Tag Archives: spelling

Less Than Perfect

The following is a post from an earlier blog of mine, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was posted on February 27, 2006.

Why do people, perfectly rational in other ways, defend the indefensible? Why do they continue along a path that is demonstrably wrong and easily abandoned? I’m not talking about the barbarous torture being carried out in our name, with our money, by our government. I’m talking about the indefensible butchering of the English language by educated, enlightened people.

I’m talking about people who are scientists, who make their living off understanding and precisely defining physical properties of phenomena in order to reshape the world and our relationship to it. People who demand, and thrive off of, minutiae – accurate minutiae.

I heard three words in a meeting the other day that just drove me crazy. These three words were:

  • Libary (for library)
  • Ec Cetera (for et cetera), and
  • Hierarchial (for Hierarchical)

Hearing these words butchered gives me the chills, but I learned a long time ago not to question an Engineer’s pronunciation of any word, lest one wishes to be the recipient of a surprised, somewhat pained expression followed by a derisive comment on one’s propensity for detail. Something like “Well. You knew what I meant. What are you? A Lawyer?”.

Well. Maybe. Maybe I knew what you meant and maybe I am a Lawyer. The latter part of the question is of no real consequence, and can be safely ignored as the silly attack it is, but the former isn’t necessarily all that clear. I knew what you meant? Could I be certain?

One of the simpler equations in physics is f = ma (force = mass x acceleration). Would an Engineer complain if I expressed it as f = na in a paper or in an analysis of a design or test results? Would it be OK if I said “Well, it’s only off by one letter and, after all, you know what I meant” (hee hee)?

I suppose, to be fair, there is the tongue twist factor to take into consideration. After all, library, et cetera, and hierarchical take a bit of concentration and practice to say properly. But here’s the real issue. Language is used to – now get this – communicate. Good, accurate, complete communication requires precision. It ain’t horse shoes or hand grenades.

So here’s what I have to say to those sloppy speakers who complain about merely being asked to correct their butchered pronunciations and complain they’re close enough to being “there”.

They’re ain’t no there their. You’re turn to figure out where your going (sic.)


To Correct and Preserve

I'm an Engineer

Ahm also illitaret.

Being a member of the Grammar Police is not a pleasant thing at times. It can often be a curse, as it makes reading for pleasure  distracting and, sometimes, painful. I’m finding it also makes it difficult to write for this blog regularly because I’m too freaking anal about mistakes and how I say things. I’m seriously working on not caring . . . well, not NOT caring but not being paralyzed by caring . . . if you get my drift.

When I was working for Rocketdyne I wrote a blog post in response to the reality that many people who had a lot to share with their colleagues didn’t step up to the plate precisely because they were afraid doing so would expose them to ridicule or, at the very least, make them look less competent than they actually were. The fear was somewhat real because Engineers are notoriously lacking in overall English and grammar skills, as evidenced by the numerous t-shirts and coffee mugs available with the slogan you see here. However, my experience is blogging doesn’t require the same kind of attention to detail designing an auto, a microwave, or a rocket engine does. Unless, of course, you hold yourself out as a member of the Grammar Police.

Therein lies the rub. I do hold myself out as such and, in fact, am herein sharing a new business card I created to advertise and promote my services. The first iteration of it brought me a small amount of embarrassment because I used “ghost writing” instead of “ghostwriting”, the latter of which is correct. Careful research seems to show it’s correct to use either “Ghostwriter” or “Ghost Writer“, but “ghostwriting” is the only correct usage.  A friend of mine shared the graphic of my card and one of her friends immediately called me out on it. I thanked him profusely for his unwitting collaboration and immediately changed the spelling, after which another person suggested some design changes that made sense as well, so I once again edited the graphic.

I’m pleased with the results and want it known I do not hold myself out as beyond error or reproach. Most people are painfully aware their own writing generally contains errors they are virtually incapable of spotting because of their proximity to the subject of the text. I am no different, though I am pretty damn meticulous in reviewing nearly everything I write – including chat messages. Yes, I am a wee tad obsessive, but therein lies my strength.

I recently was required to read a novel; one which I will likely soon talk about at some length on these pages. In doing so, I asked the author if it was OK for me to make note of any errors I came across. I received the go-ahead and, although it had been read by quite a few others, I nevertheless came across a couple dozen small (but frequently distracting) mistakes. I even discovered a rather glaring error in continuity, which the author was glad to have me point out.

