atw: Re: Youse

  • From: "Geoffrey Marnell" <geoffrey@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 3 Feb 2010 18:59:25 +1100

Oh crikey, Terry, how to make you understand.

You wrote:

"I get the feeling that you and Michael feel that you can write whatever you
like, without the need to conform to standards or styles, as long as it gets
your point across. I cannot. I believe most technical writers can't. In how
many documents for clients or consumers have you used youse?"

You simply have not grasped this thread (or kept up with it). If the purpose
of writing is to communicate and if unfamiliar or unconventional language is
likely to distract our readers, then I don't use it. I don't use "youse" in
technical writing ... now. But if it is conventional in 50 or 100 years
time, I would use it. It will no longer be distracting. I don't write just
anything at all. I write with respect for my reader. If I thought I could
get my point across but used unconventional language, I'd be a fool.
Anything that distracts a reader is a potential communication risk. My
readers may give up on me. And, as this thread has strongly attested,
"youse" would be distracting. Now. Get it now?

Here is my golden rule. I write to:

* get my message across
* get my message across with the least effort on my readers' part and
* get my message across with the least distraction on my readers' part

There is no anarchy in this. I don't write whatever I like. I have said many
times in this thread that we need shared understanding, and hence shared
conventions, if we are to communicate. But unlike you, I don't treat these
conventions as if they are right or wrong, correct or incorrect. Do yourself
a favour and study the history of English. You might find that your
cherished "standards" are no more absolute than the cherished standards that
were abandoned in the 19th century, the 18th century, the 17th century etc.
ad nauseam. Language is, and always has, changed. Your great-grand-children
will be laughing at you if they get their hands on this thread. You will
sound as silly as John Dryden sounds to us now (Dryden being the fool who
decreed that we shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition).

Finally, on the issue of respect for your reader: if you expect your readers
to look up words you use that are no longer conventional, you are really not
showing them much respect at all.

Geoffrey Marnell
Principal Consultant
Abelard Consulting Pty Ltd
T: +61 3 9596 3456
F: +61 3 9596 3625
Skype: geoffrey.marnell

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