Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"Commas are a sign of weakness"

I'm very nearly certain that some of my writers and some of our clients went to the same training ground as the O. Pine, who, in his breathtakingly stunning Tech Writer's Style Guide neatly sums up the prevailing linguistic wisdom in the field.

On bulleted lists
There is simply no way to include too many bulleted lists. Bulleted lists make everything clear, because it takes a complicated sentence with too many commas and turns it into a simple and precise enumeration of critical points. Use as many bulleted lists as possible, because the more often you use them, the more clear your document becomes.

On commas
Commas Commas are a sign of weakness. Good sentences are clear without the use of commas. Bad sentences use commas as a crutch to help readers limp along. Rewrite any sentence that requires the use of a comma. If all else fails just take the commas out of the sentence without changing anything else. Occasionally sprinkle a few commas into the document at random just to keep the English-major weenies happy.

Concerning "impact"
This is a wonderful word. Use it as much as possible! Any time you have an opportunity to explain that an action causes something to happen, be sure that it was an impact (you can use it as a verb, too, by explaining how an action impacted something).

It's all so much more clear now.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Dispatches from the Comma Mines, part 3

A textbook project that came in quite late, incomplete, on impossibly tight deadlines, and written by authors who didn't understand the publisher's requirements has been consuming my life and time. Rachel and I worked until close to midnight tonight, trying to meet tomorrow's impossible deadline. It's going to be quiet around TCI for the next little bit.

But, other people are writing interesting stuff, so I'll pass that along to you, with apologies that much of it is not precisely current:

Over at John Scalzi's Whatever, guest blogger Jim Winter takes on one of my favourite hobgoblins, and champions the singular they:

If you look at the history of the English language, it becomes clear that "they" used for gender non-specific singular is more than feasible. In fact, it's almost mandatory. Why? English has no gender-nonspecific singular pronoun except "it."

And we don't like calling people of indeterminate gender "it."

Hey, I'm with Jim. If it's good enough for Jane Austen, it's good enough for me.