Last month I attended AODC 2010, the Australasian Online Documentation and Content conference. We were in Darwin, in Australia’s “Top End”. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been posting my summaries of the conference sessions, derived from my notes taken during the presentations. All the credit goes to the presenter. Any mistakes or omissions are my own.
Frank “Choco” Munday presented the last session of the conference. Choco is an awesome presenter. It’s something of a tradition (the AODC has a few of those) that the conference ends with a raucous laugh. Choco excels at putting that sort of finishing touch to an event!
In this presentation, we looked at some horrors that technical writers may encounter and indeed should do our utmost to avoid.
“Eggcorn” is a linguistic term for the practice of replacing a complex or scientific term with a more commonly-used word, especially when people swap the unfamiliar part of a phrase with a word that occurs more often in their own dialect. An oft-quoted example is the use of “old-timers disease” instead of “Alzheimer’s disease”. Wikipedia says that the term “eggcorn” was coined by Geoffrey Pullum in 2003, based on a case where a woman used the phrase “egg corns” when she meant “acorns”.
Choco was specifically concerned with “eggcorns” as spell-as-you-speak errors. He took us through a rollicking and somewhat scathing look at a number of eggcorns, such as:
- “Should of” for “should have” – a frequent occurrence in Australia.
- “At your beckoned call”.
- “For all intensive purposes”.
- “I think I might be lack toast and tolerant” for “lactose intolerant”.
Choco showed a number of examples from print and online media, and lambasted them thoroughly. It’s well worth getting him to run through his list with you.
Next Choco turned his eagle eye to mixed metaphors. Politicians were worth their weight in gold here.
Choco said, “I would slip one or two into my technical documentation, just to see what happens”. (Mixed metaphors, that is, not politicians.) 🙂
Unwords got some Choco love too. Choco suggests we take a look at the Unword Dictionary at unwords.com.
So I did that. Here’s an unword I like:
19. bandpulliphobia (bănd-pu’lə-fō’bē-ə)
- a. (n.) The fear of pulling off a band-aid; Especially when counting down from three.
Remembering that we were attending a serious technical writing conference, Choco did mention with a straight face (for a split second, anyway) that unwords are words that are not really words, so there’s a chance that people won’t understand them. We should therefore avoid them in our technical documentation. I was glad of this reminder, as I was starting to feel the temptation. 😉
A fittingly boisterous end to AODC. Fun, but with a serious undertone. Thank you Choco.