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Re: Wording issues

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2001 18:19:10 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

         I thought about the slippery slide of saying "intended audience" 
rather than content, because writing should always be appropriate for the 
audience.  I was thinking about two sites I'm doing with identical content 
(a set of links to instructional content for the subject) where the 
variance is the audience and the purpose, and results in two very different 
presentations : one puts the links into very short words, with an 
appropriate graphic, and displays them for the kids to use in going to the 
site either as instructed by the teacher, or their choice. The other with 
the same links in it, combines the links with the state objectives that 
each link is related to, with links repeated as necessary. That site is for 
use by the teachers in planning the lessons. Teachers, of course, can use 
the kids' site for planning if the find my verbiage excessive. It was 
thinking of these two sites with different purposes, but consisting 
basically of the same content, yet my "clear and simple" writing was 
directed by the kids needing to use it, not because the links themselves 
were improved.

         I suspect that those looking for a slippery slope will find it in 
the word "content" as quickly as in audience or purpose ...

         I think this discussion is the reason that at one point someone 
suggested the checkpoint say just:

                 Write clearly and simply.

                 with no qualifiers, and no slippery slope ...


At 03:45 PM 8/16/01 -0400, Al Gilman wrote:
>At 12:58 PM 2001-08-16 , Anne Pemberton wrote:
> >Al,
> >
> >         I think I see one point that may help. Is the style of writing
> >related to the site's content, or the site's purpose?
>I myself would tend to prefer that we say 'content' rather than 'purpose'
>This is in no way to say that substituting 'purpose' makes the proposition
>_wrong_.  The opinion I would like to assert is a relative preference.  Not a
>right:wrong binary choice.  'Content' says more of what we want to say and
>allows the reader less room to read into the statement things that we don't
>mean to say, as compared with 'purpose.'
>The argument is a little complex, so please bear with me.
>In the group, I believe there is a reluctance to say 'purpose' because "the
>purpose of the site" is clearly at the absolute discretion of the site
>publisher.  We are in the business of tainting that discretion with a modicum
>of public interest and policy, which says the content, independent of the
>purpose, should be presented in a reasonably non-discriminatory way.  Making
>the site purpose the basis of the test leaves insufficient room to demand a
>right of re-purposing, as the jargon goes.  So injecting 'purpose' into the
>standard is leading us down a slippery slope we may not want to let the
>guidelines reader even get near.
>See for example:
>giving the user the last word
>  <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-ua/2001JulSep/thread.html#99>
>The potential utility of the content of the site is broader than the purpose
>that the site publisher had in exposing the content.  This is part of the
>cornucopia effect; why the Web is an engine that creates a whole greater than
>the sum of its parts.
>For those who can deal with PowerPoint [I don't think that the HTML
>provided is
>any more accessible than the PowerPoint, but you could tell me otherwise] I do
>recommend flipping through Bob Grossberg's witty disposition on data as a
>network resource.  You can do this by visiting the briefings page from the
>Alliance All-Hands Meeting at
>In particular, he produces a tongue-in-cheek "W's Law" that "the interest in
>data increases in proportion to the number of columns collated."  He calls
>"W's Law" because he goes on to illustrate this principle with data
>which profusely suggest there is something rotten in the state of vote couting
>in West Palm Beach County, Florida in the presidential election of 2000.
>Because many of the interaction-space situations that people with disabilities
>find themselves in are outside the understanding of the human web content
>provider, we as the WAI are cast in the role of defending access to "the
>information" and not only "its purpose" that the publishing activity is
>focussing on.
>This is very much in our minds in PF, as we try to put infrastructure in the
>format construction methods that assure graceful transformation into
>interactions that the authors focussed on and those they didn't, too.
>So I expect there is a fear that 'purpose' paints the requirement too
>and I would tend to support such a fear in the case of defending access by
>people of whatever disability.
>There is a hypothetical argument that goes like this:
>Researcher:  But I am only publishing this to my research peers.  That is who
>has to agree it is a contribution so I can get recognition and my next grant.
>Al:  But what you have discovered is so simple!  My seventh graders can
>understand it, if you wouldn't bury it in such obscure jargon.
>Researcher: Go and look to that yourself; I need to be about turning up my
>_new_ result.
>While there is going to be some middleman duty to be done in dumbing down last
>weeks scientific research to kindergarten lesson, the era of Web communication
>offers some promise of reducing the number of levels of translation and the
>time to run the course.  So we have two things to do.  We do have to fund
>popularization -- rewriting by people who understand the general audience
>better than the researcher.  But at the same time we should work to put checks
>in the process so that at each state the exposition is as accessible as we can
>reasonably make it.  I am working on a reply to Gregg dealing with techniques
>that make the latter something worth asking for as a reasonable accomodation.
>'Content' is the better term because it focuses on _what the user stand to
>by way of understanding out of the experience of processing this exposition_.
>And doesn't leave room for the author to poison the criteria with a 'purpose'
>stated in terms of _who_ is supposed to get that understanding out of it.  It
>is just too easy to write your barriers into your statement of purpose.  If
>limits of plain exposition _for delivering the given message_ have been
>exhausted, sure; give up.  But 'purpose' is too slippery a domain; it lets the
>author get engaged in circularity that merely excuses their failure to
>clean up
>their act, without asserting what we think the standards for 'clean' should
> >Should we be saying:
> >
> >         Write clearly and simply as appropriate to the purpose of the site
> >
> >         Use clear and simple language that is appropriate to the site's
> >purpose.
> >
> >         Use the clearest and simplest language that is appropriate to the
> >purpose of the site.
> >
> >                                 Anne
> >
> >At 12:15 PM 8/16/01 -0400, Al Gilman wrote:
> >>The original is still hard to read right.
> >>
> >>A likely expectation at the point where you leave 'possible' <br> and hit
> >>'and'
> >>is to expect a compound predicate or compound sentence, but not to be ready
> >>for
> >>a compound object of the preposition 'as.'
> >>
> >>The proposed alternate does not substantially eliminate this problem.  It
> >>still
> >>takes two takes to get "in a way" associated with "as possible" and not
> >>"Write..."
> >>
> >>Consider the following other variations:
> >>
> >>- Write as clearly and as simply as you can, without misrepresenting the
> >>site's
> >>content.
> >>
> >>- Write in the clearest and simplest language that is still consistent with
> >>the
> >>site's content.
> >>
> >>- While remaining faithful to the site's content, write as clearly and
> >>as you can.
> >>
> >>- Write as clearly and simply as you can while remaining faithful to the
> >>site's
> >>content.
> >>
> >>There is a conflict between the wish to front-load a simple imperative and
> >>fact that this rule involves the interaction of two clauses, one a 'satisfy
> >>constraint' clause and the other an 'optimize quality' clause.
> >>
> >>Al
> >
> >Anne Pemberton
> >apembert@erols.com
> >
> ><http://www.erols.com/stevepem>http://www.erols.com/stevepem
> ><http://www.geocities.com/apembert45>http://www.geocities.com/apembert45
> >

Anne Pemberton

Received on Thursday, 16 August 2001 18:23:21 UTC

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