28.1.13

 

You and Your Research and The Elements of Style


Many thanks to the organisers of PLMW for inviting me to give a talk. Additional resources are listed below.

Comments:
Prof Wadler, I can't believe you're recommending Strunk & White (or George Orwell's nasty little essay).

As an IT Professional, I regularly have to deal with technicians who are perfectly capable of explaining themselves, except when faced with having to produce written documents. They get paranoid about all those half-remembered rules on style -- not helped by Microsoft's wavy green underlines. I tell them: read it out loud. Does it make sense? Does it sound natural? If they can't tell, none of S&W's rules is going to help -- after all, S&W themselves didn't take any notice.

Prof Pullum is also at Edinburgh. Go and see him.

AntC
 
I'm not sure that Strunk and White (as frequently wrong as they are) are significantly worse than any other pontificators on grammar, usage, and style. But such pontifications should be regarded as having only entertainment value.I recommend Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage—which is based on consensus among "experts", and on how respected writers actually write—as an antidote to the idiosyncratic propaganda found in many of the books you list.(You should also list the original edition of Foster's Modern English Usage, not as serious advice, but as evidence of how arbitrary and silly such propaganda tends to be. Foster is about as arbitrary and opinionated as the rest, but he is so outdated that his attempts at rule-making are transparently silly. Why, I ask, did we not heed his call to spell "buzz" and "fizz" with a single Z? Have we, at long last, no decency?)
 
I find this list of references is just great and quite helpful. Technical writing is not beletristic. There are certain rules/advices one should follow. Maybe it's true that for some people no wrinting guide in this world would help, but in most cases it makes a lot of difference
 
What AntC said. I was in the audience at the 2014 version of this talk and was rolling my eyes... please do take the time to talk to Geoffrey Pullum about language. I'm sure he will have a lot to tell you.
 
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