When people read good expository writing, they think about the content, not about the writing. (This doesn’t apply to poetry, by the way, where part of the attraction is admiration of the writing itself.) In a way, this is a disadvantage for technical writers and such, because by definition, then, you tend not to notice the good stuff. Several years ago someone got a Nobel prize in economics for describing this situation, in which the highest value things tend to be under-priced because the purchaser tends not to appreciate the difference in quality.
Tourette syndrome is a condition when a person with physical tics involuntarily inserts profanity into their conversation. That’s the point of this Carpe Diem comic—the fortune teller has Tourettes. I suppose the comic censors prevented the cartoonist from making her say anything more profane, though “serial killer” is bad enough.
All that leads to a hobby horse of mine that I’ve mentioned only once before. You don’t need profanity to explain something. It calls attention to the writing, jolting the reader away from the content. If you’re a tech writer with Tourette syndrome, be sure to proofread your work really really carefully.
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Or is it bad English? This is the Indexed comic for July 13, by Jessica Hagy. Her comics appeal to people with brains, so if you read this blog (which also assumes its readers have brains) and don’t read Indexed, you’re missing out! Of course you know it should be “intents and purposes” and “high-caliber […]
Well, punctuation curmudgeon. It’s Linus Torvalds, the writer (inventor? developer? founder?) of the computer language Linux. I didn’t expect this from him. In fact, I tend to feel that computer languages manage their own grammar and punctuation by not working if you do it wrong. He recently expressed an opinion about commenting. Comments in computer […]
Sometimes a prefix or suffix becomes popular, and people start adding it to lots of words where it never used to occur. When this happens, we say the word part has become productive. A couple decades back, when skirts began to shorten, the prefix “mini-” became productive. I remember a quip from Readers Digest or […]