RE: Unprofessional possessive

Subject: RE: Unprofessional possessive
From: "McClare, Scott" <smcclare -at- neptec -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 12:18:01 -0500

Halter, Meg [mailto:HalterMC -at- navair -dot- navy -dot- mil] asked:

> A question has come up concerning the use of the possessive in technical
> reports. The author maintains that it's unprofessional to use the
> possessive. So instead of writing "the pilot's head" we should write "the
> pilot head". The second sounds like pidgin to me. (Me take
> pilot head and bash with rock.)
> Me hope for you comments.

This nonsense. 8-)

There's nothing wrong with the possessive in technical writing. It
indicates ownership or other similar close relationships; that's what it's
for. Your author has turned the noun "pilot" into an adjective and
therefore changed the relationship between the pilot and the head. It's
like the difference between "the blue sky," which describes the sky as blue,
and "the blue's sky," which means nothing.

It might be argued that it's preferable to use "the head of the pilot"
rather than "the pilot's head," but that's just a change in wording, not a
change in case.

Take care,

Scott A. McClare - Technical Writer
Neptec Design Group Ltd., Kanata, Ontario, Canada
(613) 599-7603 x504
smcclare -at- neptec -dot- com

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