy ... => ... xxx. That is yyy ...

The weak readers are order of magnitude 30-50% of the population even
in countries with a good school system. "Ordinary consumers" should
always be considered "weak readers". The tabloid newspapers are good
examples of what's permissible here, but an order of magnitude 15-20%
of the adult population can't even read the tabloids!

Second: I am a non-native speaker of English, and I do a lot of
translations. I also sometimes have to translate from languages I am
less familiar with (e.g. French or Italian), mainly because it is
the original language of the document I am translating, and the
English or German text I am translating from is inadequate
(ambiguous, looks wrong, ...). So I know the problems!

My attitude is, that if a translator ...

1. DON'T KNOW the most common abbreviations of the language (s)he is
translating from like i.e. and e.g.
2. DON'T HAVE a dictionary where it can be looked up,

... (s)he should not at all to do the translation! Am I wrong?

I have checked a number of English-[other language] dictionaries, and
only a .7"x3"x4" Turkish-English/English-Turkish traveller's pocket
dictionary didn't have them. (But of course I haven't checked all
dictionaries in the world!)

Conclusion: For weak readers, avoid abbreviations not used in the
normal language of tabloid press (I'm not talking about the naughty
pages!). And use very short - preferably 1-2 chunck - sentences! For
the translators it doesn't matter!

Greetings from Denmark

Peter Ring
PRC (Peter Ring Consultants)
- specialists in user friendly manuals and audits on manuals.
prc -at- pip -dot- dknet -dot- dk
- the "User Friendly Manuals" website with links, bibliography, list

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