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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I've got your Item 21 right here

Much as I like to grumble, I also like to herald improvements, and yesterday I learned of one.  While I was knee-deep in last-minute Form 470 nonsense, a colleague in the office said she tested the online Item 21 Attachment tool, and she is able to create the attachments before the Form 471 is submitted.

To normal humans, this is completely unimportant, but as I've said before, I found it frustrating that we couldn't even start the attachments before the 471 was done.  Perhaps my protestations did not fall on deaf ears.

Why is it important?  Convenience aside, I have always considered it best practice to complete the Item 21 Attachments before submitting the Form 471, because every now and then you catch an error while doing the attachment, and you can fix the 471 before submitting.

It's been a while since I went on a linguistic rant, and  I've got a curmudgeonly persona to maintain here, so I need to whine about something.  To wit:

The term "Item 21 Attachment" is just ungainly.  It is not an attachment to Item 21 exactly, although Item 21 is the place on the form where you identify the number of the attachment.  I think it should be a "Block 5 Attachment" or a "Form 471 attachment."  (OK, really I think it should be part of the Form 471, not an attachment: the forms should be as complicated as they have to be to make clear the complexity of the program, and it just seems a little sleazy that somehow they're getting away with information collection without creating a form and going through OMB and all by calling it an attachment.  But back to my original rant.)

But the real nettle in my shoe is that since "Item 21 Attachments" takes too long to say, people who spend too much time with this program commonly call them "Item 21s."  OK, first off, that's like deciding "CD players" is too wordy, and calling them "CDs"; the meaning is lost. If you want to drop part of "Item 21 Attachment," drop "Item 21" and just call them "Attachments."  It's not like there are any other attachments in the E-Rate program.  I mean, it's like not wanting to say "flat-screen TV" and just calling it a "flat-screen."  What's that?  People do?  Oh, our society is just falling apart.  (I was going to use "trash collector" and "trash," but decided that was too disrespectful to our sanitation engineers, and in NJ, you do not want to cross those guys.)

In addition, it should be "Items 21" not "Item 21s."  It's like people talking about Form 470s; it should be Forms 470.  (And don't get me started on people who put apostrophes and make it Form 470's, unless you're making a possessive like "this Form 471's Item 21 Attachments.")  Maybe it's just because of all the Downton Abbey I'm watching, but if we're going to misabbreviate, let's at least do it in a way that sounds proper.  Of course, it's not really any more proper, since it is neither the "Item" nor the "21" that is being made plural, it's the "attachment," but we dropped that part of the name, so we're screwed.  But "Items 21" still sounds more like something the Dowager Countess would say.

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