Re: Ebonics

Subject: Re: Ebonics
From: "Ekstedt, Peter (GP)" <EKSTEDTP -at- ANZ -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 23 May 1997 19:21:00 +1000

>Someone asked if using Ebonics on-list is a problem.

I presume that by "on-list" you mean "when posting messages to this
mailing list". (I'm not criticizing your expression - I just missed the
start of this discussion.)

>I think it is if the words used (in this case dissing
>[or dis'sing]) are not readily understood by the reader.
>This has nothing to do with the validity of Ebonics as a
>language or dialect or the value of teaching it. It is
>simply a matter of making one's self understood.

Dialect-specific terminology will always create problems for readers of
technical documentation. I'm not convinced, however, that it's a
problem on this mailing list.

It's crucial for all of us (technical writers, that is) to develop a
broad knowledge of the dialects which exist in our reader communities.
If we try to avoid all dialect-specific terminology in this forum, we
deny ourselves a valuable professional development opportunity.

I applaud your intention, which is to promote communicative
effectiveness, but homogeneity is not necessarily the best way to
achieve this _when writing for this (global) audience_.

I'm not suggesting that we begin a competition to see who can write the
most obscure email. I'm just suggesting that we each take responsibility
for explaining the dialect-specific terms we use in our posts.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. In many dialects of North
American English there is a verb "to root for", which roughly means "to
provide enthusiastic support for". In my dialect (Australian English)
there is no such expression. There is, however, a common verb "to root"
which means "to have sexual intercourse".

Many years ago, a breathless American told me that she'd spent the
previous weekend "rooting for my favorite football team". It caused a
(rather funny) cross-dialect communication problem.

After a very strange conversation, I came to understand what an American
means when she/he uses the verb "to root for". I'm glad I know. It makes
me a better communicator.

I suggest that the occasional inclusion of dialect-specific terminology
will make this list more valuable to all of us, provided that we each
accept the responsibility of explaining ourselves in more generic terms
after we have used these expressions.

Peter Ekstedt
ekstedtp -at- anz -dot- com

TECHWR-L (Technical Communication) List Information: To send a message
to 2500+ readers, e-mail to TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU -dot- Send commands
Search the archives at or search and
browse the archives at

Previous by Author: Help. I can't quit.
Next by Author: Re: Where does an "Information Manager" fit?
Previous by Thread: RoboHELP in a multi-user environment
Next by Thread: listserv tip - seeing poster details

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads