On 27/06/2020 10:35, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
Keara Berlin writes:

 > Here is the current line in PEP-8: "When writing English, follow
 > Strunk and White."  I propose changing this line to "When writing
 > English, ensure that your comments are clear and easily
 > understandable to other English speakers."

That's the same thing ("clear and understandable writing" is the
purpose of _The Elements of Style_), except that Strunk and White
provide guidelines as to *how* to make your writing "clear and easily
understandable".  This is useful to non-native speakers, and perhaps
to others.  

It is useful to recommend a guide to plain, comprehensible writing. Other guides are available (I've a soft spot for Gowers). Guido informs us S&W rules were not being enforced as a requirement by reviewers, and we've all been ok with that. I don't think anyone on the thread said they should. So that is the argument for removal of the requirement.

... the reference to Strunk and White is
the kind of quirky thing that endears Python to me, beyond it being a
great community and a language full of wonders and practical use.  I
would be sad to see it deleted.

Then be sad. Turns out we are discussing a new idea: "Recommend a guide to writing clear comments in PEP-8". Fait accomplis:

https://github.com/python/peps/commit/0c6427dcec1e98ca0bd46a876a7219ee4a9347f4)

Steven D'Aprano writes:

"""Language that is clear and understandable to a Geordie, Brummie or 
Weegie could be incomprehensible to others. I've intentionally used only 
examples of white people here because this issue is not about "people of 
color" and it transcends parochial concerns about race."""

And the conclusion is right, but the argument is better than he makes it. I've no idea what a Weegie is, but Brum is just up the road from where I write, and I can tell you only about 60% of Brummies class themselves as white. A high proportion of those that don't are yet native speakers of English, often in the distinctive Black Country accent that some scholars think was Shakespeare's. Those who hope to be understood widely, in my experience, moderate their use of regional words, but it's grand to add a bit of local colour now and then.

Now the commit message is the thing that causes me to write. It contains a long justification for the change. It need only have said that we've decided not to enforce S&W rules. It is somewhat offensive, since it asserts as fact an opinion the community evidently does not hold universally, which is that the recommendation to use a standard form of English is "upholding relics of white supremacy".

I get that S&W is a bit American, but recommending this or another resource does not make someone a white supremacist. I regret that this disagreeable view has made its way into the record. Arguments have been made in this thread that taking care to be clear in our writing is an inclusive act, and in fact the paragraph that follows the amended one makes a similar point.

That so many of us speak and read some form of English at all is a relic of British supremacy and an effect of recent American supremacy. It is unfortunate, from the perspective of universal communication, that other languages exist at all, although enriching in other ways. It's just history and where we are.

PEP-8 chooses to require English in comments [1]. In view of this, the use in the amended text of "other speakers of the language you are writing in" is needlessly complicated. It contains, let's remember, "coding conventions for the Python code comprising the standard library in the main Python distribution", for which English has been chosen, and those who use it for something else should adapt it. I know that in Python sometimes you have to be Dutch, but fortunately not when writing comments: that would be a barrier to contributing. I'm in luck.

There is a lot of righteous anger just now about a class of long-standing injustices world-wide, and recent ones in the US, that colours the discussion. It is very difficult to address any argument, however weak, that starts from this anger, because of the risk it will be construed as disagreeing with the starting point, but please try to be tolerant of reason. I do not disagree with the values motivating efforts to be more inclusive.

The Python community is exemplary in its intention to be inclusive, but here we are made afraid to say directly "please write in English and here is as a guide to doing so clearly", apparently because it is "putting up barriers for people whose native dialect of English is not Standard". There is no one standard English, but there is a range of broadly accepted, educated English. The guide is cheap, so the accusation of exclusivity must be the assumed cultural imperialism of asking people to write this educated English. The argument leads to "everyone should be free to write in their own variant of English, with no consideration for readers". It just wasn't pursued this far. Still, the outcome is less good for inclusivity than it might have been, because the means to achieve parity are now (in a trivial way) made less accessible.


Jeff Allen
[1] Strictly read, only "Python coders from non-English speaking countries" are required to write comments in English. So the rest of us ... exprimons-nous librement!