Friday, January 06, 2017

If You Have To Ask...

...if the writer's first language is English, the report is not off to a good start.*
*When I'm in the office next Friday, I'm hoping to sneak in a conversation with this guy's boss, who I know, about how dangerous his command of English is, in the sense of not making us look stupid.

It isn't really this, either:
I know they aren't stupid; in terms of knowledge of their subject matter, they're smarter than I am. (Plus there's that whole "speaking more than one language" thing, also not something I can do.) But if you can't communicate it clearly, you don't sound smart. To me, anyway.

But even worse than a writer who gets things obviously wrong is one who makes stealthy mistakes, such as was the case in the last hurry-hurry-hurry report I worked on in December.

Any time I begin to notice a lot of mistakes in a report, I'll start to make a list of them, partly to relieve my feelings (it really is that bad!), but also to see what happens frequently, so I can check for other places they might have done it again. In this case, there were so many that I broke the list down into things that were only done once or twice, and things that were done more often (see below).

Some of them aren't actually uncommon; I often see writers who confuse complementary and complimentary, for instance, or use regime when they mean regimen, and it barely flicks the needle on the aggravation-meter. Don't get me started on that/which, or "patients that/companies who" or any number of things that are against our style guidelines, but those are all common.

I'm pretty sure, though that I've never seen a report with so many uses of the wrong word, that sounds like the right word. It's easy for the eye to slide right over "Drug X sales are higher then compared to drug Y" or "Sales are expected to decline a considerate amount" unless you read really carefully, and at the end of the year, in the final rush, we don't have enough time to catch them all. I can only hope I caught most of them.

At least he did give me a good laugh, when he wrote that "Company B expects to recuperate its investment"--it took me a minute to figure out what he meant, but I suppose if English isn't your first language, it would be easy to think that "recoup" must be short for "recuperate." (Spoiler: it isn't.)

used (multiple times)
meaning
then  (as in "then compared to")
when
then  
than
complimentary
complementary
manor
manner
besides from
aside from
there
where
considerate
considerable
regime
regimen
varies
various
used (once or twice)
meaning (?)
threating
threatening
refractive
refractory?
visual impairments
visible?
altragias
arthralgias?
recuperate
recoup
good positioned
well positioned
remain
retain
principle
principal
competiveness
opinioned

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