I am currently working with several authors and on several projects. I am looking for more business. If you or someone you know could use a little help polishing up their novel, blog post (one that requires a modicum of professionalism, that is), or even some simple promotional or marketing text, please consider running it by my discerning eye. I believe I can help more than you might imagine. BTW – Here’s the card I ended up designing and may even print out some day. If you spot an error somewhere, feel free to admonish me. I can take it.

Grammar Police Biz Card

One day the shield will read “To Correct and Preserve”


A Few Wordz on Spelng, Grammar, and Punctuation.

In the course of an interesting conversation precipitated by a Tweet from one of the folks I follow on Twitter (is that from the Department of Redundancy Department?), I was asked to share a blog I posted on a site within the firewall where I work. Since the subject of that blog has absolutely nothing to do specifically with the business I’m in, I have no problem doing that. Please understand, though, I was writing in response to an issue I had heard raised numerous times at work and I was specifically trying to address that issue.

Nevertheless, the issue probably exists to some extent outside our particular firewall. In fact, since the blog post that precipitated the conversation I’m referring to was making a point far more generally applicable than the subject of my blog, I feel compelled to point it out as well. It’s from ProNagger.comConverting Procrastination Into Action, and the specific post is located here. What follows now is my post from work, the title of which is identical to that of this post:

I have heard that some people are a bit reluctant to use AskMe because they know whatever they write will “live on” for a long period of time and they don’t want to take a chance of looking foolish for years to come. I can understand that, especially when it comes to taking a position with respect to a technical issue that may not have a crystal clear answer. I can also understand the reluctance when it comes to spelling, grammar, etc.

So let me point something out that I’ve learned over the last couple of years. First of all, while spelling, grammar, and punctuation are all very important (and few people are quite the stickler I am for their correctness), when it comes to communicating and sharing ideas, I think they’re a bit overrated. This has been driven home to me especially when using Windows Messenger, which I do quite a bit. I have finally reached the point where I don’t bother using capital letters and I only use punctuation when absolutely necessary to be clear.

I also use Twitter, which only allows for the use of 140 characters in any act of publishing. So, sometimes I take a lot of liberties with spelling in order to pack as much meaning into a short communication. So, the point I’m making here is . . . I hope you won’t let the possibility you will post questions, answers, etc. on AskMe with mistakes in them stop you from contributing. It really isn’t that big a deal – especially when balanced against the substantial need to increase our ability to share our knowledge and learn from each other.

This post generated quite a few comments, most expressing relief to have this pointed out to them. One of them, from a colleague I know well who blogs a fair amount internally, merely pointed out his discovery that the original author of the post can edit it, but those who comment could not. I felt compelled to respond and here is what I said:

I have learned the same thing. However, I specifically refrained from correcting this blog because of the message I wanted to convey. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are extremely important in demonstrating the veracity of a document intended to convey important factual information and, perhaps, some other types of communication that require excellent form. I think we all agree as well there are certain forms of communication that needn’t be quite as “clean” as others; IM and blogs come immediately to mind. I have read a lot of blogs by a lot of very well-read and highly respected people. I notice errors popping up all the time. I think most people forgive those errors, not because they don’t matter at all, but because they don’t really detract from the message and the rapid dissemination of ideas is seen as more valuable than careful editing. Besides, blogs generally don’t go through edit cycles and, if you read the newspaper you know editing is no guarantee of good writing either.

I have a confession to make. Though I changed nothing in the blog as it appears at work, I did make a couple of changes here where I discovered errors in my original post. Please forgive me. As I’ve confessed elsewhere, I have a tendency to be a member of the Grammar and Spelling Police . . . I have to follow my bliss!

Rick

I have learned the same thing. However, I specifically refrained from correcting this blog because of the message I wanted to convey. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are extremely important in demonstrating the veracity of a document intended to convey important factual information and, perhaps, some other types of communication that require excellent form. I think we all agree as well there are certain forms of communication that needn’t be quite as “clean” as others; IM and blogs come immediately to mind. I have read a lot of blogs by a lot of very well-read and highly respected people. I notice errors popping up all the time. I think most people forgive those errors, not because they don’t matter at all, but because they don’t really detract from the message and the rapid dissemination of ideas is seen as more valuable than careful editing. Besides, blogs generally don’t go through edit cycles and, if you read the newspaper you know editing is no guarantee of good writing either.


%d bloggers like this: