Re: many efforts

Subject: Re: many efforts
From: Steve English <ink -at- MICROS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 May 1995 08:19:02 -0400

Douglas Thayer wrote:

My [American] co-worker is having some difference of opinion with the
Chairman of our company over a sentence in the English translation of the
company profile. The phrase in question:

"...developed through many years of effort,...

The Chairman would like to say "many years of EFFORTS"; the editor is
adamantly opposed (with some justification) to this change. As a native
speaker of English (the Chairman is not), the editor feels certain of his
position, but he has been unable to justify it with rules of grammar.

Also, we welcome opinion on the use of the preposition "with" in the
following: "...the best way to reciprocate with our customers for their
many years of patronage..." Is this preposition necessary?


You want to go with content, not grammar. I suggest you quote Webster's Ninth
New Collegiate Dictionary:

effort: 5: the total work done to achieve a particular end <the war effort>

Using the singular "effort" implies that all members of the group worked
together as a team to accomplish a single goal. Plural efforts bring to mind
scattered, disorganized groups, occasionally working at cross-purposes.

A singular effort also implies that the team was successful in their first
attempt. When I read the phrase "many years of effortS", I picture a
start-and-stop process that produced a lot of disappointments, failures, and
dead ends on the way to the eventual success. Whether or not this reflects
the actual history of the project, I think the Chairman would probably prefer
to communicate a higher level of competency to the audience.

There was a thread on this list a few months ago concerning how bad the
documentation was on many Japanese products, starting with the postwar
period and even up to the present. After a lot of thrashing around and
name-calling, the consensus reached was that the documentation itself was
often very good, it was just translated very badly. Perhaps you've tried
this tack already, but one might (tactfully) point out to the Chairman that
the editor was hired specifically to provide expertise in the editor's
native language, and should be trusted to perform that duty effectively.

In any case, I am curious to know how the dispute turns out. Please keep
in touch.

As for "reciprocate with", the unnecessary words are "for their". I turned once
again to the dictionary and found:

reciprocate, vi: 1: to make a return for something <we hope to reciprocate
for your kindness>
May I suggest

"...the best way to reciprocate for our customers' many years of..."

If you leave out the preposition altogether, you are approaching another
definition of reciprocate: "to give back in kind or degree". I doubt that the
intent of this phrase is that you will give your customers "many years of
patronage" (i.e., buy their products for many years).


Steve English
Senior Documentation Specialist,

MICROS Systems, Inc.
ink -at- micros -dot- com

I do not speak for my employer (though they would probably be better off).

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