United States
Environmental Protection
401 M Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 2046C
Be a Better Writer
A Manual for
EPA Employees


Be a Better Writer
           United States
 Environmental Protection Agency
            March 1980

      U.-li Environmental Protection
          >T 5, Library (PL-12J)


                        TABLE OF CONTENTS

FOREWORD                                                           v

PREFACE                                                             vi

I.      BE A BETTER WRITER                                          1
       Why Be a Better Writer?                                           1
       How to Start                                                     2
       Writing at EPA                                                   3

II.     BE ORGANIZED                                                4
       Organize-1:  Do It                                               4
       Organize 2:  How to Do It                                        5
       Organize-3:  Do It Again                                          10

III.    BE CLEAR                                                      12
       Use the Active Voice                                              12
       Write with More Verbs                                            15
       Use "Little" Words                                                17

IV.    BE TASTEFUL                                                  20
       Conundrums of Gender                                            20
       Hobgoblins  of Style                                               22
       Tasteless Jargon                                                  25

V.     BE CAREFUL                                                   29
       Techniques for Editing Your Own Material                           29
       Hints for Proofreading                                             34

APPENDIX:  OTHER RESOURCES                                       35


If there is one thing I have learned during my
government service, it is the importance of good
writing. Writing effectively is crucial to our effort to
serve the public and to protect the environment. It is
essential if we are to be fair and reasonable with those
we regulate. It is the best way to improve communi-
cation  among different parts of our own organization.
  "Be a Better Writer" is a major step toward meeting
the  President's and our own goals for better communi-
cation. It contains example after example of EPA
writing. I think you will find it a practical guide for
breaking bad habits and developing new writing skills.
  I  urge you to read this book and  refer to it often.
You will learn a worthwhile approach; your  readers
will thank you.
                           Douglas Costle

The President of the United States has told Govern-
ment writers to pay attention to their writing. In
March, 1978, he  issued Executive Order 12044,
directed at improving Government regulations:

    As President of the United  States of America, 1
    direct each Executive Agency to adopt procedures
    to  improve existing and future regulations. . .

    Regulations should be as simple and clear as
    possible. ..

    The head of each agency or the designated official
    with statutory responsibility. . .should determine
    that. . .the regulation is written in plain English
    and is understandable to those who must comply
    with it.

President Carter stressed plain English for regulations,
but we hope that this  manual will help to make all
Agency writing —memos, reports, even letters— clearer
and more understandable.
   There are many style manuals on the market:  for
newspaper reporters, short story writers, academic
writers, and on and on. There is nothing, however, for
as special an audience as the people who work for the
United States Environmental Protection Agency. This
manual addresses the  problems here at the Agency.
                             John R. Adams, Ph. D.
                             Veda Charrow, Ph. D.
                             Frank B. Phillippi

                         BE A  BETTER WRITER
                         Most people at the Environmental Protection
                         Agency do not clean up the environment with
                         rakes, or scrubbers, or settling ponds. They use
                         words. Almost everything you write—a research
                         paper, an internal memorandum, a response to a
                         Congressional inquiry, a budget submission, and
                         most certainly a regulation—in some way
                         contributes to fighting pollution.
                           But the very words we use can become
                         polluted. The Agency has only a few specialists to
                         deal with "word pollution"; often, the people who
                         write for the Agency must also clean up the
                         writing.  This manual is dedicated to helping you
                         with this job.
Government writers have a terrible reputation.
Now that members of the public are increasingly
more involved in the workings of government,
they are finding too many examples of writing
they cannot understand. Societies of plain-talking
critics have sprung up; the newspapers gleefully
report examples of incomprehensible prose.
  Members of the public typically have four
objections to government writing: it is disorgan-
ized, it is anonymous, it is full of jargon, and it is
unpolished. Those four objections lead to one
conclusion: Government writing is often inef-
  EPA writing runs the risk of being lumped
together with the excesses of our colleagues in
other parts of the Government. The way to avoid that
risk is, of course, for everyone at the Agency to
become a better writer; that is why we have written
this manual.

How TO START             If we had only one instruction for EPA writers,
                           we would say Be Personal. You can avoid the
                           criticisms of government writing through  such simple
                           changes as being aware of your audience  and adjusting
                           your style to different readers: people outside the
                           government, people outside your specialty, or people
                           within your own office.
                             Being personal leads to four other principles,  which
                           appear here as separate chapters. The first is a
                           reminder to organize your material with your reader in
                           mind. The next principle, Be  Clear,  examines ways to
                           help your reader follow what  you have written without
                           being distracted. Be Tasteful includes further guide-
                           lines to  keep the form of what you say from intruding
                           on the function of your message. Finally, in  the last
                           chapter  are guidelines on Being Careful and  polishing
                           what you wrote. An appendix gives helpful sources  for
                           further reading.
                             All the chapters start with general statements
                           of policy toward writing. But  the chapters do not
                           stop with broad guidelines. Each one offers ways
                           to pull yourself outside what  you have written
                           and to concentrate on things  you can recognize
                           independently, even though you wrote them
                           yourself. Appearing in most of the chapters, for
                           example, are two types of constructions:  the
                           passive voice, which many cite as the primary
                           villain in government  writing, and derivative
                           nouns (usually verbs with  suffixes, like prepara-
                           tion instead  of prepare). Recognizing these two
                           constructions is half the battle; the other half is testing
                           them  considering the alternative—to see if there is a
                           more effective way to say  the same thing.
                             Another suggestion is to work through your
                           writing more than once. The  suggestion applies
                           especially to organizing (searching for other ways
                           to present the same facts), to editing, and to
                             That  second trip through what you have
                           written  is crucial. After you have invested your
                           time, your research, your  ideas, and your creative
                           energies in those words on paper, you have a
                           personal stake in them. But people do  not like to
                           be told  that their words look or sound strange,
                           even though that is what an editor must  do.
                           Having someone else  say, "What does this mean?"
                           or "Who did that?" or even just a raised-eyebrow
                           "Huh?" is part  of testing how well your writing
                           does its job. The editor, even if you are the editor,
                           is the first person to start improving what you have

WRITING AT EPA           Writing for EPA adds another layer of
                           complexity to this already difficult  process.  First,
                           you are often drafting statements of policy or
                           compiling information that someone else will
                           sign. You are not free to write what you really
                           feel or interpret something strictly as you see it.
                           Instead, you must take someone else's idea or
                           guidance, merge  it with the available data, and
                           articulate it in the way you think your reviewers
                           would like to say it. But the more people you deal
                           with, the more opportunities there are for
                           misunderstanding, miscommumcation, and error.
                           You can handle these problems with careful
                           planning, by knowing your audience, and by
                           asking the right questions of the person making
                           the assignment. Supervisors can help with clear,
                           understandable, specific instructions.
                             Writing is hard work. Group writing is even
                           harder. We hope this manual  will help by making
                           you more aware  that the Agency's job is to  write
                           more clearly for its audience and to be personal;
                           we especially hope that the practical suggestions
                           throughout the manual will help you become a
                           better writer.

                         BE ORGANIZED
                         Organize, organize, organize!
                           These three words are all you need to
                         remember as you start to write. Well-organized
                         material, arranged in a logical order and
                         supplying organizational cues—headings and
                         transitions—lets your readers process the
                         information you give them more quickly and
                         understand it more easily.
                           Those three words also make up a conceptual
                         flow from first thoughts to first draft: first you
                         should remember to organize, then you should
                         check the flow of what you have organized, and
                         later you should consider other ways to present
                         the material. Each of the stages is important by
                         itself, and we treat each independently in the
                         following sections.
The time you invest before writing is a capital
investment that will pay dividends later.  More
specifically, it can help correct a prevalent
shortcoming in writing at EPA: pulling rabbits
from hats.
  Most people  can write straight  description.
They can say how much it cost to do a study, who
worked on it, what it dealt with, and how they
went about doing it. But those people rarely know
how to organize their  Findings, Conclusions, or
Recommendations. What they typically do is plow
through the descriptive part; then in the last page
out comes the rabbit. They jumble their conclu-
sions together with everything that crosses their
minds, giving no attention to parallelism,
balance, or connection with what preceded the
  That type of organization strains the reader
and often does  not even support the conclusions.

                           It also is one reason why some government
                           reports are so long. When you  begin to organize,
                           you have a chance to start asking yourself what
                           you will be concluding or recommending and to
                           incorporate the answers throughout your
                             The time you spend in Organize-1 can also
                           help you ask the most important question before
                           you write: So what? What's  the point? Why do you
                           need to write the document? Getting that answer
                           clear in your mind is the most profitable exercise
                           you can go through  before you begin writing—and
                           continue as  you refine your  outline.
                             Organi/e-1, even though it calls for two
                           practical questions (one about anticipating your
                           conclusions, the other about your point), is still
                           mainly an exhortation to plan before your write.
                           Organize-2 and Organize-3  concentrate more on
                           the mechanics of getting from The Point to paper;
                           they give you  specific hints for  practicing what
                           we preach, preach, preach!
ORGAMZE-2:               Almost all technical pieces have an  Introduction
How TO Do IT             and usually a Conclusion. Those sections put the
                           rest of what you say in context, tell who did what
                           and when, give some background, and, for the
                           Conclusion, reiterate the points you have made
                           along the way.
                             Writing introductions is just plain hard, and good
                           ones usually come only with practice.  One practical
                           improvement is to devote one paragraph to explaining
                           the ORGANIZING  PRINCIPLE. Tell your reader what
                           unifies your material and why you have chosen a par-
                           ticular order for it. That  paragraph, which alerts your
                           reader to what will come, may be as simple as "We
                           will discuss the following four topics," or,  better, it
                           will say how the topics relate to each other and to
                           your main point.  It is essentially a summary  of what
                           you did while you organized.
                             Picture a topic you might be  addressing—say, air
                           pollutants. (Imagine that you are writing a preamble
                           to a regulation on air pollution.) Most people have
                           been taught to group their  material  into categories and
                           then to display it in an outline:

   A. Sources
   B. Problems
    X. Control
    A. Sources
    X. Control

  Now try a different way of looking at the outline, so
 that the main sections line up along the base of a
The Introduction and Conclusion can  be shoulders for
the triangle.

These triangles have the primary advantage of display-
ing related items (here,  pollutants) alongside each
other. They also let you see your organization develop;
eventually you can suspend further layers of triangles
from each of the blocks at the base. The most
important advantage of the triangles, however, is that
they allow you to  ask piercing organizational

What unifies the topics? What do the lower boxes
have in common?  (In this case, they are all air
pollutants, although  there are other ways to view
them.) Fill that classifier in at the top of the triangle:
Are your topics exhaustive? Are there other air
pollutants? You may need to say in your introductory-
paragraph that other items fit the organizing principle
but that you do not intend to discuss them. Occasion-
ally, you might have to revise your organizing
principle to narrow it.  For example,  it  might turn out
that you are really writing about point-source air
pollution, not  all  kinds of air pollution.

Do they overlap? If your outline contains "TSP" and
"Fugitive Dust" as well, something is awry: fugitive
dust is itself a  Total Suspended  Particulate. Be careful
not to mix levels  of triangles, elevating a subpomt  to
the status of major points.  This  mixture of levels
would be tempting if you were especially interested in
dust (if you were, \ou  should use a different organi-
zing principle).

Are they parallel? The  sections of your document
should be parallel in two ways. The easier one you can
verify when you review your material, checking to

make sure your lists and headings have the same
grammatical construction: all gerunds (Improving
EPA 's Monitoring), all infinitives (To Protect Sensitive
Environmental Areas), all imperatives (Reorganize the
	Office), all abbreviated sentences (Resources
Inadequate), all questions (How Can  We Guarantee
Compliance?), or all nouns (Sulfur Dioxide).
  Your  organization   should   be  parallel  as   well.
Something would be wrong if your outline had


Equipment for monitoring may be important, but it
simply does not fit with the other items (kinds of air
pollutants) in the list.  You would have two choices  for
correcting this lack  of parallelism: revise your
organizing principle so that monitoring fits, or else
remove the topic  from the outline, inserting it as a
secondary point within some  of the topics.

Are your points in the best order? Everything written
has a  starting  point. From that simple fact follows
another fact: something really is the starting point,
something else follows, and so on. Use your time
during Orgamze-2 to  turn these facts to your ad-
vantage.  Begin by deciding what principle governs
the order of a list. (Chapters, headings, conclusions,
and even sets of bullets buried deep in your document
are all lists.) Next, ask yourself if another principle
might be more appropriate. Sample principles include
priority,  time sequence, location, and cause and effect.
  Deciding explicitly on an ordering principle has
another advantage:  it  helps you  remember to include
transitions, the glue connecting your points. These aids
to the reader can be conceptual ("highest  priority,
next,  next") or concrete ("after finishing step 2, begin
3")- Either type is acceptable; the point is to include
  When  you have found the  organizing principle at
one level (say, chapters), do it again for lower levels.
When you finish, you will have made triangles within
triangles, all the way to the material in individual
paragraphs. The next figure shows a full organization
for a  report on air pollutants. The annotations—
organizing principles, transitions—are notes to yourself
on the organizational cues to include.

                 KINDS OF
          so2HTSPh- HCI—ico



ORGAMZE-3:               Anything can be reorganised. So try it. choose a
Do IT AGAIN               different organizing principle and different arrange-
                           ments within your triangles. Then decide \vhat option
                           will let you present your information most effectively.
                           No principle will invariably be the best one, what you
                           should search for is the most useful one for your
                           specific  purpose. The winner will be the one which
                           answers "So what?" most effectively.
                             A useful organizing technique, one that often arises
                           only after you have thought through an entire report,
                           is to organize by recommendations. An action
                           memorandum dealing with spills of hazardous
                           substances, for example, used topics connected with
                           the recommendations:

                                • Integrate Information  Systems
                                • Sponsor Training for State Personnel
                                • Expand Federal Planning
                                • Request Additional Funding.

