Has the Web advanced the written word? -Reply -Mnemonics

Subject: Has the Web advanced the written word? -Reply -Mnemonics
From: Peter Collins <peter -dot- collins -at- BIGFOOT -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 09:23:38 +1000

Anything that improves communication ought be favoured by the
contributors to and readers of this forum.

To the extent that faster response is an improvement, poor spelling
may be forgiven in the interests of immediacy.

The use of unexplained mnemonics, however, always carries the risk of
leaving some readers permanently behind, and thus reduces
communication. Indeed, if an understanding of even one mnemonic is
crucial to the meaning of the text, you can be sure that its
unsupported use will leave some readers with no idea at all what you
have written about. What a waste. Don't do it.

In the last few weeks this forum has seen its own contributors arguing
about what SME means. Doesn't that tell us something? It tells me that
from now on I'll use my practiced ability at the keyboard to write
subject matter expert or society of mechanical engineers every time
the related noun phrase comes up. Then my readers won't get confused,
as they would if I had to write about the case of the SME from the SME
(though, yes, in this example I admit that the sentence structure
would tell you which was which - BUT ONLY IF YOU ALREADY KNEW BOTH

I have been using the net for some years, and each time I hit a new
buzz-phrase I have to ask what it means. The latest was LOL (lots of
laughter). I didn't feel a fool for asking - but I do feel a fool if I
use such a buzz-phrase and then have to explain it. It could so easily
have been written - "Hey, FUN!" or anything else like that, which more
readers would be sure of understanding.

In my humble view the use of an unexplained mnemonic is acceptable
ONLY between individuals who by mutual agreement adopt it privately
and not at all for any public-domain text, especially to a large and
growing international audience. With one exception - if it would be in
the vocabulary of a bright twelve year-old in any foreign country of
your choice, who has learnt English as a second language. I expect
that "OK" and "USA" might pass that test, but I doubt that SME and STC
would do so.

By the way, I have NO IDEA what STC means, and YES, I know there is an
incomprehensible convention that the use of capital letters on the web
is rude. Sorry, but many readers have email that does not support
underline, bold or italics, and I want ALL of MY readers to understand
what I write - right down to where the accentuation lies.

Peter Collins, VIVID Management Pty Ltd,
26 Bradleys Head Road, MOSMAN 2088, Australia
+61 2 9968 3308, fax +61 2 9968 3026, mobile +61 (0)18 419 571
Management Consultants and Technical Writers
email: peter -dot- collins -at- bigfoot -dot- com ICQ#: 10981283
web pages: http://www.angelfire.com/pe/pcollins/

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