The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #104248   Message #2137359
Posted By: GUEST,leeneia
31-Aug-07 - 12:10 AM
Thread Name: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
What follows is an e-mail my husband sent from work with examples of engineering writing for usual clients and his Chinese clients. Little Hawk asked to see some. I should mention that the subject of the reports is the pollution of groundwater by previous owners of the land under investigation. When chemicals flow in groundwater, they follow a shape called "a plume."
I have tried to put together a few examples of the use of concrete terms that we would typically try to use with our Asian clients, versus more abstract expressions we casually fall into in everyday life.

It involves more than just simplifying the way one tries to say
something (which I try to do with most clients anyway). Ever since you raised the concept that Asians are more likely to achieve a clearer understanding of an idea if it stated in concrete terms, I have tried to listen to the way they speak, and have found that to a large extent, the concept holds. In performing this exercise, I tried to get the second version to sound the way I hear them (which is also the way I now try to talk). The terms that can be considered more abstract are underlined.

The migration rate of the leading edge of the groundwater contamination plume is approximately 25 feet per year. Vs.: The leading edge of the groundwater contamination plume moves approximately 25 feet per year.

The distribution of the contaminants in the subsurface is indicative of the origin of the pollution. Vs.: The shape of the plume tells us where its source was.

The state environmental regulatory personnel have a preference for
personal interaction as opposed to corresponding by letter. Vs.: The
state environmental regulatory personnel like face-to face meetings
rather than letters.

And, most importantly:

The charges on our invoice are reflective of the actual level of effort expended. Vs.: The invoice shows how many hours we worked on the project.

Although their english is a lot better than my Mandarin chinese, they
still have a monumental struggle with understanding and being understood in this country, in ways that I am now convinced go far beyond limitations in vocabulary. I don't know if these examples are
sufficiently clear demonstrations of the concept, as I just dashed them off on the spur of the moment, so some of the examples may not be as abstract as we sometimes get.