Fri, 25 Nov 1994

The Listening Post

* Be consistent in your choice of terminology, to avoid confusion in your English prose writing. If you use the acronym "CBD," without explaining its meaning, in one part of an article, don't write "Central Business District" later in the same piece -- or your readers might suspect that "CBD" means something else altogether! * An office or company style sheet should govern such choices, in order to present a united front when various writers coordinate their writing. Another example is "JSE" vs. "JSX," for "Jakarta Stock Exchange." I've seen both abbreviations in print, often in the same news article. This is not really right. * One of the best-known style sheets is that of The Economist, the weekly British "newspaper" (which to you or me looks like a magazine); its English prose style is considered the best in the world. This is the publication that subscribers in Indonesia have been complaining about not receiving on time; you may have read some of their sad and irate tales in recent "Your Letters" columns. * While I respect the choice of style of The Economist, there are different forms of punctuation, capitalization, etc., that I have chosen for my own personal style of prose writing in English. For instance, The Economist does not used a period after "Mr" or "Mrs," but I prefer to punctuate these forms. You will also see acronyms like "nato," "Nato," and "Asean," which I prefer to write in all caps: NATO and ASEAN. Such points are minor but, while not usually a cause of confusion, they should appear in the same style in a document. This is especially important when more than one writer is involved in creating a piece, or publication. * Repeating words in the same sentence, while not necessarily incorrect, can be considered poor style. In an example like "We note with satisfaction that the gross profit of Belly Dancers' Assurance Corporation up to September was also up, from A$7.7b to A$9b..." it would be preferable to change the second "up" to a synonym, like "higher." In the following sentence, "Of the current 256 operating branches of Bank Chu Rang, only 41 branches have lending authority," take out the second "branches," as the referent of "41" is obvious. * Be economical in your terminology. Instead of "In addition to that," just write "In addition." An example: "With a population of around 180m people..." -- presumably, "population" would not include chickens and crocodiles (expect the two-legged kind). So cut out "people" for economy's sake. Another example of economy in expression: "Bank Qabur plans to place more concentration on this, commencing in 1995" is just too wordy. How about "BQ plans to concentrate on this, from 1995" instead? You can usually catch such rough spots when you write a second or third draft of a piece. Even experienced writers often insist on drafting important prose writing: this column is ordinarily rewritten at least twice before you see it (though it might not look it, ha ha). * Be precise in your reference. I changed "While Bank Melotot was also affected by non-performing loans, it has managed to control it" to "... it has managed to control the resulting negative effects." The use of "it" in the first sentence is not only numerically incorrect, but also imprecise. * Don't confuse "publicize and "make public,"Mah Ling will make the rating public, and will hire a paranormal to monitor the fixed income instrument..." If you use "publicize," it sounds like PT Mah Ling will buy a display ad in Pos Kota to advertise the rating, as opposed to their intention to simply make the information openly available for anyone to see. * Use "account" with "for," not "to," as in "State mental institution cafeterias account for 55% of the Federal Ice Cream and Pickled Relish Budget." In many cases the choice of a preposition will change the meaning of a two-word verb completely. "Her lawyers responded for her, when newspapers alleged that everyone who had eaten her ice cream before 1846 subsequently died"; "Her lawyers responded to her, when newspapers alleged that everyone..." In the first case, the lawyers spoke up on behalf of the woman. In the second, they spoke to her about the allegedly contaminated ice cream. * With a potentially unfamiliar Indonesian term, like "yayasan" or "kraton", it is probably best to use italics or boldface in English. In any case, whatever convention is chosen for this should be adhered to, for consistency's sake. Words like "batik" or "gamelan," already familiar to many English speakers, would not necessarily have to be transcribed in any special fashion.

-- Byron Black