Subtle Differences

Today I would like to present two cases where the choice of words was just slightly different than what the author really meant.

Bad Example #1:

Thus, the simulator’s predictability would be improved.

Now, the author was not talking about the repeatability or precision of the simulator or how predictably it would behave. The author really meant that the simulator would have a greater ability to make predictions farther out into the future. So let’s say that.

Simulator’s predictability = the quality of the simulator being predictable, i.e., given the same input, you get the same output every time

Simulator’s prediction ability = the capability of the simulator to make accurate predictions of future parameters

Corrected Example #1:

Thus, the simulator’s prediction ability would be improved.

Bad Example #2:

Thus, the problem has been theoretically solved.

Here, the author wanted to stress that the solution was based on bona fide scientific theory, not just empirical correlations.

Has been theoretically solved = maybe it has been solved; we have the theory that it might actually be solved

Has been solved theoretically = has definitely been solved using an ideal set of facts or principles based on accepted scientific theory

Corrected Example #2:

Thus, the problem has been solved theoretically.

The English language is full of such subtleties, and much care is needed to avoid giving the wrong impression when the wording is just a little bit off the mark.


Funny Typo of the Day:

Mad log (instead of mud log) = angry squiggles and lots of special characters (*#%@#!*&!) made by The Mad Logger


Famous Predictability Quote:

“I have always believed that it’s important to show a new look periodically. Predictability can lead to failure.”

– T. Boone Pickens. American businessman, b. 1928



One Response to “Subtle Differences”

  1. Links for the week | pidgeperry Says:

    […] Subtle Differences at Technical Writing Tips for the Oil Patch […]

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