                           The organizing principle was recommendations; the
                           order was based on priority.
                             There were several other ways to organize the same
                           material: to use the actors (private sector, States,
                           Federal Government) or to  use kinds of spills
                           (classified according to coverage under the Clean
                           Water Act). Organizing around  the recommendations
                           forced them into the spotlight and,  moreover,  was
                           more efficient since it avoided problems with repetition
                           that arose under other organizing principles.
                             The primary advantage of organizing by recom-
                           mendations is that it avoids the  rabbit-out-of-the-hat
                           syndrome.  When you use your recommendations  or
                           conclusions as subject headings all along, they will not
                           suddenly pop up as surprises at  the end of your
                             Consider again the outline for a preamble on air
                           pollutants. Although  something  written from that
                           outline  would be useful for conveying information
                           about specific pollutants, and it  might describe how
                           you gathered that  information, it would not be a
                           success  if your job were to identify  issues in air

  For example, it might turn out that Sulfur Dioxide
and Total Suspended  Particulates primarily raise
issues connected with  stationary  sources, while
Hydrocarbons and Nitrogen Oxides are related to
mobile sources. (Or, again, that Total Suspended
Particulates, Sulfur Dioxide, and Carbon Monoxide
are  improving, while Nitrogen Oxides and Hydro-
carbons are the same or worse. Or..  . .) Then test.
(Ask "So what?" Is there something that does not fall
                   AIR POLLUTION
                     ISSUES BY
                 KINDS OF SOURCES
                          o/    Yo
 under your organizational umbrella? Are your lists in
 coherent order?) Your outline might look  like the next
   There are many ways to outline, and  many outlines
 could  be right for a given application. With practice,
 you will be able to choose (during Organize-2 and
 Organize-3) the outline that helps you present your
 information most effectively. But never  forget
 Organize-1: the first improvement you can bring to
 your writing  is to organize and to ask those crucial
 questions,  "So what?" and "What's the point?"
   In brief: Organize, organize, organize!

                          BE  CLEAR
                          Writers of technical or legal material frequently know
                          their subject so well that they fall into a trap: because
                          they and their colleagues understand what they have
                          written, they think everyone else can. Not so. The
                          safest assumption you can make when writing a
                          regulation, a preamble, a memo, or even a routing slip
                          is that your readers are ignorant and, given half a
                          chance, will misunderstand or misinterpret everything
                          you write. Your audience is not really ignorant, of
                          course, but it is  unfair to assume that they have spent
                          as much time on your topic as you have.
                            Obviously, to keep from misleading your readers
                          you must have empathy—something you don't learn
                          from books. You can achieve part of that empathy if
                          you start defining unfamiliar terms and  checking to
                          make sure that you have defined acronyms the first
                          time  they appear. Another part  of the empathy will
                          come if you use clear constructions: if you say what
                          you mean so clearly that your reader can understand it
                          the first time.
                            To be more specific, in the next sections we take up
                          three easily recognizable but often criticized construc-
                          tions that can make writing hard to follow. In
                          particular, Being Clear means using the active voice,
                          and not the passive; writing with more verbs and fewer
                          nouns; and using "little" words, which serve as road
                          signs to keep people from getting lost.
Sentences like the following are prevalent in EPA

    (1) Credit was given to the company for installing a
    pretreatment plant.

Whoever wrote the sentence probably gave the credit
(or at least knew who did), but did the  person who

 read the sentence know? That example is in the passive
 voice, which, when misused, interferes with clarity by
 allowing writers to avoid saying who did what.
 Compare active-voice versions of the same sentence:

     (2) I gave the company credit for installing a pre-
     trfutmpnt rjunt
     treatment plant
     (3) This office gave the company credit for installing a
     pretreatment plant.

 (Naturally, several other sentences could work,
 depending on who actually had given the credit.)
   Restoring who did what is not the only reason for
 substituting active sentences for passive ones. For
 example, which of the following two sentences is

     (4) Resolution of  the problem was accomplished  during
     a 6-month study.

     (5) We resolved the problem during a 6-month study

 In this case, the change from passive to active restores
 the actor (we); it  also avoids clumsy circumlocutions
 like resolution was accomplished.
   The method for changing passive sentences into
active  ones  works as follows. Take a typical passive

    (6)  Regulations on this topic will be proposed by  EPA
    over the next six months.

Three  parts of the sentence confirm that it is in the
passive voice. First, there is an -ed word, technically
called  a past participle*; here, the word is proposed.
The second mark  of  the passive is a form of the verb
be (in  the example, will be). The third mark is a  hy
phrase  containing the agent in the sentence; EPA is
the "proposer" in  the example.
   Passive sentences can be in any tense, including the
past tense. All of  the following examples are in the
passive voice:
*Not all past participles end
in -ed  Seen, done, and given
are all  past participles.


    Regulations were proposed by EPA
    Regulations have been proposed by EPA
    Regulations arc being proposed by EPA.

  All three features (-eel verb, form of be, by phrase)
need not be present for a group of words to be in the
passive voice. The following example  is  still in the
passive voice, even though it is missing the by phrase:

    (7) Regulations on this topic will be proposed in six

  Passive constructions can even appear without the
form of be. These constructions, technically called
"phrases," still have the effect of a passive. The next
sentence, for example, has a passive phrase with only
the first mark (the -ed verb), and no  form of be or by

    (8) Regulations proposed before 1979 will help the
    Agency avoid litigation.

  All of these examples,  even those without the actor
in the sentence, are grammatical and may, on
occasion, be  an appropriate choice. Nevertheless, you
can easily make them clearer and more  direct by
putting them in the active voice.  First, supply the actor
if it is missing; if you or your group did something,
say it.  You then have a full passive, with the actor
present, instead of a  truncated one.
  Creating the active version from the full passive is
straightforward. Start the new sentence  with what fol-
lowed the by; change the verb to its active form; and
insert the passive's subject as the active's object. So,

    The regulations will be proposed during the next six

first supply the by phrase, using your own knowledge
of who did what:

    The regulations will be proposed by EPA during the
    next six months

and then create an active version:

    EPA will propose  the regulations during the next six

                              Look through a typical government regulation or
                           other document some time. See how frequently you
                           will not be able to tell who should be doing what.
                           Note also that the style is boring because virtually
                           every sentence is in the passive voice. The techniques
                           from this section are  one practical way to keep your
                           writing from being obscure and boring.

WRITE WITH               Almost every  style manual in print nowadays has a list
MORE VERBS               of overworked words: words to avoid. A typical list
                           looks like this:

                                DO NOT SAY THIS        SAY THIS
                                give consideration to        consider
                                was in attendance at        attended
                                make provision for          provide for

                              I he lists have something in common.  Most of the
                           offending words (consideration, attendance, provision)
                           are nouns with a verb inside them (consider, attend,
                           provide). Those nouns, usually made up of a verb or
                           adjective with a suffix (-lion, -ance, -al, -ment, -ness),
                           are technically called  "nominals."
                             For some reason the languages of science and
                           commerce gravitate toward a noun-filled style,
                           substituting nouns like those in the list for construc-
                           tions containing verbs. That kind of excess is common
                           in Government English as well. Most style manuals
                           respond to that tendency with a section advising
                           writers to use  action words; that is, they recommend
                           using verbs in place of constructions containing
                             Aside from  increasing the number of syllables,
                           which already makes  written material hard to read, the
                           nominals can  confuse your readers, just as many
                           passive constructions  can. If you had to  ask who did
                           the proposing in this example of the passive voice.

