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    Mon, 08 Jun 2009


    /TechWriting: Advice for Chinese Writers of English Documents

    In the course of editing, I have found some common mistakes which should be given some attention by writers:

    1. Never use "not" contractions, as in ????n't, in formal documents:
      • "didn't" should be "did not",
      • "isn't" should be "is not",
      • "can't" should be "cannot", etc.

    2. Always capitalize the first letter of the names of people and places. 中国 should always be written as "China", not "china".

    3. Refer to names consistently throughout a document, preferably using the same form as the owner / originator. Check their website if necessary.
      • ".NET", not ".Net" or ".net".
      • "Microsoft", not "MicroSoft"

    4. Try to use the word "the" more often before nouns. This is not necessary for the meaning, but a lot of "the"s are necessary for a formal document to sound right.

    5. Do not confuse "a" and "the". "A" is for general references, "the" is for specific references. Suppose the CEO needs to fly to London for a business meeting, and the company owns one private jet. He might say to his secretary:
      • I am going to take a commercial flight ("a" refers to any flight that is convenient, he is not being specific)
      • I am going to take the company plane (he is saying exactly which plane he is going to use) -or-
      • I am going to take the 5:00PM British Air flight (he is saying exactly which flight he is going to take)

    6. Use the words "should" and "better" less, I am seeing these much too often. After your first draft, go back and find better alternatives for most instances of "should" and "better".

    7. Avoid "and so on", make proper use of "etc.":
      • right: "item1, item2, item3, item4, etc."
      • wrong: "item1, item2, item3, item4 and etc."
      • wrong: "item1, item2, item3, item4 etc."

    8. Avoid word repetition:
      • right: "we did this on both A and B projects".
      • wrong: "we did this on A project and on B project".
      • in bulleted lists, if every item begins with the same word, delete that word from all items.

    9. Be mindful of punctuation:
      • Do not use punctuation from Chinese character sets. Do not use (,。!?) use (,.!?)
      • generally speaking, there should be no space between a punctuation mark and the preceding word, and one, maybe two spaces between the punctuation mark and the following word.

    10. When expressing Chinese names in pinyin, the convention is to to have no spaces between syllables, or for very long names to group syllables together logically, and capitalize only the first letters. No mid-word capitals, no spaces between every syllable:
      • right: "Shenzhen", wrong: "ShenZhen"
      • right: "Beixincun Houjie", wrong: "Bei Xin Cun Hou Jie"

    11. Bad grammar habits:
      • weak: "each other", better: "one another"
      • weak: "content of document", better: "document content"
      • weak: "the database is queried by the module", better: "the module queries the database"

    12. Multi-word names, especially of books or other documents, are often italicized (italics font) and / or bolded and / or quoted to make the document easier on the eye. This is particularly useful if the name contains very ordinary words, like the "I Can Quit" program, for instance.

    13. Finally, after I have reviewed your document, take the time to look over the things that I have changed and try to extract at least one grammar or vocabulary lesson to remember for the next document. Especially if I had to edit a lot.

    posted at: 04:16 | path: /TechWriting | permanent link to this entry