Gunners Garage

Headlights, Motors and Hubcaps

When I was learning how to write, my favorite English teacher told me, “You’ll do wonderful communicating with your reader if you learn to write the way you speak.”  She didn’t mean to write with a New York City accent (which is how I speak), but she meant to write things using small words, common language and the terms that most people use in everyday coversation.  Now, understand that she didn’t mean that writing this way would be technically perfect.  People just don’t speak to each other in technically perfect English.  The teacher was talking about “COMMUNICATION” and not about dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s. What made me think about this is a recent editorial in another leading hobby magazine in which the editor ranted about automotive journalists not using “proper” terminology.  He insisted that the power plant in a car should always be referred to as an “engine,” never a “motor.”  He complained that the things that light our way at night are “headlamps,” rather than “headlights.”  He moaned about people using the word “hubcap” when they meant “wheel cover.”  In my writing, I use “engine” and “motor” interchangeably, the way real car enthusiasts do when they talk. And I actually prefer “headlights” to “headlamps.”  Cars really used to have lamps years ago, but they don’t today.  As far as “hubcap” and “wheelcover,” that can be an important distinction if you’re listing standard equipment, but if you’re differentiating a snap on cover from a mag wheel, what does it really matter?  So, I’ll continue to write the way I speak and if you find you’re not getting my message, please click the comments link below and tell me what I’m doing wrong.

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