                               Regulations will be proposed within two weeks,

                           you  certainly would ask the same question of

                               Regulation proposal will take place within two weeks

                           Inserting who did what helps a little:

                               Regulation proposal by this office will take place within
                               two weeks


But a better solution gets rid of the nominal (proposal)
entirely, in favor of the verb propose.

    This office will propose the regulations within two

  In general, three kinds of constructions are easier to
u nderstand than nominals  like proposal or prepara-
tion: a full sentence; a phrase containing the -ing form
of the verb, called a gerund (e.g., preparing); or one
containing the to form, called an infinitive (to
prepare). Not every option  is available every time, but
your ear will let you decide which is appropriate.
Thus, in place of

    This office started regulation preparation on May 17


    This office started preparing the regulation on May 17


    [his office started to prepare the regulation on  May  17

Similarly, in place of the following example,

    Prior to the preparation of the new forms,

substitute a more straightforward beginning word and
write a  full  sentence form (technically called a clause),
inserting who does what as you go:

    Before you prepare the new forms

or use the -ing form:

    Before preparing the new forms

  These substitutions are surprisingly easy after you
commit yourself to reducing the number of nominals
in your writing. The result? More chances to say who
did what, fewer syllables in a smoother style, and
fewer chances for people to misunderstand what you

USE "LITTLE WORDS"       At some point in your training, someone may have
                           told you to be concise: to pare down the verbiage, to
                           chop out whole phrases, to remove the flotsam of
                           useless words. Such an admonition is correct, but
                           anyone who follows it slavishly is likely to end up
                           writing information-bearing cargo that cannot be
                             The pitfall  in counting words to determine whether
                           your writing is clear and concise is that there are two
                           kinds of words in English: the "big" words that carry
                           your meaning and the "little" words that stick it
                           together so that people can understand what you
                           wrote. Cutting out unnecessary  big words is fine;
                           eliminating too many of the little words that hold the
                           content together only makes your writing harder to
                             The big, content-filled words  are the nouns, verbs,
                           adjectives, and adverbs of the language. The little
                           words—the articles, conjunctions, and prepositions -
                           fill in the spaces  between the big words.
                             The spurious conciseness that comes from omitting
                           little words can interfere most when writers string
                           nominals together without any little words to help
                           people group the parts together. These sequences, also
                           called "noun sandwiches" or "mountains  of modifiers,"
                           yield such insurmountable phrases as

                               Inferior product labeling requirements

                               Agency management planning  system enhancements

                               Surtace water quality protection procedures

                             Strings like these have several drawbacks, among
                           them a stultifying rhythm.  The most telling objection,
                           however, is that people have considerable difficulty
                           decoding Jhem —figuring out what words should  be
                           grouped together as units.  Does the first example

                               Inferior requirements for labeling products


                               Requirements for labeling inferior products?

                           Nobody could tell when the example consisted of four
                           big words; but the ambiguity disappears as soon  as the
                           little word (for) appears. Similarly,


    Enhancements to the Agency's system of management


    Development of procedures to protect the quality of
    surface water

add to the total number of words in the other two
examples but are just as concise and are substantially
  The little words can also come to the rescue when
you must write //. . . then or unless sentences with
conjoined phrases inside them. English has no device
as clear as the parentheses from mathematics,  which
make A  or B and C turn into

    (A or B) and C
    A or (B and C).

Here is an example:

    Who must comply with the reporting requirements? If a
    firm has more than 100 employees or has subsidiaries in
    more than one State and exports its products outside
    the  United States, then it must comply with the
    reporting requirements under Section 302.

Chewy  prose, isn't it? It is also in the ambiguous A or
B and C form, without grouping. Read on to find
three practical suggestions for coping with  examples
like that.
  The first suggestion is to use lists:

    If a firm (1) has more than 100 employees or has
    subsidiaries in more than one State and (2) exports its
    products outside the United States, then  it  must comply
    with the reporting requirements under Section 302

The grouping is now unambiguously (A  or B) and C.
  You  can also  separate the parts of the  list using
indented paragraphs. Suppose the example meant the

    If a firm has more than 100 employees or-
     •  has subsidiaries in more than one State and
     •  exports its products outside the United States,
    then it must comply with the reporting requirements
    under Section 302.

Now the grouping is A or (B and C). Either style
makes the grouping clearer.
  A third device, which doesn't get in the way as
much as peppering your writing with numbers or
bullets, is to repeat little words. Another way to write
the example is as follows:

    If a firm has more than 100 employees or if it has
    subsidiaries in more than one State and exports its
    products outside the United States, then it must comply
    with the reporting requirements under Section 302.

The one extra word (the second if)  immediately makes
the grouping A  or (B and C). Moving the second //
down near the and,  in the following,

    If a firm has more than 100 employees or has
    subsidiaries in more than one State and if it exports its
    products outside the United States, then it must comply
    with the reporting requirements under Section 302.

makes the grouping unambiguously (A or B) and C.
  All those changes in meaning by  moving one little

                         BE  TASTEFUL
                          Lurking in the bushes, waiting to take potshots at
                          Government writing, are the self-appointed Guardians
                          of the Public Tongue. The Guardians consider
                          obscure, jargon-laden, or ungrammatical writing a
                          breach of good taste.
                           The way to deal with those guardians and the
                          pressures they create is to Be Tasteful: to write
                          grammatically and unobtrusively. Three sections in
                          this chapter should help  make you aware of these
                          matters of taste. The first applies to choosing neutral
                          gender forms. The second discusses three traditional
                          rules of grammar— rules that, although some
                          grammarians would say they are not valid, you should
                          observe anyway instead of letting people think you
                          had never heard of them. The  third section brings in
                          the ever-present problem of how to avoid jargon.
A conundrum is a problem that has no satisfactory
solution. That's what people face when they must
select gender-marked forms.
  Everyone is aware of the problems that arise with
examples like these:

    (I)  As Chairman (Chairwoman? Chairperson? Chair?
    Head Representative?) of the Task Force, 1 believe... .

    (2)  Every Regional Administrator should send his (her?
    his/ her? his-or-her? their1') forms in by June 30.

People choose up sides quickly on what form to use. If
your writing strongly identifies you with  one side or
the other, you may be caught in a crossfire of
  On one side of the'argument are those who feel that
the English language, through forms like chairman in
example (1) and his in  example (2), subtly and ob-

jectionably biases our thinking against women—that
masculine gender leads us to think first and perhaps
exclusively about people of the masculine sex.
  On the other side of the argument are those who
believe that the contortions to avoid the problem are
worse than the problem itself. They know that
incorrect grammar, as in the next example, with its
singular subject and plural pronoun their, is wrong:

    (3) Each respondent should send in their comments
    within 30 days.

They believe intrusive punctuation,  which creates
forms like s/he and his/her, is unnecessary. They
laugh at new formations like chairperson, spokes-
person, and Congressperson.
  Both sides may have a point. But since people have
become embroiled in such a controversy, EPA writers
can Be Tasteful by trying not to  offend either camp.
Here are two guidelines for doing that.

