Re: Using Contractions in Software Manuals

Subject: Re: Using Contractions in Software Manuals
From: Peter Martin <peterm -at- FOXBORO -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 14:49:12 +1000

At 13:16 11/05/99 -0400, Howard Peirce wrote:
>jgilger_it -at- NV -dot- DOE -dot- GOV wrote:
>> Contractions cause problems with internationalization and translations.
>Not so. We provide localized documents in about 8 languages, included
>Japanese, and Korean. Contractions are used consistently throughout.
>research and contact with our translators went into this decision, and
>exception the translators for both Western and Asian languages prefer to see
>contractions. They seemed a bit insulted that we thought they might have
>trouble with it.
>I'm no linguist, but some Western languages are inconcievable without
>contractions (imagine replacing every "zum" in a German text with "zu dem").
>English uses contractions like any other Western language, yet
>English-speaking people still cling to an artificial standard for writing.
>on't, I say.
>IMNSHO, the prohibition of contractions is just another example of phoney,
>19th-century latinate prescriptivism. If I had my way, they'd be considered
>part and parcel of speaking and writing English.

Yeaay! Of course they are ! And there's an end to't...! (W.S.)

Reason and perspective at last ! As far as I'm concerned,
I'd call the prescribers uppitty would-be language wowsers...

If the issue is, as it should be, comprehension first,
pomposity second, why should the language of

a) Shakespeare; and
b) world-wide television, film and radio etc.

be considered as "unsuitable" as English language commmunication ?

Just who are these Johnny-Come-Latelies ( Wills Of The Wisp ?)

1. Pause and consider where contractions come from: the idiomatic
spoken language.

2. Ask how any of us learn a language (excluding obvious cases
like the deaf etc..). Do you find many who learn to read before they
talk ?

3. Listen to non-native speakers talking in English ... in some cases, you'll
hear more contractions than amongst native speakers. [And some unusual
ones -- many of which will in time contribute to refinement of the language].

4. Listen to the "Accountants" and other prescribers talking, and
wonder why, if they can understand spoken words, they can't
understand them written. Do Accountants really avoid TV, or never
read Shakespear(e) ?

Which part of the sentences above, or more particularly, their contractions,
don't you understand ?

If you really want to confuse people, teach them one language as a spoken
language, and then turn around and tell them if it's written down, it
has a different grammar.

Peter Martin, Contract Tech. Writer peterm -at- foxboro -dot- com -dot- au
+61 2 9818 5094 (home) 0408 249 113 (mobile) peterm -at- zeta -dot- org -dot- au

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