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M.E. Sharpe - The Elements of International English Style~ a Guide to Writing Correspondence_ Reports_ Technical Documents_ and Internet Pages for a Global Audience - (2005)

M.E. Sharpe - The Elements of International English Style~ a Guide to Writing Correspondence_ Reports_ Technical Documents_ and Internet Pages for a Global Audience - (2005)

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Published by Harita N Chamidy

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Published by: Harita N Chamidy on Apr 21, 2011
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10/09/2013

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Irony and its coarser cousins, sarcasm and wisecrack, can be baffling;
they usually fail in formal writing, especially for audiences culturally
removed from the writer. Without a shared culture of vocal inflections,
and without use of the voice, there is little chance that the meaning of
the passages will be taken correctly.
For people raised in certain parts of the world, however, irony and
sarcasm are daily habits of speech, so deeply ingrained that speakers are
unaware of their use and often seem incapable of expressing judgments
without them. For example, I was once engaged to help a branch of the

PRINCIPLES OF CLARITY59

U.S. Army improve some of its documentation. In a memo, I made the
mistake of writing: “There is no documentation at all for the base tele-
phone system. None. Fortunately, it’s not used for any important mes-
sages.” And my reader took me literally, perplexed that I could reach
such an unwarranted conclusion.
Amusingly, many writers believe they can accomplish the full range
of inflections and suprasegmental phonemes (pitch, stress, and intona-
tion) required to deliver a snide remark by inserting a few strategic quo-
tation marks. But sneering with quotation marks does not translate either:
We read your “long-range plan.” (What you disingenuously refer to as
your long-range plan.) If you have an editorial comment, do it with words
(so-called or alleged plan) rather than trying to do it with quotation
marks. And no speaker should ever express skepticism by making a hand
gesture resembling quotation marks.
Because of the international variations in the conventions for quota-
tion marks, I urge writers to use them only when necessary, and cer-
tainly not to suggest an ironic or skeptical tone.

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