atw: Re: Dinosaurs and punctuation

  • From: "Christine Kent" <cmkentau@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2011 12:37:38 +1000

Frankly, I don't care about rules.  My concern is with loss of
understanding. If the language is changing, that is fine by me, but if it is
deteriorating, that is not fine at all.


To me Americanisms are absolutely OK if we all understand them, which we do
with the examples given by Rebecca.  But alternate and alternative do not
mean the same thing, and a poorly punctuated sentence of any dialect can be
obscure in meaning. If we are losing any sense of punctuation, when we speak
and/or write, then just about every sentence will be open to interpretation.
Complex thought will be impossible to follow if we are struggling to work
out something basic like what is the subject and what is the object.


Also if we are losing time sequencing in what we write (ie cut the red wire
after you cut the black wire), then planes (aircraft, airplanes, aeroplanes)
will start dropping out of the sky once the old guard is no longer writing
the manuals and performing the maintenance.  Can't you just see a new
generation of aircraft engineers shrugging their shoulders, chewing gum and
saying "whatever" when told the sequence in which they must do something. I
recently tried to do a quick adaptation of some Microsoft help materials for
a course I was conducting, only to find that I had to do a total re-write
because they failed to provide context for why you were performing the
actions, sentences were often back to front (ie do A, B and C if you want to
do XYZ), and some steps were missing. If Microsoft can't find and pay for
good technical writers, who can? My fear is that the world no longer knows
what a good technical writer is.


Changing word meanings is also a problem.  I recently had a conversation
with a "tea party" style American, who tried to educate me on the meaning of
the words republican and democrat.  She sent me some material suitable for a
3 year old, and when I suggested that the meanings of the words in general
usage was different to the apparent meaning attributed to the American
political parties, she told me that Americans were numerically dominant
amongst English speakers and so their definitions of those words are the
correct ones. When I told her that having two different definitions of each
of the words would result in poor communication, she again told me that the
rest of us had to learn their definitions and that was just that. So, in the
spirit of a truly pathological communicator, I pointed out that even with
her definitions the words were not opposites or mutually exclusive and that
a Republican could be a democrat and a Democrat could be a republican.  She
unfriended me (yes the conversation was on Facebook). 





From: austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Rebecca Caldwell
Sent: Thursday, 7 April 2011 11:42 AM
To: tech writers group
Subject: atw: Re: Dinosaurs and punctuation


I was recently told that I use 'Americanisms' when I talk, however I learned
to talk from my Scottish parents and they from their Scottish parents. In my
household it has always been "bathroom" and never "toilet" or "lavatory".
And I frequently say the whole word "refrigerator" and not "fridge" which
is, apparently also an Americanism.
I guess (there it is again!) that I must have learned certain synonyms while
learning to read/write for the television, and my brain has written over
whatever had been there previously.


Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2011 08:54:51 +1200
From: dave.reynolds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
To: austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: atw: Re: Dinosaurs and punctuation

I still use that technique.  When I'm writing some new stuff in a manual, I
often imagine I'm explaining the product to another person.  Effectively,
I'm reading the text 'aloud' in my head.  That way I work out where the
natural pauses are.

I think I am turning into a dinosaur.  I hear American pronunciation and
emphasis creeping into our local TV and radio, and it irks me!



Christine Kent wrote, on 6/04/2011 7:58 p.m.: 

I have just made another observation regarding the problem of whether "our
grammar" is defunct.


I was listening to a very young newsreader and finding her uncomfortable to
listen to and difficult to understand, so I paid attention. Something was
"wrong" with the "rhythm" of what she was saying.  It is something I have
wondered about with younger people - why I can find some of them really
difficult to follow, but I have never really paid attention before now.


I had a teacher in year 12 who, instead of teaching us grammar, told us to
put commas where we wanted the reader to take a short breath and a full stop
where we wanted them to take a longer breath.  In effect our punctuation
told the reader when to breathe.  It's an excellent system, even if it is
technically incorrect at times.


This newsreader was putting all her pauses in the wrong place.  She would
run-on at the end of sentences with no pause at all, and put short or long
pauses in the middle of clauses.


I  struggled to follow what she was saying.  Did she follow it herself?  Was
she reading for meaning or just reading words? Is there some internal logic
comprehended by other young people? Or does no-one care anymore whether
we/they understand what is said or not?


Someone must be researching this.




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