[DWJ] other things

Juliette Curtis jcurtis at harvestroad.com
Wed Jun 25 21:58:24 EDT 2008

As a technical writer and pilot, I know that incorrect or imprecise language
can kill.

Two examples:

In a tech writing class I attended, we were told of an MRI machine whose
documentation was not precise enough. If a reader misunderstood a particular
instruction and set up the machine wrongly, it threw the machine into an
incompletely-developed mode of operation that could interfere with the
patient's brain functions. That thing killed three people before they
realised what it was doing, and it was the documentation that was at fault.

And a few years ago in Australia there was a collision between two aircraft
that killed three people. The major cause of the collision was that one
pilot had failed to understand a warning that was given to him via his


-----Original Message-----

Grammar is not a matter of life and death if it is messed with, would be
the argument here (I read your post out to DWJ on the phone, and she
laughed delightedly and then said 'yes but' because she has met this: one
of her sons is on the arts side, another on the maths).  If someone tampers
with the laws of physics, thinking that precision doesn't matter, or uses
centimetres instead of inches in their calculations for instance, the
effect can be literally fatal: the concrete mixed to the wrong
specifications makes the house fall down, the train comes off the wonky
rails at speed, or the comms for the space project don't work, or whatever
else.  Nobody is yet reported as having had a fatal stroke when faced with
a wilfully bad bit of grammar: if they did, they died before they could say

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