Good books generally (was: Literary Disappointments)

Mon Feb 24 10:23:10 PST 2003

On Tue, 18 Feb 2003, Warlord wrote:

@> > @> As one side of an argument (Steve, *stop* rubbing your hands together
@> > @> like that), I would postulate that if those reading your words receive
@> > @> their meaning as it was intended to be received, then the method of
@> > @> of that communication is inconsequential.
@> >
@> > That's one hell of a big if, particularly if you decide to use punctuation
@> > and grammar in non-standard ways.
@> >
@> > (Ignoring the fact that the style of writing itself transmits
@> > additional data.)
@> >
@> Well, one has to start somewhere, and I consider "ifs" to be a good one.
@> Starting with "one hell of a big if" is what's known in the argument clinic
@> as a home run. It will be hard to top that tomorrow (with apologies to
@> Scott Adams).
@> Communication can be thought of as the putting across of an idea or concept.
@> Good communication is a successful attempt. The better the communication,
@> the clearer the concept is received. Since that is the goal of
@> communication,
@> then the proper use of the *method* of communication, while important, is
@> a secondary objective.

Right. I'm saying a couple of things about quality here, though: the 
obvious one is that the more correct your grammar and spelling are, the
more likely it is that your audience will understand what you're
saying. This is why we have standards in the first place; it's no
different in the world of communications than it is in the world of, say,
electrical equipment. 

The other problem is that communication occurs on a number of different
levels. The top level, you might say, is that actual content of your
sentence. So, for instance, if you're saying that it's nice out today, the
fact that it's nice out is what you're primarily trying to
communicate. However, you've actually communicated some other information: 
first, that this is the sort of day you consider to be nice, irregardless
of its actual quality from the other person's perspective. Then there's
the fact that you're not particularly quick with small talk. If it were
speech as opposed to e-mail, there'd also be issues of tone and stance to
worry about. In any event, one of these information-bearing factors is
your grammar: if you use poor grammar, you're saying "I am a moron. Pay no
attention to my opinions." This is presumably neither an accurate piece of
information, nor one you actually want to communicate to the other person.