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RE: 4.1 success criteria - proposal for division

From: john_slatin <john_slatin@forum.utexas.edu>
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 13:09:28 -0500
Message-ID: <6AC4E20EED49D411941400D0B77E52F0074B95C5@forum.cc.utexas.edu>
To: "'Avi Arditti'" <aardit@voa.gov>, Emmanuelle Gutiérrez y Restrepo <emmanuelle@mi.madritel.es>
Cc: john_slatin <john_slatin@forum.utexas.edu>, "'Charles McCathieNevile'" <charles@w3.org>, WAI GL <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

I like Avi's suggestion that we consider offering a list of principles, on
the order of those he lists.  But the specifics are valuable, too; perhaps
we can move them into something like a techniques document for writing;
there might even be different "writing techniques" for different languages.

John

John Slatin, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Technology & Learning
University of Texas at Austin
FAC 248C, Mail code G9600
Austin, TX 78712
ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
web http://www.ital.utexas.edu
 


-----Original Message-----
From: Avi Arditti [mailto:aardit@voa.gov] 
Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2002 11:23 am
To: Emmanuelle Gutiérrez y Restrepo
Cc: john_slatin; 'Charles McCathieNevile'; WAI GL
Subject: Re: 4.1 success criteria - proposal for division


I agree with Emmanuelle, Charles and John that the list of ideas I compiled
does not deal enough with the diversity of "plain language."

Maybe a better approach is to get away from specifics and instead propose a
list of guiding principles.  These might be along the lines
of: 

* "Use a form of sentence structure that is generally considered easy to
understand in a particular language." 

* "Organize content in a way that is generally considered easy to understand
in a particular language and for a particular use (such as
instructions or correspondence or informational materials.)   

* "Use a form of address that is considered easy to understand in a
particular language and for a particular use, yet is also culturally
appropriate." 

And so on -- the point being to get people to think about what would
constitute "plain" within the linguistic and cultural constraints of
their own language.   

To follow from the article Emmanuelle listed, here is an e-mail from a
Japanese woman who teaches English in Japan and is interested in plain
language. I recently asked her what would be plain Japanese:

--------------------------

Not being an expert on the Japanse language, I don't think
we have such a plain Japanese campaign as you have a
PE crusade in English speaking countries. I admit, though, that there are
books on the market on "how to write" in Japanese. The books are, to all
intents and purposes, meant to convery the same message as PE.

And I may say safely that partly as a result of PE or Western culture,
"Plain Japanese" has been gaining ground - especially, in business
writing...Say yes or no at the beginning instead of at the end.

The Japanese language writing is structured in the order of introduction,
development, turn, and conclusion. Which means we don't know the conclusion
until we come to the end of a message vis-a-vis at the beginning in PE.
Thus, the traditional Japanese way of writing is neither efficient nor
effective for business purposes; PE is catching attention as an example.

In my opinion the Japanese language is, as a whole,  more comlex and
difficult to understand than the English language. This may have something
to do with the differences in syntax and in culture.

We have Japanese grammar. But I think English grammar is more systematic. In
English you have a subject-verb-object construction. We have more "freedom."
Sometimes the subject is omitted - and is so recommended, especially, "I."
And the verb comes at the end. Which means we know only at the end if the
answer is yes or no. In between there are a posse of vague and ornate
phrases and words. Impatient listeners tend to demand, "So, what's your
conclusion?"

Neither do we have a sense for "paragraphing." One paragraph /one sentence
is the day of order. Or one paragraph contains lots of ideas: past, present,
and future. And it's understood in Japanese but not in translated English.

On the cultural front, in Japan we're given to read between the lines of the
other: guts feeling (haragei or stomach reading). We've been taught not to
say no directly. but indirectly. Instead we expect the other to read into us
even if we don't explain in so many words. But this is changing, especially
in business writing. Plain Japanese is gaining ground. It's in the diaper
stage, though.

--------------------------


 

Emmanuelle Gutiérrez y Restrepo wrote:
> 
> I agree totally with Charles and Johh,
> 
> Maybe the following article can help to edit some more appropriate
> approaches: 
> http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/Rapport/rap19.html#FIVE
> 
> regards,
> 
> Emmanuelle
> 
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "john_slatin" <john_slatin@forum.utexas.edu>
> To: "'Charles McCathieNevile'" <charles@w3.org>; "WAI GL" 
> <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
> Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2002 4:25 PM
> Subject: RE: 4.1 success criteria - proposal for division
> 
> |
> | Charles makes an excellent point.  Perhaps the advice section for 
> | 4.1
> could
> | include something to the effect that authors should follow the 
> | conventions appropriate to the natural language of the content.  A 
> | further point: even in English, it's not always appropriate to avoid 
> | the passive.  There are times when it isn't possible to assign 
> | grammatical agency-- especially in bureaucratic writing.  The 
> | Section 508 standards would fail this criterion if we were to insist 
> | on it, for example.
> |
> | There are implicit cultural assumptions here, too.  In the United 
> | States, for example, many people place high value on coming directly 
> | to "the
> point,"
> | both in writing and in oral communication.  But in many countries 
> | such directness is considered rude, and in some cases it may be 
> | politically dangerous (which is why satire flourishes under 
> | repressive regimes).
> |
> | John
> |
> | John Slatin, Ph.D.
> | Director, Institute for Technology & Learning
> | University of Texas at Austin
> | FAC 248C, Mail code G9600
> | Austin, TX 78712
> | ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
> | email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
> | web http://www.ital.utexas.edu
> |
> |
> |
> | -----Original Message-----
> | From: Charles McCathieNevile [mailto:charles@w3.org]
> | Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2002 9:05 am
> | To: WAI GL
> | Subject: 4.1 success criteria - proposal for division
> |
> |
> |
> | Hi,
> |
> | I think it is important that any success criteria for language use
> includes
> | a list of applicable languages.
> |
> | For example, there is a proposal not to use noun sequences. In 
> | french, one can reasonably say
> |
> |   la version du loi de droits de general de gaulle
> |
> | (either: General de Gaulle's version of the law of rights, or the 
> | version
> of
> | the law of General de Gaulle's rights).
> |
> | Similarly, it is proposed that verbs in the passive mood be avoided. 
> | (I.e. the last sentence would fail, twice). I don't know if this 
> | applies in all languages.
> |
> | If we do not think that a criterion works for a particular language, 
> | we should not say anything. If we think that a criterion does not 
> | work for a particular language, we should say so. I realise that 
> | this will leave us with a weaker list than we might have, but 
> | hopefully it will encourage people with relevant expertise to help 
> | fill the list. It will also
> hopefully
> | mean we avoid saying things that are wrong and would cause problems.
> |
> | cheers
> |
> | chaals
> |
> | --
> | Charles McCathieNevile  http://www.w3.org/People/Charles  tel: +61 
> | 409 134 136 SWAD-E http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe ------------ WAI 
> | http://www.w3.org/WAI  21 Mitchell street, FOOTSCRAY Vic 3011, 
> | Australia
> | fax(fr): +33 4 92 38 78 22  W3C, 2004 Route des Lucioles, 06902 Sophia
> | Antipolis Cedex, France
> |
Received on Thursday, 22 August 2002 14:09:31 GMT

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