Bad writers

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Pyrrho
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Bad writers

Post by Pyrrho »

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/ ... 3250.shtml
While writing has always held a spot in American education as one of the three Rs, many say writing clearly and accurately is more important than ever - and not all workers are up to the task.

In a fast-paced workplace, precision and brevity are essential. For e-mails, reports and presentations, the commission found that accuracy, clarity, spelling, punctuation, grammar and conciseness ranked among the most sought-after skills.

"There's no way to say that writing has gotten worse," said Susan Traiman, director of the education initiative for the Business Roundtable. Rather, "the demand has gotten greater."
In my experience, business writing has become worse. I think business is at least partly to blame for the problem. The "fast-paced workplace" may create the requirement for precision and brevity, but it is the same "fast-paced workplace" that promotes bad writing. Many times, the practice in companies I have worked for has been "We don't care if it's good, we have to get it out the door." Good writing requires time. Time, unfortunately, is in very short supply in the modern corporate workplace.
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MRC_Hans
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Post by MRC_Hans »

That, and the lack of secretaries. In the modern workplace, the manager, engineer, etc. is doing the writing, and it goes straight into print. Earlier, they would write a draft, hand it over to a secretary, who would correct errors, brush up the language etc.

One of the reasons we lament the lack of secretaries in the modern workplace ;).

Hans
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Pyrrho
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Post by Pyrrho »

My experience has been that a major factor is the paranoid obstinance of executives who insist that it's "their way or no way", meaning that even if they write a document rife with bad writing, they don't want anyone to suggest changes. So much pressure is put on people to produce more in less time that anything interrupting the frantic workflow is seen as obstructionism and not as helpful correction. They simply do not want to hear it. This does not mean that a document can't or won't be rewritten a dozen times.
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Luke T.
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Post by Luke T. »

I'm a technical writer, so bad writing around here is right out!
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Blue Monk
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Post by Blue Monk »

Luke T. wrote:I'm a technical writer, so bad writing around here is right out!
:)

You probably could have phrased that a little gooder.

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exarch
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Post by exarch »

Hans:
Do you notice any "Anglification" in the workplace?

It bothers me to no end to see people write stuff in English with a Dutch syntax. They're not writing English, they're writing in Dutch and simply translating all the words, or moving the words around a bit to make it sound English.
Heck, even I may be guilty of some of that right now, but in all honesty, I do most of my writing right here and on JREF, and all of that is in English. I think I've had plenty of practice already.

Programming is all in English, and I make sure all my variables and comments are in English too (this way anyone who may need to change something after I'm gone can read them). Error (or other) messages to the user are usually in English as well, as it just sounds more professional than the same thing in Dutch ...

And could someone explain to me why so many people are mixing up "you're" - "your" , "there" - "they're" - "their" , "to" - "too" and things like that? It's pretty damn straightforward most of the time.
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Nigel
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Post by Nigel »

exarch wrote:*snip*

And could someone explain to me why so many people are mixing up "you're" - "your" , "there" - "they're" - "their" , "to" - "too" and things like that? It's pretty damn straightforward most of the time.
I don't know, but I wish they'd stop. It's irritating as hell. I think (a) they don't know any better, or (b) they're in a hurry and simply don't proofread what they've written. Or (c) some other explanation someone else will come up with. Whatever it is, I don't like it. Not being a smartass, but it's frustrating having to read a sentence twice to figure out the meaning.
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Luke T.
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Post by Luke T. »

My pet peeve is "alot".

At my job, we had several meetings over the course of two weeks to discuss whether or not to pluralize the word "screw" on our removal/installation drawings. I also had a running email debate over commas with our proofreader. He prefers the Oxford comma, and I don't. :D

My use of commas actually led a White Nationalist on Stormfront to conclude I was Jewish. :o
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exarch
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Post by exarch »

Luke T. wrote:At my job, we had several meetings over the course of two weeks to discuss whether or not to pluralize the word "screw" on our removal/installation drawings.
You mean like, one screw, two screws?

I don't know how else you would write that. It's not like you go around saying "two beer" or "two car" ... :?
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Luke T.
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Post by Luke T. »

exarch wrote:
Luke T. wrote:At my job, we had several meetings over the course of two weeks to discuss whether or not to pluralize the word "screw" on our removal/installation drawings.
You mean like, one screw, two screws?

I don't know how else you would write that. It's not like you go around saying "two beer" or "two car" ... :?
If a component has more than one screw securing it in position, we only point out one of them on the drawing, so the discussion was whether or not to label it as a "screw" to signify the one screw we were pointing out, or to label it as "screws" to signify it was representational of all the screws securing the component.

My life is very exciting. Halfway through the fourth meeting, I was banging my head on the table, and screaming. My boss seemed to think it was funny.
[size=75]"it seems you don't believe how your enviroment of smells affects for a young ones.how many young girl are are in just involved in porn industry just because of lack of natural smells" - pillory (7/13/02)[/size]

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Blue Monk
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Post by Blue Monk »

Luke T. wrote: My use of commas actually led a White Nationalist on Stormfront to conclude I was Jewish. :o
Funny, you're commas don't look Jewish.

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Luke T.
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Post by Luke T. »

Blue Monk wrote:
Luke T. wrote: My use of commas actually led a White Nationalist on Stormfront to conclude I was Jewish. :o
Funny, you're commas don't look Jewish.
Whoa. Deja vu. ;)
[size=75]"it seems you don't believe how your enviroment of smells affects for a young ones.how many young girl are are in just involved in porn industry just because of lack of natural smells" - pillory (7/13/02)[/size]

I [size=167]♣[/size]69dodge

Beanbag
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Post by Beanbag »

One of the funniest experiences I ever had was when I (as a lowly engineering tech) accompanied a pair of fully-degreed engineers (Masters degrees, no less) on a trip to visit several comnpanies whose products we used to manufacture certain items for defense-related purposes. After four days on the road and countless sessions with the companies' tech people, we returned back home. The following day, I wrote up a trip report detailing all we had done and the subjects covered. As I recall, my report ran about four pages, single spaced. Just to make sure all the bases were covered, I passed a draft copy to each of the engineers.

