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Rule of thumb

[ 2009-07-01 14:27]     字号 [] [] []  
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Reader's question:

As this type of work is particularly tiring and stressful, the rule of thumb is that an interpreter should be able to take a break after 45 minutes of continuous work.

Could you explain “the rule of thumb”?

Briefly it refers to an approximation using past knowledge or understanding as a guide.

E.g., ‘as a rule of thumb when the air becomes moist rain will often follow’. Or ‘as a general rule of thumb a teaspoon of bleach mixed in with your clothes will help your white shirts to be brighter’

In more depth, a rule of thumb could be described as “a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation.”

Imagine you are on the computer a lot and often typing in Microsoft word. Now as a general rule of thumb if a word is underlined in red that means it may have been spelt wrong or this is a grammatical error.

As we see here the rule of thumb is usually easily learned and easily applied for approximating or making some judgment.

We must remember though it isn’t always a 100% right.

To get an idea of the approximate nature of the phrase it helps to understand where it arose from and it is believed that it relates to our thumbs and how these were often used to measure things or assist in making measurement related decisions, e.g. in wood work for cutting or in farming for deciding how deep to plant a seed.

So as the summer kicks in and people get more tired and testy, remember as a general rule of thumb plenty of sleep and a balanced diet can go a long way to help warding off any flu or cold.

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About the author:

Rule of thumb

About the author: Brendan has taught at universities, high schools and primary schools in Japan,the UK, Australia and China. He is a Qualified Education Agent Counsellor and has extensive experience with International English Language Examinations. In the field of writing Brendan has been published in The Bangkok Post, The Taipei Times, Inflight magazines and the Asia News Network. He can be contacted at brendanjohnworrell@hotmail.com.