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

From: Avi Arditti <aardit@voa.gov>
Date: Mon, 03 May 2004 15:05:23 -0400
Message-ID: <409697F3.AE4D527F@voa.gov>
To: Richard Ishida <ishida@w3.org>
Cc: "'John M Slatin'" <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>, "'WAI-GL'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, "'Yvette P. Hoitink'" <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>

OK, I knew this anecdote would come in handy sometime ...

Last month I was at the TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other
Languages) convention in California, promoting VOA Special English. I
heard someone say that in certain cultures, people do not like to have
the back of their business card written on by someone else. It is as if
an extension of themselves is being written on.

Now I don't know who might think this. But it hit me with the same
surprise as when I first learned that some writers purposely avoid
getting to the point -- for fear, as you and John said, of insulting the
reader. I understand that similar justification is used for what others
would consider plagiarism in student writing. That is, to rewrite in
one's own words is to insult the learned source of the material.

Then there are the cultures that value what others might dismiss as
flowery writing. 

So, for me at least, the more of these insights I collect, the more I
can fine-tune what I edit or write -- if not to make it more appealing
to more people, then at least less unappealing. 

Avi 




as a surprise, if not a shock, to people who do not work with language
(writing, editing or teaching) for a living. 


Richard Ishida wrote:
> 
> I had the same problem a few years back while helping a Chinese woman
> studying at Cambridge (UK) check her essays. Her paragraphs would lead you
> towards an idea, but never actually state the point clearly before going on
> to another tack.
> 
> She was astonished that I was telling her to state the point clearly
> up-front and dot all the I's and cross the T's.  She was amazed that
> spelling everything out so clearly wouldn't be insulting to the reader, who
> she expected would want to play a part in reaching the conclusions.
> 
> RI
> 
> ============
> Richard Ishida
> W3C
> 
> contact info:
> http://www.w3.org/People/Ishida/
> 
> W3C Internationalization:
> http://www.w3.org/International/
> 
> 
> 
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org
> > [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of John M Slatin
> > Sent: 03 May 2004 17:54
> > To: Avi Arditti; WAI-GL
> > Cc: Yvette P. Hoitink
> > Subject: RE: Disambiguation Re: Verified issues - week of 26 April
> >
> >
> > 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 15:23:03 GMT

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