Friday, March 10, 2006

noun string contest

A noun string is too many nouns strung together as adjectives. They are a classic example of bad writing, because you can't keep track of what modifies what, so can easily lose your way in the sentence. Sun and Open Source documents are littered with these. Here's the reigning champ:

the Sun Java System Application Server Platform Edition 8 runtime deployment descriptor

The tech writers at Sun must toil under the heavy shadow of some lawyer-inflated style guide, and readability be damned. They're so afraid somebody will hijack the word "Java" that they say "Sun Java" every time. Yea we get it, you invented Java. And what about "Platform"--what is that? Isn't it enough to just say server? Isn't a server a platform that applications run on? And "System" is pointless--it adds no value. So all of this:

the Sun Java System Application Server Platform Edition 8 just a long way of saying:

the Java Application Server

As for the edition, is there an Edition 7? An Edition 9? Do you really need a different runtime deployment descriptor for each edition? Isn't it just version info--you only need it under the "About" in the help menu, you shouldn't put it in the name of the thing.

But if indeed the version is somehow critical, how about an acronym? The Sun JAS8! Guess not--lawyers are fainting, left and right. If an acronym is too racy, then here is an improvement that jettisons the version number, the pointless "system", and the redundant "platform", for the sake of readability. It's still too long, but breaks up the noun strings with a helping preposition at least:

the runtime deployment descriptor for the Java Application Server

Too simple?

Runner up:

this Sears MasterCard Choice Rewards Certificate coupon...

Not a mere certificate or coupon, but a Certificate coupon!

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