Avoid clearly sex-marked titles. The Guardians of the
Public Tongue have probably lost their battle against
chairperson (and more terms like it  will eventually
become acceptable). Nevertheless, you should steer
clear of most of the other forms  whenever you can.
For example: many people object to man years, and
others don't like person years. Compromise and use
work years. Similarly, instead of the difficult new form
spokesperson choose the equally neutral form
representative, speaker, or head representative. In case
of doubt, however, use the new coinage (-person)
instead of the  sex-marked form,  provided you  have
considered  the alternative and have  tried to avoid a

Rewrite to avoid the problem. For example (2),
which is especially interesting since EPA has female
Regional Administrators, choosing his or her over his
or their

    (2a)  Each Regional Administrator should send his or
    her forms in by June 30

is acceptable, but not the best choice.  Compare what
happens if all the forms are plural:

    (2b)  The Regional Administrators should send their
    forms in by June 30.

                          Both examples mean the same thing. Example (2b) is
                          better because the issue of choosing a lengthy form or
                          a sex-marked form does not come up.
                             Careful, though. You can change your meaning by
                           indiscriminately substituting plurals for singulars.
                           Example (4a) doesn't mean the same as example (4b):

                              (4a) Each Regional Administrator will deliver his or her
                              conclusions at the meeting.

                              (4b)  The Regional Administrators will deliver their
                              conclusions at the meeting.

                           Example (4a) means only one thing, but (4b) is
                           ambiguous: will they deliver their conclusions as a
                           group or will  they speak separately?
HOBGOBLINS               The Guardians of the Public Tongue are sometimes
OF STYLE                  trigger happy. Some of the old rules—call them
                           "hobgoblins"—are really not so hard and fast as the
                           Guardians would like them to be. Usage changes over
                           time. Good writers know that rules have exceptions
                           and that they sometimes must break one. Tasteful
                           writers break rules only after they have considered  the
                             As Government writers, how should you approach
                           the examples of changing language discussed in the
                           rest of this section? Try to adhere to the rules anyway,
                           not solely  for the sake of obeying them but because
                           you jar your readers, and distract them from your
                           message, when you break the rules.
To Split or                 The split infinitive is a fine example of a hobgoblin of
Not to Split?               style. Some people think this example,

                               (5) We would lose our ability to flexibly respond to
                               unique situations,

                           in which flexibly splits the infinitive to respond, is a
                             Of course, moderation is the soul of Being Tasteful.
                           Even the Guardians would say example (5) is a
                           moderate violation of no splitting,  but example (6), in
                           which four words split to respond,  is a flagrant

                               (6) The law requires EPA to adequately, completely,
                               and legally  respond to the guidelines.

                            (Why not to respond adequately. . .legally'') Example
                            (6) not only stirs up the hobgoblins, but also makes it
                            harder for the reader to figure out what EPA needs to
                            do—namely, to respond.
                              The tasteful solution is to split an infinitive only
                            after you have considered the alternative. The choice,
                            barring a complete  rewrite, involves moving the
                            splitting words. The adverb (flexibly, in to flexibly
                            respond) usually will fit comfortably toward the right,
                            after the  infinitive. Thus, instead of to flexibly
                            respond,  choose (7) or (8):

                                (7) We would lose our ability to respond flexibly to
                                unique situations.

                                (8) We would lose our ability  to respond to unique
                                situations flexibly.

                            (Either one is fine; the first may be better because it
                            emphasizes flexibly a little  more.)
                              Stay sensitive to the split infinitive. The minimal
                            amount of word-juggling necessary to avoid splitting is
                            surely less of a  penalty than having your readers start
                            wondering about extraneous  matters such as whether
                            you have split an infinitive.
About What                Another frightening hobgoblin springs forth if you end
to Write?                   with a preposition; that is, if you write

                                The laws which we wrote you about

                            instead of

                                The laws about which we wrote you.

                            The first example ends with one of those short words
                            normally called prepositions.
                              Once again, it is easier to accommodate  the
                            Guardians and avoid distracting clauses that end with
                            at, about, of, in, and so on. Sometimes, however, you
                            can't avoid  it. There is no convenient way  to avoid
                            ending with of in this example;

                                Each year the city produces five million tons of waste
                                which it must dispose of.

                            The usual solution, moving the little word  into the
                            sentence (in front of the word which), is not even
                            English for that example:

                               Each year the city produces five million tons of waste of
                               which it must dispose

                           and another choice we have seen is much more jarring
                           than ending with the proposition:

                               Each year the city produces five million tons of waste
                               which it must dispose.

                              In other words, ending with a preposition is
                           sometimes the  only choice.  But consider the
                           alternative: if you can just as easily avoid it, do.
The Media Is (Are)         At EPA, when you do budgets, work with numbers,
the Message?               and make decisions, you run the risk of offending the
                           Guardians of the Public Tongue. They, having studied
                           Latin, Greek, or traditional English grammar, learned
                           their declensions well:

                               One medium, two media.
                               One datum, two data
                               One criterion, two criteria.

                           These unfamiliar plurals confuse a surprising number
                           of people, yielding illiteracies like

                               The first criteria is administrability.
                               The Air Media has gained 15 positions.

                           It also produces discomforting sentences  like

                               The data  shows that	.

                              You can avoid the fancy word criterion either by
                           recasting the sentence with plurals (The first of the
                           criteria) or by substituting a synonym like method of
                           choosing or measure.
                              The other two are harder to avoid because they
                           appear more frequently as singular words—media is
                           and data is.  Media, at EPA, is hardly used except as
                           the "last name" in the budget for Drinking Water,
                           Pesticides, and  Enforcement.  You  can avoid the
                           illiteracy media is often by shifting to "first names." In
                           place of

                               The Enforcement Media has 42 positions,

                           see what happens it you drop the word media entirely,
                           in a context that makes it clear you're talking about

                               Enforcement has 42 positions.

                              Datum never appears except in geological surveys,
                           and its plural, data, now stands for a clump of numbers
                           instead of a plural collection of individual numbers. In
                           other words, many people at EPA already use data as
                           a singular noun. Using it that way, however,  exposes
                           your writing to the risk of not Being Tasteful. To use
                           that word as a singular is another way, like breaking
                           rules without reason, to allow  your readers to
                           concentrate on how you said something instead of
                           what you said.
                             The solution, one that appears  often in this manual,
                           is to avoid the problem. When tempted to use data is,
                           for example, see if information, results, or quantities
                           will work.  But if you need data, use a plural  verb.
!n a recent memorandum, Deputy Administrator
Barbara Blum stated EPA's policy toward jargon:

    Our regulations will be written in clear, understandable
    language, without jargon, bureaucratese, archaic legal
    phrases, or incorrect grammatical construction.

