Monday, April 6, 2009

I use (too many) parenthetical statements

This is always a bad habit of mine. Using too many parenthetical statements makes things hard for the reader to follow. Yet since most of my posts here are nothing more than stream of consciousness babbling, I use the parenthetical statements to hold the sub-thoughts as opposed to working them into the paragraph proper or leaving them out entirely.

I even go so far as to have parenthetical statements inside parenthetical statements every now and then.

They get me in trouble too, I was reading through my previous post just now and noticed not one but two parenthetical statements that were missing their closing parentheses. FIXED.

I did quite well in Technical Writing. I can even be quoted as having said "Everyone should be required to take Technical Writing." Simply put, the entire point of Technical Writing is to teach you how to write so that your audience can understand what you've written. This means that everything is clear and concise, using terminology that your audience either already understands or is explained in a glossary. Regular English courses don't teach this, and in fact usually emphasize the exact opposite. This is because English courses in the US, maybe elsewhere as well, tend to be poorly disguised Literature courses. If you "get" imagery in prose, you'll do quite well. But for someone like me who thinks logically and not artistically, English was always my toughest class. Up until recently most double meanings, including but not limited to innuendo, were completely over my head. I've gotten better at finding the double meanings in things but it still takes a while.

You know every instruction manual you've read that you've ever felt is inadequate? Bad technical writing. Every e-mail that's coarse and awkward? Bad technical writing. Every time you hear some word or phrase like "alcopops" or "erectile dysfunction"? Bad technical writing. Technical writing affects so much of modern society, yet the focus in schools is on the very literature that ignores its principles entirely and the Technical Writing course is reserved for people who want to go into a computer-related or technology-related field, and not usually encountered until one enters college.

Parenthetical statements do have their proper use. They're typically used on short explanations of things, or to hold the page number that something is on in a manual when it's mentioned elsewhere. Both of those are perfectly fine. I, however, tend to just start another sentence in the middle of a sentence using parentheses. That's the bad use of them. However, it plays right along with most of my posts being stream of consciousness babbling. Since human memory is highly contextual, I often won't remember some point I wanted to make until mid-sentence discussing something related. What I should do is just lay it all out and then organize it so it makes sense, but I'm too lazy to do that.

Oh well. Here's to a post containing no parentheses.

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