Unprofessional possessive?

Subject: Unprofessional possessive?
From: "Geoff Hart" <geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 08:52:08 -0500

There's nothing whatsoever that's unprofessional about using
possessives... nothing. The main (and perhaps only) caveats to
that statement are that (i) the style must be appropriate for your
audience, and (ii) the meaning must be clear and unequivocal. In
fact, that's pretty much the touchstone for assessing any rule
concerning word usage and style in relation to technical
communication. Anyone who makes such a rule without subjecting
it to those two tests isn't thinking things through.

As for contractions of any sort posing difficulties for translators,
that's an outright myth. Any translator who can't handle common
contractions should be fired on the spot. I make an exception for
misleading contractions, in which the contraction has two possible
meanings and isn't clear even to an English reader: for example,
"how's it going?" could (taken completely out of context) be short
for "how is" or "how was". I've encountered better examples, but
they're not coming to mind right now. Where contractions _do_
pose a problem is for readers whose native tongue isn't English,
and who aren't yet good enough at reading the second language to
be good at translating it into their birth language so they can
understand what it means. (Once you're fluent in a language, that
translation becomes automatic... which is why native English
readers have little or no difficulty understanding contractions.) This
"readers translate your words into their own internal language"
process is almost certainly the source of the myth that translators
can't handle contractions.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca (Pointe-Claire, Quebec)
"If you can't explain it to an 8-year-old, you don't understand it"--Albert Einstein

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