Re: general topic of spelling

Subject: Re: general topic of spelling
From: "West, Michael" <Michael -dot- West -at- gsjbw -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2005 16:57:39 -0600

> What your thoughts on the general topic of spelling difficulties in
> written English and the preparing of technical documents?

There is very little to discuss
with respect to spelling mistakes.
Technical documents should not contain
spelling errors, any more than any
other document we inflict upon the
public should contain spelling errors.

Most automated spelling checkers will
perform adequately, but they are not
psychic, so you have to know whether
"affect" or "effect","averse" or
"adverse", "appraise" or "apprise",
"e.g." or "i.e.", is the right choice
to convey your meaning. It is the
business of writers -- technical or
otherwise -- to know such things.
These are not "spelling" issues;
they are literacy issues.

Grammar checkers are helpful if you
know how to use them. Most people
do not. A writer should. All they can
do is recognize structures that
frequently create confusion or
ambiguity or verbosity and give you
a warning about them. They cannot do
your thinking for you or serve as a
substitute for a thorough understanding
of the elements of good style.

A related area that does offer some
room for discussion is that of
regional versions of English ("centre"
versus "center", for example). Here
you are not dealing with "error" but
rather with marketing issues and
regionalization problems.

Another related issue that can be
discussed and debated ad infinitum is
English usage. Which is to be preferred:
"none is" or "none are"? But there is a
significant difference between usage
issues and spelling mistakes. Never
equate the two. One is the result of
sloppy editing, while the other is a
natural result of the growth and spread
of language.

Michael West


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