  Hercules had trouble cleaning out the Augean
stables (they hadn't been cleaned for 30 years), and
you may have trouble eliminating your jargon and
bureaucratese. The reason is human nature: one
person's necessary technical  phrase  is another's
unintelligible jargon. The cure lies  with you. If you
keep your audience in mind, much of the pressure to
slip into jargon will disappear. Beyond that, try
concentrating on  two particular causes of jargon in
EPA writing: EPA's mixture of specialists and, more
generally,  the inbred community in Washington.
Vogue Words
At any EPA office there are scientists, engineers,
lawyers, economists, mathematicians, and administra-
tors. All of these specialists have their own technical
  When people use their own technical words correctly
and in the  proper context,  those words are not
offensive—they are necessary to communicate


  •  MAI HEMAT1CIANS use parameter, factor, and
    optimize to refer to special concepts.
  •  COMPUTER SPECIALISTS employ input, interface,
    and data base.
  •  ECONOMISTS need elasticity and marginal cost.
  •  BUSINESS ADMINISIRATORS use discount and
    annual basis.
  •  SCIENIISTS need teratogenic and mutagemc.
  •  LAWYERS need litigate, proximate cause, and
  •  GRAMMARIANS cannot avoid gerund, infinitive, and

  What happens, though,  is that the sublanguages
crossbreed, and the resulting hybrid becomes
unintelligible to many readers. Spotting words that
cross from someone else's  special language to the
general  language is relatively easy.  It is harder, of
course,  to eliminate the special words from your  own
material when you're writing for an audience outside
your specialty.
  Probably the worst crossbreeder is legal language.
Take three legal favorites:  prior to, subsequent to, and
due to.  Those three phrases create  a double problem.
First, they make your writing sound like  legalese.
EPA's regulations  and other documents, even with
legal concepts in them, do not need to sound that way.
Second, they bring in the  nominals discussed in "Be
Clear."  Compare

    Prior to our meeting
    Subsequent to our discussion
    Due to our collection of incorrect data


    Before we met
    After we discussed
    Because we collected incorrect data.

Substituting more familiar words (before, after,
because) is always an advantage; in addition, the
second  set of examples now contains verbs (we met,
we discussed, we collected), not nouns doing the  work
of verbs (our meeting, our discussion, our collection).
  Another crossbreeder is statutory language.
Lawmakers have a long tradition of using you shall to
mean you must. People who speak plain English,
however, can misinterpret the strange-sounding

                               sentences built around shall. The following sentence,
                               for example, is ambiguous:

                               The Administrator shall publish the regulation on
                               August 15, 1981

                           Transport yourself to the future—to August 16,  1981,
                           one day after the Administrator shall have published
                           the regulation. Suppose the  regulation did not get
                           published. Would you say (a) or (b)?

                               (a) The Administrator violated the law.
                               (b) The prediction about publication did not come true

                           The word shall has two meanings, a shall of
                           obligation, the meaning in example (a),  or the shall of
                           prediction, meaning (b). The courts have voided  laws
                           because the writers had  let both meanings for shall
                           creep into the legislation.
                             Fortunately, plain English speakers have two words
                           that express the  meaning of the ambiguous shall. For
                           the shall of obligation, they  use must; for the shall of
                           prediction, they use will.
                             The solution to the ambiguity, then, is simple. Never
                           use shall, even in regulations and even if the law that
                           the regulation represents uses it. Decide what you
                           mean when you  use shall, then substitute one of the
                           two plain English words, must (when  someone is
                           obligated to do something) or  in'//(when you predict
                           something will happen).

Inbreeding Our             People who work together develop their own language.
Own Jargon                New words catch on, are repeated, and spread almost
                           daily. Those who use them understand the words
                           perfectly well even if the words are difficult. No one
                           would ever complain about complicated words for
                           complicated concepts, but complicated words used
                           with no reason are not tasteful.
                             What members of the public find offensive are
                           overused, pet government words.  Using  the same
                           words in every paragraph—especially words that do
                           not refer to technical concepts—dilutes their effect.
                             Several people went through Zero-Based Dislike
                           Analysis to come up  with the following  brief list  of pet
                           words, arranged  by the intensity of dislike. The list is a
                           sample of the words and phrases that  people at EPA
                           are overusing:

  •  To impact on. A barbarism.  Even an impact is
    used too often, diluting a few good uses. Impact
    often hides ignorance of the distinction between to
    a/fed (to influence) and an effect (a result).
    Impacted makes some people worry about wisdom
    teeth; substitute affected or harmed.
  •  Prioritize. An etymological horror. Replace  with
    assign priorities to or rank by priority. Its cousin,
    finalize (replace with make final,  complete, or
    finish) also belongs here. People cringe when they
    hear such  words.
  •  Implement. Why can't anybody do, carry out, or
    perform anything? Try  to use this hallmark
    Government word sparingly, reserving it
    exclusively for contexts in which  it has no
    substitute. Similar comments apply to necessitate,
    facilitate, and accomplish: all are long words
    virtually unused outside the Government.

  Be wary of fancy words and catchy phrases that
only you know how to use. Let the power of your
ideas and the clarity of your expression carry the day,
not the number of syllables or the number of abstract
words you use. To avoid jargon, Be Tasteful.

                         BE  CAREFUL
                          In the rush to get something down on paper, you may
                          have had to sacrifice clarity and probably elegance to
                          the pressure of time. Therefore you should always
                          reread what you have written after it has cooled.
                          While they are writing,  people often say, "What am I
                          going to say next?" or "Sounds rough, but I'll fix it
                          later." When they finish, they should be asking
                          whether they have made their point clearly and
                           To change something you wrote is  never a sin;  no
                          professional writer expects to sell  a first draft. In  fact,
                          two more  trips through your document are necessary
                          after you have written it: first to edit, then to
                          proofread. The changes you make then are the essence
                          of Being Careful.
Editing your own material is difficult: if you wrote it,
it's what you wanted to say. But your audience will
judge whether you have communicated effectively, not
  Since medical science has not yet come up with an
operation to allow you to put yourself in other
people's shoes (at least not while they're still in them),
how can you possibly write as if you were there? Two
practical principles, which substitute an almost
mechanical procedure for the empathy you are
seeking, should help. The first is the Concession
Theory of Editing, a device for using other people to
help you find places where you should make changes.
The  second is the Red Flag Approach to Editing,
which says that there are certain constructions
(marked with imaginary red flags) that you should
examine in more detail. That approach cannot
completely replace writing with your audience
paramount in your mind, but looking for passives and
multiple-noun constructions is at least a way to begin.