The next day, I saw THEIR trip reports, which basically consisted of one paragraph that referred all interested parties to read MY report. The good news was that they were good friends and decent enough not to have taken my report and sent it out as their own. We actually had a good laugh over the whole thing at lunch. I made sure it cost them later on (in a good, friendly way). It helps to have a sense of humor.

The secretaries at that company loved me -- not only could I write clearly, spell correctly (most of the time), and punctuate reasonably well, but I also submitted my work ON FLOPPY DISK. Most work was handed to them in handscript, heavily crossed-out and marked up. Most of my stuff went out verbatim.

I've always wondered what they teach in certain college curicula, ESPECIALLY when I found myself explaining to a degreed business manager over the telephone how to open an Excel spreadsheet and print out a particular worksheet in the document.

I HAVE noticed an interesting phenomenon where certain people who speak quite well and with a large vocabulary are unable to correctly spell the words they use, which lead to some really illiterate-looking text messages and documents. The funny thing is that if you read the document out loud, it is phonetically correct. They've spelled the words as they sound.

Like the old saying goes, "huked on fonicks wurks for me."

Of course, the counterpoint to this is that spelling really isn't a good indicator of a person's intelligence, because these people were damned smart.

Then again, when I did some work as a custom sound tech, I had a shirt that said "Oddio Wizurd." When asked about it, I always said it reflected how I worked -- it didn't matter how I got there as long as it sounded OK in the end.

note: edited to change a "thay" to "they". Yeah, it sounds the same.

Regards;
Beanbag
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MRC_Hans
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Post by MRC_Hans »

exarch wrote:Hans:
Do you notice any "Anglification" in the workplace?

It bothers me to no end to see people write stuff in English with a Dutch syntax. They're not writing English, they're writing in Dutch and simply translating all the words, or moving the words around a bit to make it sound English.
Heck, even I may be guilty of some of that right now, but in all honesty, I do most of my writing right here and on JREF, and all of that is in English. I think I've had plenty of practice already.

Programming is all in English, and I make sure all my variables and comments are in English too (this way anyone who may need to change something after I'm gone can read them). Error (or other) messages to the user are usually in English as well, as it just sounds more professional than the same thing in Dutch ...

And could someone explain to me why so many people are mixing up "you're" - "your" , "there" - "they're" - "their" , "to" - "too" and things like that? It's pretty damn straightforward most of the time.
Oh, it is just as bad in other languages. In Denmark, most business writing is, of course in Danish, and there we have our own idiosyncracies. Most comon are endings, and general spelling errors.

It does get worse when people write in a foreign language. In the company I work for now, the corporate language is English, and you should see some of it :roll: . Now, I know my English is not perfect, but.....

Hans
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Abdul Alhazred
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Post by Abdul Alhazred »

I pronouce a death sentence on all who write 'loose' for 'lose'.

This seems to be a product of the internet, rather than an existing "educated illiteratism" per Fowler.

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Post by Jeff »

How about "it's" and "its", let alone "its'"? And when did "data" become singular?

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exarch
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Post by exarch »

Jeff wrote:How about "it's" and "its", let alone "its'"? And when did "data" become singular?
I know only one Data that's singular, and he's an officer on the Federation Starship Enterprise.
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Blue Monk
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Post by Blue Monk »

I have been terrified to post in this thread considering the subject matter but with a liberal use of my spell-checker and more conscientious proof reading I’m ready to venture forth.

I am guilty of almost all of the infractions listed here, most notably my confusing “its” with “it’s.”

I have often heard people complain about a particular writing deficiency only to squirm uncomfortably at the knowledge that I have already left a considerable legacy of posts committing that very heinous act. One example is that for quite some time I had the bad habit of beginning each post with “Well.” Argh.

That is why I enjoy these types of threads. Since I have begun posting here and TOP I know my writing skills have improved thanks to the constant petty corrections heaped upon me by the ever vigilant skeptics the comprise the readership. I actually welcome these corrections.

One area where I am still unsure of myself is in the area of punctuation. I feel I must be getting it right most of the time as there always seems to be someone around to gleefully point out my short-comings in other areas.

I suppose I could just go back to the basics and study the fundamental rules of punctuation but somehow I keep forgetting to do that.

So, for future reference, if any of you spot any errors in my writing style I grant you full permissions to point it out and tease me un-mercilessly. After all, that’s how my mother made me the man I am today.

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Post by stardog »

Abdul Alhazred wrote:I pronouce a death sentence on all who write 'loose' for 'lose'.

This seems to be a product of the internet, rather than an existing "educated illiteratism" per Fowler.

Death! Death I say!
I have to agree with you there, Abdul. My pet peeve is when people confuse "there" with 'their".

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Post by Beanbag »

Abdul Alhazred wrote:I pronouce a death sentence on all who write 'loose' for 'lose'.

This seems to be a product of the internet, rather than an existing "educated illiteratism" per Fowler.

Death! Death I say!
You'd be surprised at the number of watches that come across my bench that are listed as "loosing" time. I have visions of thousands of tiny seconds slipping their bonds and fleeing out from the watch case.

Regards;
Beanbag
I fear no gods, because they don't exist, but I fear the fool that truly Believes.

I'm voting Romney this time around, because I've never settled for the lesser of two evils.