Posted by: Jack Henry | September 18, 2018

Editor’s Corner: A Smattering of Latin

In technical writing, we try to steer away from Latin abbreviations as much as possible, even though some terms like i.e. and e.g. sneak in now and then. Another term I’ve seen a lot lately is ad hoc, and it is generally written incorrectly with a hyphen (ad-hoc). Why do we try to avoid Latin words and abbreviations? I would say primarily because people get mixed up and misuse the terms.

Nevertheless, I’m sharing some information with you today so that you will know exactly what authors are saying when they do sneak a little bit of Latin into their writing (or, if you find yourself in the local court room for some reason).

From Daniel Miessler’s blog:

§ ex ante means before the event, and is basically a prediction of something. In the financial world it’s often a prediction of a return on an investment.

§ ex post means after the event, and means something that is settled after the event actually happens. For investment companies, it’s a look back at how the company actually did as opposed to how well they planned on doing.

§ a priori means from earlier, and refers to knowledge we have naturally, obviously, or before (and not requiring) testing or experience.

§ a posteriori means from the latter, and refers to knowledge we must acquire by testing or evidence.

§ ad hoc means for this, and indicates something designed for a specific purpose rather than for general usage.

§ post hoc means after this, and refers to reasoning, discussion, or explanation that takes place after something has already transpired.

§ i.e. comes from id est in Latin, basically meaning it is, and signifies a restatement of what was just said. It’s a reiteration, not an example or case in point. [KC – The preferred English term in our documentation is “in other words.”]

§ e.g. comes from exempli gratia in Latin, which means “for example”. So if you make a point and then say, e.g., you don’t want to restate your point, you want to provide an instance of that being true. [KC – The preferred English term in our
documentation is, as he mentions, “for example.”]

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


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