The Concession
Theory of Editing
The first principle for Being Careful is broad.  Under
the Concession Theory of Editing, you change
something you have written—concede and rewrite— if
it misleads someone. It does no good to swear on a
stack of grammar books, or trace an intricate  path to
the meaning, if someone cannot follow what you have
written. Material in draft form is fluid; treat it that
way and change it often.
  One  easy way to apply the Concession Theory is to
use it for ambiguous phrases. Writers rarely realize
that something they write can mean something else to
their audience, because only one of the two meanings
stands  out for the writer—just  not for the reader. Take
a simple 4-letter word like lead. Is that "leed"  or
"ledd"? Anyone who wrote a heading like Lead
Recommendation or phrases like lead standard or lead
agency would have no trouble, but even a knowledge-
able reader could go chasing a wild goose if the
context did not make them completely clear.
  The  Government writer's workhorse, the acronym,
can also confuse readers. Civil  Service reform, for
example, has introduced an Office of Personnel
Management, yielding the same OPM as EPA's  Office
of Planning and  Management.  An Office  of Railroad
Deregulation, if there were one, would yield another
ORD to clash with EPA's own Office of Research and
  Changes  to clarify an ambiguous word  or two are
easy, of course. The next step is to extend the
concessions to phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.
Remember: if you let the reactions of people around
you direct you to what you need to change, you can
make those changes while the document is still under
your control. Certainly that is  preferable to having
other people, with a different perspective, come  along
and "clarify" to meet their own preconceptions.
  In other words, use the Concession Theory  in group
writing, when other people are reviewing and
questioning your material. Liberally applying  the
Concession Theory—realizing that there are always
other ways to get the point across—will help you to
avoid "I'm  right, you're wrong" confrontations.  Using
the Concession Theory you can say, "Let's change it to
make the point clearer."
The Red Flag
for Passives
Earlier, we said that the passive voice is a prime
contributor to an impersonal writing style. The passive
voice can also be acceptable, in moderation. The Red

Flag Approach can help you determine whether
individual instances of the passive voice are necessary
or not.
  Here is how the Red Flag approach works  for the
passive. Look through your material, then follow four
steps. Consider the following example:

    The study will be completed by this Agenc> within six

  Step  1. Find the -ed verb (a past participle- here,
  Step 2. Find what  follows the word hy. (If it's not
there, supply it.)  In the example, this Agency follows
b\~ and  is the actor in the sentence.
  Step 3.  Recast the sentence in the active voice.
There is no need  to write anything down yet   this is a
mental exercise (and  good practice).

    This Agencv will complete the study within six months.

  Step 4. Test whether the sentence is better  in the
active (often the  right choice) or should  stay in the
  That decision in Step 4, however, is still open to
judgment. Three  additional questions may help you
decide:  (I) Are the transitions evident? (2) Is the actor
clear? and (3) Is  the active sentence balanced?
Are the transitions evident? The beginning of a
sentence is often the place for a transition, a phrase
that reinforces your organization. Since passive
sentences move something that was farther back (the
object of an active  verb) to the front  (subject  of a
passive verb), they  can move transitional phrases
toward the front. Suppose you are writing something
about the Clean Air Act and ha\e  used a quotation
from  the Act, mentioning energy requirements, as your
organi/ing principle. You spend several paragraphs on
other topics.  Then, starting your next paragraph, you

    Energy requirements were included in the model the five
    agencies in the I ask Force on Energv will use to project
    the effects of the new standards

Try the test: (1) red flag at included;  (2) no by, but
probably the five agencies, etc.,  included the
requirements; (3) consider the alternative:


                              The five agencies in the Task Force on Energy included
                              energy requirements in the model they will use to
                              project the effects of the new standards.

                           Here the balance may tip toward the passive, because
                           using it causes the  paragraph to begin with a
                           transitional phrase (Energy requirements), picking up
                           the language in your organizing paragraph. In this
                           example, placement of transitions may take precedence
                           over the normal tendency to put more sentences in the
                           active voice.

                           Is the actor clear?  Every time a Red Flag pops  up in
                           connection with a  passive, a second flag should pop up
                           when you search for the by phrase and can't find one.
                           Ask yourself what  phrase you should  add to complete
                           the sentence. On a few occasions, the  actor is (a)
                           totally redundant,  (b) refers to everyone, or (c)  refers
                           to people you cannot name. For example:

                              (a) The Task Force report was prepared during the last
                                 two weeks.
                              (b) It is generally accepted that aerobic digestion is less
                                 sensitive to upsets than anaerobic digestion.
                              (c) The samples  were washed, then titrated at pH 3.

                           Example (a) is acceptable as a passive if the Task
                           Force really prepared the report. The example is
                           misleading, however, if a contractor had prepared the
                           report—and the passive  is back at work hiding who
                           did what.  In example (b), the sentence says (as  the
                           word generally hints) that everyone accepts a fact
                           about aerobic  digestion. These general statements are
                           acceptable without an actor. In example (c), your
                           answer to "Who did it?" should be "Who cares?" In
                           restricted cases like this  example, when  you're sure
                           that nobody cares, the passive is again acceptable.

                           Is the active sentence balanced? Sometimes, after you
                           have reconstructed the active sentence corresponding
                           to the passive  you  wrote originally, you will find that
                           you prefer the passive because it simply sounds better.
                           Fine.  You've considered the alternative, and that is the
                           point  of the Red Flag Approach.
The Red Flag              Some nominals are a necessary evil in most writing on
for Noun Sandwiches       technical subjects. How could EPA people write

    resource recovery,
    effluent limitations,
    land use planning,
    waste treatment?

But when you find nommals and  other words stacked
up—sandwiched together   more than two deep, it is
time for caution. Take an example:

    Direct product design regulations,

in this case, four words stacked up without any little
words to help group them together. Recast the phrase,
supplying for, the, and of:

    Direct regulations for the design  of products.

(You thought they were regulations for designing
direct products? Your reader might for a moment.) Or,
better, use an -ing  form for one of the nominals,

    Direct regulations for designing products.

Then ask yourself whether the original or either of the
two options sounds best and is the easiest for your
reader to understand.
  Try the following rule of thumb for unpacking these

    Unpack 3-word noun sandwiches for the first few
    references, then allow them to stand together.
    Always unpack 4-word sandwiches.

After  all, who ever heard of a  sandwich that went
  The reason for the rule of thumb is familiarity.  As
people work with complex concepts, they begin to use
larger and larger chunks of words to describe them.
They pronounce those chunks  easily and understand
them well; the words often turn into acronyms.  When
you have reached the stage when you process 4-word
sandwiches comfortably, however, you have lost the
public. They must  superimpose emphasis and grouping
on the long phrase, and that takes time and increases
frustration. Give your readers a break.

HINTS FOR                 Proofreading is an art. Most material, thank goodness,
PROOFREADING             never needs the exacting, meticulous review that
                           professional proofreaders can provide. But it never
                           hurts to know some tricks because random typos can
                           be embarrassing ("Container deposits are more than
                           the public can beer") or downright offensive ("Due to
                           employee suckness, the plant is closed").
                             Here are five practical suggestions to help in
                           proofreading. They apply to you and to your typist.

                           1. Go to the dictionary often. Never be ashamed to go
                           to the dictionary. If a word  looks strange, check it.
                           Try  this rule of thumb: if you really  needed to consult
                           the dictionary in only 20 percent of the cases when
                           you  actually did, you are using it appropriately. Put
                           another way: don't be frustrated if 80 percent of the
                           trips to the  dictionary apparently were not necessary.
                           They were.

                           2. Sound out long words. Long words are tricky: if
                           they start right and end right, we skip over what is in
                           the middle.  To counteract that tendency, sound out all
                           the vowels;  for example, make  fluoride come out as

                           3. Reread lines containing an error.  It is human
                           nature to pounce on mistakes,  it is also human nature
                           to make two mistakes close  together. Rereading lines
                           containing errors helps break these all-too-human

                           4. Read backwards  to break content. Use this
                           technique for solo proofreading, when the material
                           must be exceptionally error  free. Read the material
                           once from top to bottom (this  is useful for catching
                           singular subjects with plural verbs and for spotting
                           dropped "minor" words like nut). Then grit your teeth
                           and  read backwards. You will not understand  what
                           you  are reading, but you will be sure the words are
                           spelled right.

