Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mice, lice, rice, blouses, houses, spouses, ice

Why is this?

Some grammar rules are easy to explain to my 5-year-old.

Some are not.

This one is not:

Mouse x 2 = mice
Louse x 2 = lice
Blouse x 2 = blouses
House x 2 = houses
Spouse x 2 = spouses
ice/ice = ice
rice/rice = rice

Why? Is it because typically there is never a single ice/ouse?

Or that most commonly people aren't afflicted with a multitude of hice or spice, but have just one?

Is the "ice" plural used only for the animate? Because my spouse = totally animate.

If you double-douse someone, you usually haven't diced them. At least not simultaneously.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Intent and Tone

Right now, I'm a Policy and Procedure writer.

Usually my work is more focused on training in some capacity, but I'm enjoying the pace shift.

Writing for this particular large, sports-industry corporation, I'm in a unique position, in that my work affects a lot of employees globally.

As I sit in meetings every day, I'm faced with a perpetual, interesting-possibly-only-to-me dilemma: what is the corporate INTENT when writing Human Resources Policies? And how do I use the right tone to reflect that intent?

Are Policy & Procedures meant to be PUNITIVE ("Do XXX, or face these consequences")?

Or RESPECT-BUILDING ("We expect XXX in order to uphold corporate integrity. Failure to comply may affect business and will result in consequences to employees.")?

Generally, I'd say that my job is for a company whose corporate lifestyle is so clearly NOT punitive. For example, my spacious cubicle is built from bamboo and rice paper, the campus is surrounded by acres of woodlands, and my (company lunchroom) meals are fresh and organic.

And also generally, I'd say I'm more of the Respect-Building school, and - as an employee - appreciate the softened, conspire-for-success tone.

But no matter what the corporate lifestyle is, do people, generally (aka you, 4 readers), want policies which are plain:
(Policy/Punitive response to failure)
OR softened:
(Policy phrased respectfully/Reasons for policy/Consequences of failure)?

Which is really a rabbit hole of political correctness (or touchy-feeliness) vs. old-school transparency (and bluntness).

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Today in Time, I read an article using the phrase "the data are inconclusive".

Which sounds incorrect to my ear. Even though I know it is technically and theoretically correct, I think this is a case where colloquial usage (singular) has superseded traditional grammar rules (plural).

Were I writing this phrase, I would always say "the data is inconclusive".

In the stricter echelons of grammarians, this is a particularly nasty piece of heresy. Grammar anarchy! Rrawr!

Which brings up another question:

"Day-tuh"? or "Dah-tuh"?

I find that I've adapted to the more common day-tuh over time, particularly as I spend so much of my time working with software engineers who, most often, say day-tuh.

My inclination, however, is that dah-tuh is more correct.

And singular.

Friday, September 25, 2009


When a parking spot is labeled "COMPACT", is it Informative ("I am a small parking space"), or Instructive ("This parking spot is meant for small cars")?

I have an opinion, but am actually unclear as to public intent.