Dumbing Down (Was: Using Contractions in Software Manuals)

Subject: Dumbing Down (Was: Using Contractions in Software Manuals)
From: Scott Browne <sbrowne -at- UNICOMP -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 11 May 1999 13:07:46 -0500

Shelley wrote:

> I have a rather difficult time with contractions for publication. To me, it
> is dumbing down - bringing language to the lowest common denominator.
<snip>
> By lowering our standards to include contractions in manuals and the like,
> we are not only permitting but promoting the "dumbing of America".

Ummm, I thought that was part of our job: writing to the lowest common
denominator OF THE AUDIENCE.

Isn't that part of knowing your audience and writing to them?

I can write a manual about C++ programming libraries and speak on a much
higher technical level to that audience (programmers) than I could if I
were writing a manual about how to play Windows Solitaire. Sure, some
programmers would be playing solitaire, but also some people who don't do
much of anything else with their computers. I would have to evaluate the
average users in that audience and write to the lowest common denominator,
or "dumb it down".

I'm not speaking for or against contractions, I'm just saying that
bringing language down to a level our audience can understand is what we
are supposed to be doing.


Scott
sbrowne -at- unicomp -dot- net


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