Re: USAGE: "Therefore" and "thus"

Subject: Re: USAGE: "Therefore" and "thus"
From: John Kohl <sasjqk -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 18:12:41 GMT

In article <8525653D -dot- 005E0C54 -dot- 00 -at- web_srv -dot- coreco -dot- com>, Emru Townsend
<emru -at- CORECO -dot- COM> writes:
|> I'm running into a stylistic problem here. Most of the documentation I've
|> worked on in the last year are revised versions of the stuff that's been
|> floating around here for months or years before I started working here.
|> Often, they were originally created by engineers, programmers, or the guys
|> in tech support. In some cases, English is the second (or third!) language
|> of the original author.
|> Depending on the amount of time I have, I give each document a linguistic
|> overhaul. In some cases, it has to be done in successive layers, as I
|> gradually impose my style and structure on the documentation. What fun!
|> Anyway, my question: in many of the documents, I see gleeful overuse of
|> "therefore" and "thus." Nine times out of ten, I find this grating on my
|> ear when I mentally "listen" to the document. I'm currently looking for
|> ways around these terms, but most of the time, I'm stumped. The words
|> accurately convey the intended meaning, but they just seem wrong.
|> Is it just me? Or is there a better way of doing this that hasn't occured
|> to me as yet?

I think you should thank your lucky stars that those "logical
connectors" are there, especially considering that some of the authors
are not native speakers of English. (I taught writing to foreign
college students for a couple of years, and one of the biggest problems
I saw was that they didn't use enough logical connectors or other
devices to show the logical relationships among their sentences/ideas.)

If you understand the subject matter, then maybe the logical connectors
seem superfluous to you. But if the documentation is being translated,
you need to consider that translators are not going to understand the
logical relationships as you do. And they NEED to understand those
relationships in order to produce coherent translations. Other readers
who are not SMEs will likewise be baffled by documentation that contains
too few logical connectors.

For variety, use the other logical connectors (or other solutions) that
others have suggested EXCEPT

o don't use "as" or "since" when you could use "because"
o don't use "while" when you could use "whereas."

That is, follow the principle of not using a word that has multiple
meanings when you could use a word that has only a single meaning. (Or,
in some cases, maybe your not-so-good word has a dozen meanings, whereas
the better word has only two or three meanings.)

I even carry it a step further and say, for example,

o don't use "so" when you mean "so that"
o don't use "if" when you could use "whether"
o don't use "with" when you could use "that have/that has"

because "so," "if," and "with" are less precise than the alternatives.
(A Japanese colleague told me that "with" is the most problematic word
in the English language when it comes to translation because it is used
so frequently and has so many different meanings.)

But this is getting a bit off-topic, so I'll shut up now!


John Kohl

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