Re: Proposal Writing for Large Corporations

Subject: Re: Proposal Writing for Large Corporations
From: Peter Brown <pbrown -at- MKS -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 15:30:50 -0400

Steven Jong wrote:
> Avi Jacobson <avi_jaco -at- NETVISION -dot- NET -dot- IL> wrote of the "English Teacher
> Syndrome," in which engineers who spoke English as a second language refused
> to accept correction of their (obvious) grammatical errors. It seems to me
> that there's a strong psychological urge at work here; I just don't know what
> it is.
> Based on my own and others' reaction to editing, I think it's safe to say
> it's not pleasant even for native English speakers to be told their work is
> grammatically flawed. If I may generalize, I'm guessing that these people
> would feel insecure about their grasp of English, and wouldn't want to be
> corrected (thus rubbing their noses in their mistakes). You'd think they
> would welcome the chance to have their mistakes caught and fixed before the
> documents went public, but there you are. I would predict that the absolute
> worst thing you could say to them would be the otherwise logical statement,
> "You don't want this to get out and show everyone you can't write in
> English." (Ouch!)
> We might extend this theory to non-writers in general. Perhaps the root
> motivation of people who argue grammar with writers is insecurity (assuming
> the writers are right in the first place, of course!).
> -- Steve

The issue here is one of professional status. Almost all (to risk vast
generalizations) programmers will defer, on issues with which they are
not the specialist, to another programmer because they recognize that
person as a peer. They will not necessarily afford a writer that same
status. The trick is explaining to some programmers that the reason you
are a writer is that you have expertise, and that this means that they
ought to defer to you in cases where grammar and spelling are the issue.

"Opinions? I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention."
Peter Brown, Technical Writer (pbrown -at- mks -dot- com)
Mortice Kern Systems Inc. (

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