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Archive for May 1st, 2015

Singular Expression

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“To improve your readers’ comprehension and ensure they take the appropriate action:

  • Use a singular noun rather than a plural noun. Address one person rather than a group.”

              —IRM Style Guide

Cute, eh? The IRS Style Guide uses the plural noun readers and its plural pronoun their to advise an individual IRM writer to use the singular. I only wish I could find that to be the only instance in which the IRM Style Guide openly violates its own style advice.

Perhaps the IRM Style Guide excuses its violation of its own rule by mistaking the audience of an IRM to be a group of more than a single individual reader? Eh, maybe, except that is generally the case of just about any bit of writing other than this weblog. Like, the mere act of publication of any content with an intent to distribute versus placing the matter in a private correspondence to a named person by definition presumes the plural. But that doesn’t mean that we read an IRM in the aggregate, even when studying it in a professional meeting. Nor do we generally take our “appropriate action” in the collective unless that collective (e.g., an employer) is cited as a singular. All in all, if the Style Guide has some justification for its own violation, then it ought at least state the exceptions to its rule, with its own advice fitting one of those exceptions.

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Written by macheide

1 May 2015 at 7:00 pm

Posted in so to speak

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