Re: Typ o sin Rsms

Subject: Re: Typ o sin Rsms
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 1997 16:58:25 PST

Stephen P. Victor writes:

>Yes, we've grasped your opinion already. The difficulty is that several
>of us believe that such "superficialities" as grammar and spelling are
>indeed the heart of the matter. They are the most basic tools of the
>writer's trade, and quite frankly I'm surprised to see someone who calls
>himself a writer denigrating their importance so vigorously.

I'm surprised that someone who calls himself a writer would consider
grammar to be within the scope of "typos."

Don't misunderstand me -- I think that documents should be error-free.
It's just that, as a manager, I prefer effective methods of controlling
errors to ineffective ones.

While I am confident that a person can proof his resume into typographical
perfection by the usual self-proofing methods (letting it sit on the shelf
for several days in order to see it with new eyes, reading it backwards,
going over it six times, etc.), these methods are far too slow to be
of any significance in a commercial setting. It's faster, more effective,
and cheaper to hand the document to someone to someone else to proof.
When reading the document for the first time, they see it in a way that
the author cannot. If I still had my college psychology textbook, I'd
refer you to the section on overfamiliarity to show you why this is so.

As a manager, it's of no interest to me that someone can achieve perfection
through means that can't be used on the job.

Proofreading is not a basic writing skill. It's a specialized skill that
works best on cold copy. I know a printer who believes that the best
proofreaders don't even speak the language being proofed, because they
can avoid being swept up by the content.

Even spelling is not a basic writing skill. There are good writers who
can't spell consistently (Shakespeare leaps immediately to mind). In
fact, rigid spelling rules are a relatively new invention. Much of the
world's great literature predates this newfangled concept. Composition
is the central skill -- word choice and (to a lesser extent) punctuation --
with spelling being distinctly secondary. Heck, in many languages it's
not even an issue, since the spelling rules are so straightforward that
there's little chance to screw up.

You should get the spelling right, of course, but a secondary skill is a
secondary skill. It's hard enough finding people who can actually write
things that the issue of whether they run the spelling checker or you do
is not a make-or-break issue. With even the most rudimentary production
standards in place, the readers will never know the difference.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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