Re: (Zachary) taylor rants

Subject: Re: (Zachary) taylor rants
From: Steven Jong <SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 15:44:57 EST

I saw an autobiographical piece written by a young woman whom I thought tres
chic. She did, too, but she referred to herself as "sheik" [sic].

The word was not misspelled. It was not a grammatical error per se. It was a
usage error. Like many people, I think she knew what she wanted to say from
having *heard* the expression, not from having *read* it. No spelling checker
will catch this howler; nor will Word's grammar checker. (Perhaps she did run
a spell-checker, and the software may have told her how to spell "sheik"
correctly.) This is what happens when you get your education from TV and
movies... (I'm not putting anyone down--I can give Remington Steele a run for
his money 8^) In another forum, I have predicted that a generation from now,
when someone uses the expression "to trip up," kids will think it came from
that awful woman who taped her friend. (You heard it here first.)

The worst thing is that if she were to read her piece aloud, *no one would
know there was an error.* It only exists in print.

How to fix the problem of verbally fluent illiterates? The only remedy I can
suggest is to read, and do it with a dictionary handy. Rather than skip over
unfamilar words, look them up instead. Unfortunately, while I can give this
advice to my children, I can't get away with offering to to anyone else. I
don't know if they'd listen either, but at least they all read avidly...

[To remain on topic, I should point out that arch literary references in
technical documents will likely go over the heads of most readers such as my
chic friend. However, howlers like sheik/chic stop literate readers dead in
their tracks, as if they were running a race and tripped over a seam in the
track. Howlers shatter the reader's faith in the accuracy of your prose, and
slow them down almost as much as an uneven track might slow down a runner. The
value of human editors will remain high so long as grammar-checking software
fails to ketch such usage errors.]

[ Bring it on 8^) ]

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Team Manager ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc, 67 S. Bedford St., Burlington, MA 01803 USA
mailto:Jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com 781.359.4902[V], 781.359.4500[F]
Home Sweet Homepage:

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