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Follow-up: Where have all the adverbs gone? And how did they go?

mouthThis came to me by way of the Chicago Manual of Style Facebook feed. I’m not going insane–adverbs are declining, enough so that there’s a whole article in The Guardian from last fall!

Read the article here:

Where have all the adverbs gone? And how did they go?

I’m glad to have found an ally with the writer of the article, Maddie York!

To read my original article addressing this phenomenon, read here.

What do you think? Are adverbs overrated, or ignored?

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What have you got against adverbs? What did they ever do to you?

loudI’ve noticed a disturbing trend that seems to be happening in the English language–at least in American English. Every time I heard this mistake, I cringe and wonder why it’s happening.

Evidently, people are not using adverbs correctly anymore. I keep hearing the “-ly” dropped from words in sentences often, and it makes me wonder why this is happening. Is it a lack of proper verbal education–not being taught to speak properly? Is it ignorance? Or is it part of an evolutionary process occurring in American English? (I haven’t noticed it when listening to British English on British television shows, which is why I think it might only be in the United States.)

Let me use some of the sentences that I’ve used above as examples, in which I’ll drop the “-ly” from the descriptor of the verb in the sentence.

“Evidently, people are not using adverbs correct anymore….Is it a lack of proper verbal education–not being taught to speak proper?”

See what I mean? This bothers me to no end, because I’m starting to see it in written English too, and, well…


Perhaps I watch too much reality television that shows under-educated people who aren’t exactly the living examples of academia or professionalism. Even so, while I’ve noticed this trend in the past few years, it seems like it’s getting worse.  Is this evidence of the decay of American education? Perhaps.  I can tell you that being the “grammar police” of my household, this is always a concern to me. I want to make sure that my son speaks well and properly as he grows up and makes his way into the world. 

While I was writing this, it occurred to me that there is another consideration with this phenomenon related to technical communication.  This lack of correct adverb use can greatly affect translation and localization efforts. A huge issue that I’ve been hearing in tech comm is the need to write more clearly and in plain language to aid in better translation for localization.  If adverbs are not used correctly, how does that translate? In some languages, it might not matter, since some languages don’t use adverbs the same way English does. But most languages that I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve studied four, but far from mastered any of them) always had adverbs. Adverbs are simply proper grammar! So if improper grammar was used in a document, how would that reflect on the writer and the establishment the writer represented?

I implore my fellow technical communicators to please advocate for the adverb! Please make sure that adverbs are used properly, both in written and spoken language. We need to make corrections to preserve this important part of speech. Save the adverb!

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Is English an International Language? – Part 2

UK vs US peepsEarlier this year, I was asked by the STC-PMC to write a two-part article about the differences and similarities between American and British English.  Part 1 was published in February.  Today, I happily saw that the second part was published in the STC-PMC bi-monthly newsletter.

To find the original article, see the March/April 2013 edition of the STC-PMC Newsletter here.

The article itself is below.

Is English an International Language?
Part 2

David Crystal, author of English as a Global Language, has said that in the pursuit of a World Standard Spoken English (WSSE), American English seems to be the most influential in its development, as American grammar is now starting to influence contemporary British usage.  He also discusses at length how different dialects will allow national and international intelligibility to start developing. He said, “If WSSE emerges as the neutral global variety in due course, it will be make redundant the British/American distinction. British and American English will still exist, of course, but as varieties expressing national identity in the UK and the USA.

Edmund H. Weiss, the author of The Elements of International English Style, also points out that there is clash when trying to come up with a standard version of English, namely between “…globalization, producing a one-size-fits-all solution for a diverse world of English speakers, versus localization, adapting and modifying this universal model for particular readers in particular locales.”  Where English is a second language, Weiss demonstrates, the idioms and figures of speech end up resembling the language structure of the native language. Because of there are about 400 million native English speakers, and about a billion people who speak it as a second language or as a foreign language (for business or a profession), the importance of clear, unambiguous communication is undeniable.

