If there are particular problems in English or matters you would like this column to take up, contact Stewart Clark, International Office, NTH, tel. 73 59 52 45.

Punctuation 2: CAPITAL LETTERS

Here are some causes of errors in English:
Proper nouns or adjectives. Use initial capitals (capitals for the initial letters of words, but not throughout the words) to signal proper nouns or adjectives, and words derived from proper nouns (a proper noun is the name of a specific person, a place, a country, a month, a day, a holiday, a journal title):

... the volt is named after the Italian Count Alessandro Volta
... a Laplacian operator referred to in New Scientist, vol....
... a Canadian delegation will be in Oslo at Easter 1995

·Use capitals throughout for acronyms or for words used as commands in computing documents:

... belong to NATO and therefore ...
... written in FORTRAN ...
... use the SAVE command to ...

·If you wish to use the plural form of an acronym, add the s in lower case:

·Typical Norwegian error is confusion with "De" and "Deres". It does not matter if you are writing to VIPs, diplomats, leading international officials or anyone else, you must never capitalize You and Yours in mid-sentence.

Avoid sexist language

English has a number of nouns that have different male and female forms: waiter/waitress, steward/stewardess, host/hostess, actor/actress. Sexist writing occurs when words that are used for everyone only include male forms, such as: mankind, layman/laymen, manpower. Or secondly, pronouns give misleading sex-role models: Doctor ...he, nurse...she. The following rules should help you to avoid sexist writing:

1. Do not use words that unnecessarily distinguish between male and female:

Use these              	      Not these

chair, chairperson chairman flight attendant stewardess people, humans mankind work force manpower layperson layman worker, employee workman heir (both male and female) heiress

2. Avoid unnecessary use of he, him, or his, (she, her or hers):
We have all seen sentences such as:
A secretary should set her priorities each day.
The engineer opened his presentation with an overhead transparency.

There are several ways to avoid this problem:

3. Avoid the traditional salutation "Dear Sir" in a letter to a male or female:
If you are writing to a person whose name you do not know (Computer Security Manager), here are two suggestions for formal and less formal letters, respectively:

Dear Sir or Madam,
Dear colleague,

4. Do not use "s/he", "he/she" or other such hybrid forms for standard pronouns:

These hybrid forms are sometimes unpronounceable and are not universally accepted by English users, so avoid them. Instead, either remove pronouns or change the sentences to plurals, as suggested under rule 2. Where you must use singular personal pronouns, use:
he and she, his or her, or him and her.

Tricky Words

Framework means the scope of a project, proposal or agreement. General agreement (rammeavtale) can also be used for an agreement covering certain points. Frame sounds like something hanging on the wall or the ornament around doors and windows.

Enlightening English

·Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose. (Hotel notice, Zurich)

Updated 28.03.95, Christian Viken, chrisvik@stud.unit.no