                           5. Have two people read to each other. This is the
                           best method, especially if the one who worked from
                           the draft copy now reads the typescript.

                        OTHER  RESOURCES
                        This manual does not need to be your only resource
                        for becoming a better writer. The books in this
                        appendix can help you with general perspectives
                        toward writing, with choosing the right words, and
                        with punctuation
Everyone should own a copy of the little book. The
Elements of Style (1). by William Strunk and E.B.
White. In concise, drill-sergeant style, the book covers
topics like these:

    Use the active voice.
    Put statements in positive form.
    Omit needless words

Strunk was an English teacher  at  Cornell for years; his
paperback (71 pages)  is now a  best seller.
  A good resource for people writing technical mate-
rial is H.J. Tichy's Effective Writing for Engineers-
Managers-Scientists (2). Along with several chapters
on common faults in writing, Tichy includes chapters
on planning,  organizing, and outlining.
  Another recent entry to the literature on writing is
Richard  Wydick's Plant English for Lawyers (3), which
attacks many of the paired phrases formerly
considered essential to "lawyer  talk": free and clear,
true ami correct, knowingly and intelligently. The
book also has exercises.
The most thorough and incisive book on writing and
style is H.W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern
English Usage (4). Few people can just pick up
Fowler, get the answer to a question, and put the
book down, it is  too interesting. For example, the
entry on cliches refers to other  sections on hackneyed
phrases and vogue words, which cross-reference


                          popularized technicalities. And on and on.
                            A book similar to Fowler, but published for
                          American writers, is W. and M. Morris's Harper
                          Dictionary of Contemporary  Usage (5). The  Morrises
                          asked 136 writers and editors (Shana Alexander,
                          Heywood Hale Broun, Walt Kelly, Herman Wouk,
                          and others) to comment on several controversial points
                          of grammar. For example, using hopefully to mean
                          "we hope" instead of "full of hope" received  a 24
                          percent vote when used in writing (76 percent said they
                          would never use it)  and produced comments like these:

                              Slack-jawed, common, sleazy.
                              1 have sworn  eternal war on this bastard adverb.
                              Chalk squeaking  on a blackboard is to be preferred to
                              this usage.

                          The results of the Harper survey also appear in the
                          American Heritage  Dictionary.
                            Another writer who gives excellent explanations of
                          why to avoid certain words and constructions is
                          Theodore Bernstein, long the arbiter of style at  The
                          New York Times. His  Watch Your Language (6),
                          although written primarily for newspaper writers, is a
                          classic; less  well  known is Miss Thistlebottom's
                          Hobgoblins (7),  subtitled "The Careful  Writer's  Guide
                          to the Taboos, Bugbears and  Outmoded Rules of
                          English Usage."  Miss Thistlebottom, a true Guardian
                          of the Public Tongue, was Bernstein's imaginary
                          English teacher at P.S.  10.
                             For light reading on contemporary extravagance in
                          language, try Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking (8)
                          and A Civil  Tongue (9). Newman, who works for the
                          National Broadcasting Company, has become a highly
                          successful opponent of Government-speak.

MANUALS OF STYLE       Style, in the strict sense, refers to rules for
                          punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.  The most
                          convenient resource for the rules is a dictionary.
                          Surprisingly few people know, for example, that
                          dictionaries contain short sections on how to use
                          commas, periods, semicolons, and the like. The
                          Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary (10)
                          contains a 16-page  summary at the end of the book.
                          The American Heritage Dictionary of the English
                          Language (11) has information on marks of
                          punctuation under  headings in the dictionary proper.
                             The Government Printing Office Style Manual (12)
                          is superbly complete on all the rules the Government


has adopted. Together with pages of discussion on
 marks of punctuation, for example, are rules for
 forming compounds (it says to spell most compounds
 with non without a hyphen: nonsignificant), lists of
 preferred spellings (indexes), and even spellings for all
 counties in the United States (Prince Georges,
   EPA has a Correspondence Manual ( 13),
 incorporating much of the GPO Manual as well as
 specific instructions for memorandums and letters.
 Almost every branch at Headquarters has a copy. You
 can get additional copies  at the  Distribution Center at
 Headquarters (B-10,  East Tower) or by asking the
 local Directives Officer (Management Division) in the
   The best manual of style to treat  book design
 whether the Preface precedes the Foreword, and so
 on   is the University of Chicago's  Manual of Stvle
   The Federal Register contains rules (1 CFR  21.1 53)
 on how to number regulations.  In its vocabulary, the
 Code of Federal Regulations has this orgam/ation:

     I itles                      Arabic numerals
     Subtitles                    Capital letters
     Chapters                    Roman capitals
     Parts                       Arabic numerals
     Subparts                    Capitals

 Below Subparts are sections and paragraphs.
   Section  numbers appear after a  decimal point
 following their Part;  Part 15, section 22 would appear
 as §15.22.
   Paragraphs ha\e a special numbering sequence:

 The Federal Register Office also plans to reissue its
 own manual of style, covering many of the topics in
 this manual but in a more abbreviated fashion.

REFERENCES               1.  Strunk, William, Jr., and E.B. White. The
                          Elements of Style. New York: The Macmillan
                          Company, 1959.
                           2.  Trchy, H.G. Effe( ive Writing for Engineers-
                          Managers-Sett nn.>t;.  Jew York: John Wiley & Sons,
                           3.  Wydick, Richard C. Plain English for Lawyers.
                          Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1979.
                           4.  Fowler, H.W. A  Dictionary of Modern  English
                          Usage, Second  Edition, revised and edited by Sir
                          Ernest Gowers. New  York: Oxford University Press,
                           5.  Morris, William, and Mary Morris. Harper
                          Dictionary of Contemporary  Usage.  New York:
                          Harper & Row Publishers, "1975.
                           6.  Bernstein,  Theodore M.  Watch Your Language.
                          New York: Pocket Books,  Inc., 1965.
                           7.	. Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins: The
                          Careful Writer's Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and
                          Outmoded Rules of English  Usage. New York: Farrar,
                          Straus and Giroux,  1971.
                           8.  Newman, Edwin. Strictly Speaking:  Will America
                          Be the Death of English? New York: The Bobbs-
                          Merrill Company, Inc., 1974.
                           9.	. A  Civil Tongue. New York:  Warner
                          Books, Inc., 1976.
                          10.  G.C. Merriam & Co. Webster's New Collegiate
                          Dictionary. New York: G.C. Merriam Co.,  1977.
                          11.  Morris, William (ed.).  The American Heritage
                          Dictionary of the English Language. Boston:
                          Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.
                          12.  Government Printing Office. GPO Style Manual.
                          13.  Correspondence Manual, TN 1320.2 (12-11-72)
                          and  periodic attachments.
                          14.  University of Chicago  Press. A Manual of Style:
                          For Authors, Editors, and Copywriters, Twelfth
                          Edition,  Revised. Chicago: The University of Chicago
                          Press, 1969.

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