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

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Mon, 3 May 2004 11:53:52 -0500
Message-ID: <C46A1118E0262B47BD5C202DA2490D1A1E3126@MAIL02.austin.utexas.edu>
To: "Avi Arditti" <aardit@voa.gov>, "WAI-GL" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Cc: "Yvette P. Hoitink" <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>

Interesting and important point, Avi.

In a writing class I taught about 10 years ago, an Asian woman said
something that opened up a whole world of difference for me.  I had
returned several of her papers with suggestions for getting more
directly to the point.  She was clearly very bright, but she just
wouldn't come to the point, no matter what I said, no matter how I
marked up sentences, suggested transitions,e tc.  Finally she told me
that in her culture it was considered rude to come directly to the
point-- especially for a woman addressing a man.

And of course there are cases in which speaking clearly and
unambiguously can result in the death of the speaker.

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: Avi Arditti [mailto:aardit@voa.gov] 
Sent: Monday, May 03, 2004 11:37 am
To: WAI-GL
Cc: John M Slatin; Yvette P. Hoitink
Subject: Re: Disambiguation Re: Verified issues - week of 26 April


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
www.voaspecialenglish.com


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 12:56:12 GMT

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