Re: Correct Wording for Examples

Subject: Re: Correct Wording for Examples
From: Jerry Kindall <kindall -at- MANUAL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 03:45:29 -0500

Stan Radomski <radomski -at- PUBS16 -dot- SI -dot- COM> wrote:

>I understand, to a degree, the idea behind avoiding i.e. and e.g., but if I
>use that same logic on other abbreviations I would have to stop using:

> et al
> et seq
> AD
> AM
> PM
> etc

>Granted some of them are not as common, unless you work with bibligraphies
>or law, but avoiding abbreviations simply because they are Latin in orgin
>would also remove some very common ones.

It's not a matter of avoiding Latin phrases or abbreviations, but of
avoiding infrequently-used or obscure words, phrases, and abbreviations.
I would avoid using "i.e." and "e.g." for the same reason I would avoid
using the word "obfuscation." There is no reason to make things any more
complicated than they need to be. While the abbreviations are shorter
than the equivalent English phrases, shorter does not mean simpler.

In your list above, I would probably avoid using "et al" and "et seq."
However, the rest are probably familiar to the majority of native English
speakers. My rule of thumb: if you can use the word in conversation
without sounding snotty, you can probably get away with it in your
writing.

>Is that the direction we really want to head?

In other words, do we really want to simplify our writing as much as
possible? Yes!

>If I was writing a _____ for Dummies book I would need to question whether my
>audience had much exposure to i.e. and e.g. but I can't imagine that the
>average reader would doen't understand the basic usage.

Unfortunately, you are not only writing for the average reader. Remember
that half the readers of your piece will be below-average. ;)

Do you want your piece to be understood by the widest audience possible?
If so, use everyday language.

That said, I must admit that I was amazed when I first came across the
notion that one shouldn't use "e.g." and "i.e." I figured those out from
context when I was about ten, and it never occurred to me that everybody
didn't know what they meant. It also never occurred to me that people
wouldn't look up an unfamiliar word in a dictionary!

I imagine most of the people who write for a living are somewhat better
read and more literate than the general populace. We're not writing for
other writers, though, but for everyone.


--
Jerry Kindall <kindall -at- manual -dot- com>
Manual Labor <http://www.manual.com/>

Technical Writing; Internet & WWW Consulting


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