Saturday, June 30, 2007

Phrase Blacklist

Every technical author should generally blacklist these phrases from his repertoire:

well-known. Translation: you're a dummy if you don't know this.

clear or clearly. See above. Also, in writing at all, you're attempting to make this clear. To say that it already is seems to me to be leaping to conclusions.

obvious. See comment for "well-known."

Any similar phrases that make the reader feel dumb if they don't get what you're saying.

Passive sentences. Technical writers, perhaps, use these phrase to attain the illusion of objectivity. However, there's no such thing, so why pretend? The honest thing to do is simply come right out and say what your bias is. Doing so provides the reference frame by which others can evaluate your work.

Endnotes. Endnotes are a convenience for the writer and the publisher. They are a distinct inconvenience for the reader. Who wants to flip all the way to the back of the book to check up on a tangent? Tangents are way too much fun for that!

Nobody's perfect. No doubt some smart-aleck will analyze some of my previous posts and find some of these phrases in there, and then claim that I'm being a hypocrite. Not a bit of it. I would only be a hypocrite if I said I was actually following my own advice perfectly. I make no such claim! This entire post is in the "the way I think things ought to be" category, not the "here's the way I think things are" category.

Have fun writing!

In Christ.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.


At 6/30/2007 06:52:00 PM , Anonymous MG said...

Hmm....I wonder what prompted this. ;-)

At 7/04/2007 07:42:00 PM , Anonymous Chris Hutchinson said...

Clearly, this post's well known points are obviously true.(1)


(1) As documented by many objective observers.

At 7/05/2007 11:11:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

*giggles at Chris' comment.

At 7/07/2007 08:37:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the off-topic post.

I know that you had a post a while back about the casualties in the Iraq War. I know that the post had ex-military members commenting. I wanted to direct you and anyone else to 2 excellent tribute pages. (gives a brief bio and pic about each of the women who have died in Iraq)
(great for stats like deaths by service and causes)

Anon 1

At 7/09/2007 05:12:00 PM , Blogger Eltinwe said...

Hey! Chris stole my idea. But I think he said it better than I would have anyway, so kudos.

And I shall continue to use things like "clearly" and "obviously" in math proofs, because if people don't understand, I WANT them to feel stupid and not make me explain something which out to be apparent.


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