There are many great resources available about this conundrum that can help put everything in perspective, especially in a world in which the Internet is starting to spread the use of English more and more all the time. Some good ones include:

Recent Articles:
Internet + English= Netglish
Learning English online: How the Internet is changing language
Tongue and Tech: the Many Emotions from Which English Has No Words

·         Do’s and Taboos of Using English Around the World by Roger E. Axtell
·         Divided by a Common Language: A Guide to British and American English by Christopher Davies
·         The Elements of International English Style: A Guide to Writing Correspondence, Reports, Technical Documents, and Internet Pages for a Global Audience by Edmond H. Weiss
·         English as a Global Language by David Crystal
·         Brit-Think, Ameri-Think by Jane Walmsley

·         International English by Danielle M. Villegas at

So, what’s a technical writer supposed to do? The best thing to do is to be exceedingly careful of using slang or idioms that relate to one’s native English, and be aware of local usage used on a global scale. This isn’t an easy task at all, yet it’s an important consideration when translating English into another language, let alone trying to write for English speakers globally.

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What Margaret Thatcher brought to the women of Tech Comm

IronLadyToday, the world lost one of the most impactful figures in international politics. Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Britain, passed away after a stroke at the age of 87.  I’ve been watching the BBC News coverage for much of today, and I’ve heard the good, bad and ugly about her. Politics aside, I think there are certain aspects to her that over time earned her respect, even if you didn’t agree with her.

For me, as an American woman who was a teenager during her tenure as Prime Minister, I tend to have a lot of respect for her as a person–for her strong character especially. I see her as a role model for young girls even now on so many levels. First, she earned her degree in chemistry from Oxford, and worked in a plastics factory as a research chemist. So, she was a very early pioneer, in many respects, of being a woman in a STEM career, during a time when women were expected to stay and mind the home.  She was a writer as well, as proven by the fact that she earned her law degree. (She did write three books years as well.) So, she was a scientist AND a writer.

Just the fact that she was a scientist and a writer, in my mind, qualifies her to be of the technical communications mindset. She had to have an analytical mind, and be able to translate facts and information effectively into plain language, and that lent itself well to her political career.

Add to that all that, she was a mother, and a working mother at that. I’m sure she had some help from some nannies and such as her career pushed on, but she was still a mother, nonetheless.  Even if some people didn’t agree with her politics, I’m sure that her intention was that she wanted to make the world a better place not only for her children, but for fellow Britons as well.

What impressed me most, looking back at her life, and what I think gained her the respect she earned was her sense of duty and her conviction of her beliefs. It was her conviction that earned her the nickname of the “Iron Lady.”  As a woman in a very male-dominated world of politics, which I imagine wasn’t too different from being in the male-dominated world of law or science during her lifetime, she had to forge through to make her voice heard, and she pushed through to make things better in a way that she felt was appropriate. Isn’t that very much like a mum? Maybe she didn’t always make the best choices, but she did what she thought was best, and advocated as hard as any mother would. One of the things I think I remember hearing or reading about her was that she didn’t think of herself as a feminist. She just was a woman who had something to say, and the determination to make it happen.

How does this relate to women in tech comm? Well, like Margaret Thatcher, I’m sure that women have come a long way in the technical communications field. Some have come from a STEM background that still has a deficit of women even today, and some have come from a writing background. Many of us are mothers as well, or even just caretakers within our families.  Even since the time I was a child, there has been a big push to try to encourage young women towards STEM careers, as these are fields that are still unequal in female representation to this day, and to try to be working mums in these professions as well.

I can state that most of the women I have met in technical communication are iron ladies in their own right. While there is stereotype that technical communicators are naturally introverts, the truth is that we all have strong determinations that all help us forge our way in this once male-dominated field.  (Tech comm may well still be a male-dominated field for all I know, but I haven’t seen that necessarily.)

Being female technical communicators mean that as a group, we need to creating new opportunities for others–both men and women–using our brains that can translate the technical into effective writing while using our natural instincts to be advocates. The writing we do can have enormous impact on our readers if we do our jobs right.  Margaret Thatcher did things in her own way, pushed boundaries, and left the world a changed place because of her actions. Terrorism would not even get that woman to back down. What can the women of technical communication do for the world for the future? Time will tell, but as the world changes, women in tech comm definitely have a place to make those positive changes.