Re: Correct wording for examples

Subject: Re: Correct wording for examples
From: byfield -at- DIRECT -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 11:01:21 -0800

This topic is getting old fast. Still, I can't help leaping in.

The main reason I don't use "i.e.," "e.g." and "etc." is that
they seem too vague for finished work (especially the last two).
When I use these abbreviations in drafts, usually I'm indicating
an idea that I haven't fully fleshed out. I might use "i.e." to
indicate that I need to explain more, giving a brief description
of how I might develop the topic. Or I might use "e.g." to give
an example that I'll use in a later revision, or "etc." to show
that I need to go back and think more about what I mean. In such
cases, these abbreviations are very useful.

However, in finished work, I eliminate all of them for two reasons.
First, they encourage imprecise or uncompleted thoughts (at least
they do in me). For example, if I use "e.g." to give an example,
I'm apt not to explain how the example relates to the topic. Or,
if I use "etc." I'm really leaving readers to complete the thought
I should have finished, and not doing my job.

Second, these abbreviations are minor disruptions in continuity, both
because they're abbreviations and because they're Latin. I think that
most readers, even many who know what they mean, do a quick translation
in their heads when they come across these abbreviations. The translation
only takes a fraction of a second, but it can distract them from the
sense of the passage. This distraction isn't a good idea in any kind of
writing, but in documentation it's even less desirable than usual. The
English equivalents communicate much more directly, and the original
Latin has no nuances (so fas as I'm aware) that the English equivalents
don't.

----------------------------------------------------------
Bruce Byfield (byfield -at- direct -dot- ca)
Burnaby, BC, Canada
(604) 421-7189


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