Plain English Please

An appeal to wiki contributors to refactor their text towards PlainEnglish. It is not uncommon that some paragraphs read like alien language.

It can be that unwarranted assumptions fly left and right and the reader doesn't know where to get them from. Context is not established, logic does not flow from one sentence to another in the same paragraph. The next paragraph hardly connects to the previous, and BigBallOfLinks and other problems of style may happen. The net result is that the writer hardly tries to communicate anything at all to the WikiReader, or the reader has to take a hard guess and take a leap of faith to get to the message of the text.

A small example (from JavaAndDotNet):
DotNet is more "agile" (put it mildly).Its characteristic lead some to wonder whether applications are developed to prove the concept (of DotNet), rather than to achieve a return for the business owner, who happen to require a SupplyChainManagement solution that rely on a particular WirelessDeviceEnterpriseComputing? implementation.
There's nothing in the above that makes any sense to a reasonable practitioner of programming.

Such phenomena discredit the site in the eyes of WikiReaders, and are also a big demotivator for the whole community. When PlainEnglishPlease appears next to a paragraph, the original contributor is invited to consider rewriting it in PlainEnglish.

Consider FixYourWiki as an alternative to placing this tag. The example given above is quite legible and its usage here demonstrates only someone being unkind to a person who does not have English as their first language.

How can you FixYourWiki when you don't understand what you're supposed to fix ? The text above belongs to somebody for whom English is most likely the first language. But if you claim the above is legible, maybe you can share with us (translate into PlainEnglish) what exactly it is that you can read from it.

The above is certainly difficult to interpret, but I shall attempt to translate it while capturing the flavour and what appears to be the intended meaning:

To put it mildly, DotNet is more "agile." This characteristic leads some to wonder whether applications are being developed to achieve a return for the business owner, or whether they are being developed to prove the concept of DotNet. The business owner merely wants their SupplyChainManagement solution to rely on a particular WirelessDevice? EnterpriseComputing? implementation; they do not care whether the DotNet concept is proven or not.

I am not sure I have accurately captured the essence of the original, especially as its assertions are somewhat questionable. Is DotNet more "agile" than, presumably, Java? Anyway, if I'm not sure that was the intended meaning, and if others aren't sure that was the intended meaning (obviously, since it's used here as an example) then surely greater clarity was needed in the original. While it would certainly be politically incorrect to condemn the contributor if his second language is English, the contribution is fair game, as is any contribution regardless of mother tongue. It does the WikiReader no service to leave it in an ambiguous and unclear state. Were this a print publication, any editor would have hit it with red ink. Should the same not apply here? If so, PlainEnglishPlease is a good way to indicate a need for a specific type of revision, and there should be no hard feelings because it is merely an editorial mark that indicates that the original author needs to further clarify his intent so that others can unambiguously interpret the meaning and, if necessary, rewrite it to be more elegant.


As the original author busy googling and trying to make sense of my results for HandheldComputer ApplicationDevelopment info, let me put in a quick word and then exit.

"agile" was my "mild" word for fast-moving, forward-looking (without much continuity) considerations. And "orderly" meant the other extreme. Slow moving, MakeRoomForAllViewpoints but may bear the problems of inadequate "market relevance". Sorry to have caused the two of you to take up a "un"scholarly analysis of these words -- dl DeleteWhenRead and would have responded to "what do you mean by words "A" and "B")

I see. I'm tempted to start putting "Confucius say" in front of these whenever I find them, but I suspect some folks might find that offensive. Some folks will probably find this offensive, too. I can live with that. DeleteWhenOffended?

I have a giggle with "Confucius say". But if I hear a "bonk" on your head, actioned by a HostileTeacher, then I will be LaughingOutLoud.

I want to use "agile" as a word that has multiple (good and bad) meaning. Same for the word "orderly". My "mildly" qualification is an attempt to "extend" the speculation of the WikiReader in either direction. So the challenge for you as the NotsoHostileTeacher is how would you rephrase the intentions in a "deliberately ambigious" way.

Simply say what you mean, and I strongly encourage you to avoid anything that is "deliberately ambiguous." That merely adds confusion, unless you're intending the ambiguity to be thought-provoking. If so, you should say so, rather than rely on the reader to properly infer the subtleness of your intent from a series of oblique references. I'll skip "orderly" since it wasn't part of the paragraph above, but I'll try to rewrite it to include your intent:

To some degree, DotNet may be considered more "agile," but this is a double-edged sword. Agility may encourage a fast-moving, flexible and forward-looking approach, but at the same time it may lack adequate consideration for continuity. This characteristic leads some to wonder whether new applications are being developed to achieve a return for business owners, or whether they are simply being developed to prove the concept of DotNet. Business owners, of course, merely want their SupplyChainManagement solutions to rely on a particular WirelessDevice? EnterpriseComputing? implementation; they don't care whether the DotNet concept is proven or not.

Does that capture your original intent? Of course, this doesn't even begin to touch on whether the overall point you're making is valid and meaningful or not, or whether it's adequately supported with evidence, but that's a subject for a different debate. I'm merely sweetening the words to make them easier to swallow.


PlainEnglishPlease (a small demonstration S.V.P) -- what's "S.V.P. " in Plain English? The only thing that rings a bell is "s'il vous plait" :) Mult'umesc foarte mult Costin. :-)

NovemberZeroFive

EditText of this page (last edited November 1, 2005) or FindPage with title or text search