Overview of the Week’s Lessons
To continue our discussion on prose style, I have several webpages that you should review. Because this is new material for most of you, there won’t be anything new on Wednesday’s page (2/08). Remember, you should be practicing these lessons by writing/typing the examples.
- Efficiency, Accuracy, and Good
- Sentence Clarity
- Euphemisms aren’t always bad, but, if they mislead readers, they aren’t appropriate for technical communication.
- Jargon is similar: “jargon” is just professional slang, so members of the group will understand the abbreviations and neologisms that communicate ideas.
- Jargon isn’t wrong in the appropriate context
- Using jargon with technical audiences who understand it is acceptable, but using jargon with a lay audience can be unethical–more on that in a few weeks.
- Prose Revision Assignment—Due Wednesday, 2/15—next week
- You’ll turn this in on Canvas
Word Choice ‘Fun’
Is “Funner” a word?
How do we determine if something is a word or not? The reading (Tebeaux & Dragga Ch. 4) gives you some do’s and don’t’s for word choice (pp. 59-61), but why do some words work and others don’t?
Don’t ever let theory get in the way of real world contexts and your own common sense. Click below for the scanned dictionary entries:
Words scanned from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1999. p. 472 and p. 1194, respectively.
Normally, you hear syllabi for more than one syllabus. You also hear alumni instead of alumnuses. You may also hear colloquia as a plural of colloquium. However, you don’t hear autobi for autobus or spectra as the plural of spectrum. All the above words have Latin roots, but only some seem to retain the Latin plural suffixes of -i and -a. My explanation is that alumnus, syllabus, and colloquium are all entrenched words of academia. Common words like bus and spectrum–both have Latin roots–aren’t entrenched in academia (although physicists might use spectra frequently). The lesson here is that language separates those who a learned and those who aren’t. Traditionally, college students were well versed in Latin (and often ancient Greek), so it makes sense that academic words hold onto their Latinate suffixes; after all, going to college was (and still is) a marker of education, and one’s speech and writing reflected that. Although it’s important to learn the rules of Standard American English (SAE), it’s equally important to recognize that it is an agreed-upon convention of academia. It’s a standard–not some natural true or pure version of English. Many people still use dialect and non-SAE constructions as markers of education and, therefore, worth. This is having a critical view of style and literacy.
For an in-depth discussion on the “proper” usage of fun, check out World Wide Words or Grammar Girl’s Discussion. Remember, when it comes to word usage, it’s not who says it, it’s who hears it. You can be perfectly correct in your writing choices, but, if the audience is set on an old-school myth about grammar (not ending a sentence with a preposition, not splitting infinitives, not beginning a sentence with and, or, but, because…). I think it’s better to understand the rules, so you can break them strategically. Enroll in ENGL 4183 “Editing with Digital Technologies” if you want a broader understanding of style (Fall 2023).
For next week, read Ch. 5 & 10 in Tebeaux & Dragga and preview your Set of Instructions assignment (Due February 22nd).
Remember, your Prose Revision assignment (three paragraphs) is due on Wednesday (2/15) on Canvas.