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Re: Disambiguation Re: Verified issues - week of 26 April

From: Avi Arditti <aardit@voa.gov>
Date: Mon, 03 May 2004 12:37:19 -0400
Message-ID: <4096753F.A0823F5B@voa.gov>
To: WAI-GL <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Cc: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>, "Yvette P. Hoitink" <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>

To a lot of English speakers, active voice + short sentences = clarity.
Then, too, to a lot of people, the last time they learned to write was
fifth grade (to paraphrase something I heard once.) 

Not all Web authors -- or lawyers or scientists or so on -- are writers,
and not all writers are good communicators. Thus, when told "write
clearly," chances are they do not know how, and so interpret that
defensively as censorship. 

I have watched online authoring become a dominant topic within the
Society for Technical Communication. (In fact, there was a recent
article about WCAG and the group.) The idea is that the Web offers new
opportunities for technical writers -- if they could just convince
project managers. 

Writers can find myriad lists of elements that go into "plain English."
What I have yet to find (maybe I haven't looked enough) is a collection
of similar elements for other languages. For example, is referring to
someone directly ("you") considered rude? Is passive voice preferred to
subject-verb-object? Is narrative form better than vertical lists? 

Multilingual groups like this within W3C seem ideally suited to generate
lists of common plain-language principles to help Web authors. I would
volunteer to compile any submissions for use as, say, a WCAG appendix
item or linked document.

Avi Arditti
Feature Editor,
VOA Special English
Washington, DC

John M Slatin wrote:
> The last sentence in Yvette's list of examples--
> >It's forgotten to take the dog home.
> Is not something a native spaker of English would say:
> (1) A native speaker would not use the pronoun "it" to refer to a person
> (2) A native spaker would not say "It is forgotten to take the dog
> home."  On the other hand, a native speaker might well say "It's been
> forgotten," which would expand to "It has been forgotten."
> This doesn't mean that a sentence like the one in the examples list
> would never appear on the Web!  But the others are better examples.
> Still, I would agree with Chaals: requiring markup of such commonly
> occurring contractions would make the guidelines appear unreasonable and
> create resistance.
> John
> "Good design is accessible design."
> Please note our new name and URL!
> John Slatin, Ph.D.
> Director, Accessibility Institute
> University of Texas at Austin
> FAC 248C
> 1 University Station G9600
> Austin, TX 78712
> ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
> email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
> web http://www.utexas.edu/research/accessibility/
> -----Original Message-----
> From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On
> Behalf Of Yvette P. Hoitink
> Sent: Sunday, May 02, 2004 3:02 pm
> To: 'WAI-GL'
> Subject: RE: Disambiguation Re: Verified issues - week of 26 April
> Chaals asked:
> > > The Web
> > >Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 will be laughed out of
> > town if it
> > >even flirts with the idea of forcing us to use markup like <span
> > >title="it has">it's</span>.
> >
> > Do you have 5 examples of "it's" which mean "it has", please?
> It's been a great effort to create 5 examples. It's gotten to the point
> where it's succeeded. It's meant that the dog remained in the mall. The
> puppy was left behind, it's forgotten. It's owner was an eleven year old
> child. It's forgotten to take the dog home.
> The last three sentences show three different meanings of "it's".
> Especially "it's forgotten" may mean either it has forgotten (active) or
> it is forgotten (passive) which can't always be resolved from context.
> Yvette Hoitink
> Heritas, Enschede, the Netherlands
> E-mail: y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl
> WWW: http://www.heritas.nl
Received on Monday, 3 May 2004 12:38:58 UTC

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