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Operating Procedures: Omit Adverbs
This is the fourth post in our series to do with operating procedures and the advice provided in the book Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
Elements of Style
In this series of posts, we consider,
The use of short, pithy instructions,
Avoidance of the repetition of instructions,
Omission of needless words,
Omission of adverbs,
The use of short and old words, and
Avoidance of wordy phrases and padded syllables.
(The information is taken from the book Process Risk and Reliability Management.)
Previous posts are,
Operating Procedures: Minimalist Writing,
Operating Procedures: Short Pithy Instructions, and
Operating Procedures: Omit Needless Words.
In yesterday’s post — Operating Procedures: Omit Needless Words — we showed Table 6.11 from the book Process Risk and Reliability Management. One of the instructions read, ‘Open the valve carefully’. This begs the question: what value is the word ‘carefully’ adding to this instruction? After all, when did we see an instruction, ‘Open the valve carelessly’?
In general, adverbs (words that modify a verb) should not be used. Phrases such as the following.
Open the valve carefully
Open the valve slowly
Open the valve cautiously
can all be replaced with,
Open the valve
If we do need to modify the verb ‘Open’ then specific, quantitative guidance should be provided. For example,
Open valve number 123 so as to increase the level in Tank, T-101, at a rate of 10 millimeters a minute.
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