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Re: Typos in the manual

From: Neil Jerram
Subject: Re: Typos in the manual
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2011 00:14:57 +0000
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.1 (gnu/linux)

Mark Harig <address@hidden> writes:

>> > Both "i.e." and "e.g." should always be followed by a comma.
>> Well.  Let me tell you.  I've written those kinds of patches before,
>> adding a comma unconditionally and all.  After a few maintainers of
>> some packages rejected them, I've become less enthused.
> Something that's long been a mystery to me is why it is that computer
> programmers, who spend their days learning and following the rules and
> idioms of various programming languages, do not want to learn and
> follow the rules and idioms of natural languages.

Because computer languages are constrained by the specifications and
tools that interpret them, whereas natural languages evolve and diverge
through human usage?

> Reference manuals should strive to follow grammar and usage rules as
> much as possible in a jargon-filled context.  There is enough room
> already for confusion and lack of precision.

But surely you don't believe that there is a One True set of "grammar
and usage rules"?

>> Also, while the Chicago Manual of Style recommends it, some other 
> online
>> grammar sites mention that it is American English style, but British
>> English would not add a comma afterwards.

My feeling is consistent with that.  I'm British, and I'd say there are
lots of cases where it is more natural (to me) not to have a comma after
"i.e." or "e.g.".

> To propose that the comma sometimes be included and sometimes be
> omitted after "i.e." and "e.g." should be considered the same as
> proposing that the comma following the words "that is" and "for
> example" are optional.

I'd say that's a false premise (and hence makes the rest of your post
unfounded).  "i.e." and "e.g." are useful precisely because they are
more concise than "that is" and "for example", and hence they have
different effects on the flow of their containing sentence.  Normally
the effect is that they slow the sentence down _less_ than "that is" or
"for example" would - which IMO is often an advantage.  To require a
comma in every case would be to obscure that difference.

> Example 1:
> By "simple" we mean data types that are not primarily used as
> containers to hold other data -- i.e. pairs, lists, vectors and so on.

In case it helps to explain my position here: when I read this sentence
to myself, whether out loud or in my head, there is no pause after the
"i.e.".  To me this is natural, and is good because it allows the
sentence to complete without unnecessary delay.

Is there a pause when you read it to yourself?


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