定価 １冊 2,500円(税・送料共)
Certain areas of English often cause problems to non-native speakers Some of these same areas can, at times, be mishandled by native speakers. With the permission of the JSTC Secretariat, we hope to discuss these problems in a series of articles. For example, many people have a problem interpreting and/or using the helping verbs can/could/should/would/may/shall/will and so on. We will look at this problem in the near future, but first we need more background about technical communication.
One of the key slogans of the JSTC is that quality in technical writing depends on "3 C's": Clear, Concise, Correct. My co-author strongly recommends the addition of two more "C's": Coherence and Courtesy. I totally agree, but explaining why will take another series of articles, which, I hope, we will be allowed to do in the future.
So working within the constraints of the original 3 C's, let's look at the following English:
* Push button.
* Press accelerator.
* Push button.
This series of statements is the ultimate in conciseness. Each individual statement "seems" to be absolutely clear and correct. But somehow my instincts tell me that if I followed the steps in this procedure, I would probably not attain the goal that was intended. Why is that? Because I feel thatthere may be more than one button. I feel that there may be some important timing relation between the actions. Somehow I feel that the procedure should at least include the following words:
* Push [the green] button.
* [The] machine starts.
* Press [the] accelerator [while] releasing [the] clutch.
* Push [the red] button.
* [The] machine stops.
These statements are not as concise as before. But their clarity has increased and they are probably more correct. So we can see that each of the three C's makes different requirements on our writing and we have to balance between all three (actually all five).
We add information to a statement (sub-verting conciseness) only because additional in formation is necessary to be clearer or more accurate (or more cohesive/courteous).Each such addition must clarify the meaning of the original statement. It is possible to add clarification on top of clarification until, at some point, clarity is lost (but not correctness). Not only that, the more we clarify simple statements, the more time the reader must expend figuring out the meaning. So, where speed is of the essence, as in user manuals, such clarification must be kept to a minimum. Where exactness is of the essence, as is scientific research reports, more clarification may be necessary.
KINDS OF CLARIFICATION
In technical writing we tend to assume that every word we write relates only to some object "out there." That is an over-simplification. Communication is not that simple. Let us look at another example. All triangles have three straight sides. This is a universal statement. It can stand alone and still have meaning Every word in this statement is essential to the correctness and the clarity of the statement; so we can say that this is the most concise way to say it. And every word refers to some "object out there." Let us call the total "meaning" of this statement the "content" of the statement. In scientific writing and technical writing we believe that this "content" is objective, "out there," and can be tested.
Now let us add two words to that "content." Of course, all triangles have three straightsides.
The "content" hasn't changed, but more information now exists in the sentence. The sentence now says "[I am sure that you are smart enough to realize that] all triangles have three straight sides."
This sentence contains more than just objective content; it "clarifies" a relationship between the writer and the reader.
Hidden in every sentence is a relationship between the speaker/writer and the listener/reader. In other words, every sentence hasa content dimension and an "interpersonal" dimension. The content dimension must be explicit but the interpersonal dimension can be hidden. The "C" of Courtesy applies to the interpersonal dimension, and the "can/could/may/should..." problem belongs to this dimension, not to the content dimension.
Let us look at another variation of the original sentence.
Therefore, all triangles have three straight sides.
What happened here? The content hasn't changed, but more information now exists in the sentence. The sentence now says
"[The primary and secondary premises expressed immediately before this sentence logically require the truth of the statement that] all triangles have three straight sides."
What is important to our discussion is not whether this statement is true, but rather that this statement implies that another statement or two preceded it. This statement cannot stand alone: it has to be in a certain textual "context." In other words, "therefore" clarifies the relationship between this sentence and those preceding it. Context is also implicit in every statement: it is another dimension of communication. The "C" of Cohesion applies to this dimension.
There is another aspect to the context dimension, that of the time and place of the communication. The statement "this is a pen" has meaning only if the reader listener can see the pen being described. The teacher has to show it or a drawing/picture must be in the text. Thus, clarifying words like "this," "that," and "now" belong to the context dimension, not the content dimension. The articles "the" and "a" also belong to the context dimension.
Why are these three dimensions important to us? Because the many different kinds of technical writing (such as technical manuals,technical papers/reports, specifications, standards) emphasize different combinations of these dimensions. For example, "now" in a research paper refers to the time it was written, but "now" in a technical manual refers to the time it is being read. We usually call these standard combinations the "style" of technical manuals, technical papers/reports, and specifications/standards.
There are three "dimensions" to technical communication: content, interpersonal, and context. Each of the three (actually five) "C's" apply to a certain dimension. The "style" of the document depends on the choices we make in each of the dimensions.
Thank you for giving me the chance to again share some thoughts with you. Much has happened since I last wrote for this page.
* The opportunity for a standard computer operating system has reached every desktop.
* Improved software has made it possible to produce maintainable documents with only a few hours of basic training.
* The Internet has arrived in Japan.
* Japan continues to fall further behind in English-language development.
Standardized Operating System
Before Windows 3.1, every Japanese manufacturer of computer systems had its own operating system or its own version of the accepted "standard." The result was chaos and the inability for files and programs used in schools and offices to be shared with those in the home. Three Microsoft Windows versions later, even the holdouts agree that the invasion was worthwhile.
Improved software has eliminated the need to use word processors and other computer programs as if they are mere extensions of the typewriter and mechanical calculator. Nevertheless, many in our industry still use them that way. In defense, I have written an introductory course on Using the Word Processor Intelligently for persons who work in my companies. The course is free and you are welcome to read it, study it, and pass it along. It can be accessed at www.iccsgrp.com/smartit/ index.htm. I apologize that no Japanese version is available yet.
The Internet has arrived and will not go away. And, like a teenage child, it will not listen to or be swayed by logic or reasoned arguments. We must use the vast information resources it offers and put up with the garbage that comes with it.
Outside Japan, English is Available
I am proud to have taught the best students imaginable in seminars throughout Japan. Unfortunately, those same students have little opportunity to encounter English once they leave the seminar room.
Such is not the case in other Asian countries. Cable TV offers exposure to many languages, especially English. In the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and China more than 100 channels are available. And they're cheap. In Japan, most are available at added cost. Even Larry King Live is delayed several hours so that it can be translated into Japanese. A bad idea. Famous Chinese personalities host extraordinarily good English programs in China. Japan has Ken Toyama. It needs a thousand more like him.
As a long time guest in Japan, I have the greatest respect for my Japanese mentors and students alike. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you all to scream for easier exposure to English here. The English language belongs to the world, not to any one country or group of countries. Nothing is lost by more exposure, and much is to be gained.