a section-by-section procedure

NewAmerica

Senior Member
Mandarin
Background: Workers are improving the infrastructure of the town. Now they lay pipes along the road. To minimize the negative effects on the traffic and daily life of the citizens along the road, the workers adopt the method of "excavate a length of road, lay the pipes and cover them, then move on to the next length and repeat."
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With Kentix's help, the main part of the second sentence above (the workers adopt the method of "excavate a length of road, lay the pipes and cover them, then move on to the next length and repeat.") is very clear.

Now here's another way of expressing the same idea:

the workers adopt a section-by-section procedure of road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling.

The question of this thread is whether "a section-by-section procedure" is natural, accurate English. That is, whether it has expressed exactly the same idea.
 
  • much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    It has not expressed exactly the same idea, since "section-by-section" is much more vague. Even the added phrases "road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling" don't convey precisely what "excavate a length of road, lay the pipes and cover them, then move on to the next length" does.

    However, I have no problem with "section-by-section procedure" in terms of grammar. Presumably you would use "block-by-block" if they were doing one block at a time, but if it's a zone smaller than a block, then "section" is fine. I think it reads a little nicer if you turn "procedure" into a verb: "they proceeded section by section, first excavating a length of road, then laying the pipes and covering them..."
     

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Thank you. :)

    Meaning aside, does the expression "the workers adopt a section-by-section procedure of road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling" sound natural in English?

    I've checked out "section":

    a part cut off or separated;
    one of a number of parts that can be fitted together to make a whole:[countable]Two sections of pipe had come loose.
    That is, when it comes to laying pipes, the use of "section" appears to be proper and beyond being vague.

    But I am not very sure. For I lack practical use of the word.
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    adopt a section-by-section procedure of road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling.
    I am the one who wrote that sentence in the Chinese forum. It was a translation of your Chinese sentence as you asked for in the Chinese forum, NOT a paraphrase of your English sentence. Just as the edits done in the English forum are bound by your English sentence, so are translations given in the Chinese forum bound by your Chinese sentence. Asking whether your English sentence and mine convey "exactly" (or "precisely") the same idea is a silly exercise in my eye because your English sentence and your Chinese sentence aren't "exactly" (or "precisely") the same.
    does the expression "the workers adopt a section-by-section procedure of road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling" sound natural in English?
    Now that's a reasonable question.
     

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    I am the one who wrote that sentence in the Chinese forum. It was a translation of your Chinese sentence as you asked for in the Chinese forum, NOT a paraphrase of your English sentence. Just as the edits done in the English forum are bound by your English sentence, so are translations given in the Chinese forum bound by your Chinese sentence. Asking whether your English sentence and mine convey "exactly" (or "precisely") the same idea is a silly exercise in my eye because your English sentence and your Chinese sentence aren't "exactly" (or "precisely") the same.
    See the title of the thread: a section-by-section procedure.
    There are apparently some good reasons in your explanation. But it doesn't solve the problem of the "section" - "pipe" collocation.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I think section-by-section process would make more sense. A process is made up of various procedures.

    Section is fine as is but we don't have any sense of how big a section is.
     

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Section is fine as is but we don't have any sense of how big a section is.
    Well, I don't understand why "section" is not clear since it has been put in the context of pipe laying. Our dictionary has given this example: Two sections of pipe had come loose.

    So a section of a pipe is a length of the pipe. This is why I inquired in the OP whether the sentence"The workers adopt the method of "excavate a length of road, lay the pipes and cover them, then move on to the next length and repeat" and the sentence "The workers adopt a section-by-section procedure of road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling" exactly share the same meaning.

    It appears that the distance between "section" and "pipe-laying" has led the meaning astray.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Length as used has no quantity either. It's the same as section. Tell me how long a length of road is?

    Surely the length of road excavated is longer than one pipe section. It would be incredibly tedious and slow to dig a length of road exactly as long as one pipe section. (And actually impossible to work with since you need extra space to maneuver the pieces.)

    So, like I said, as a description of the general process it's fine. But as a more specific understanding of exactly what it means, it doesn't contain a whole lot of information. A length of road could be half a city block or it could be 10 blocks.

    Also section can have a much more general meaning. A section of pipe might be 20 feet long. A section of a pipeline might be 10 miles long (and be made up hundreds of pipe sections).
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It appears that the distance between "section" and "pipe-laying" has led the meaning astray.
    Neither "section" or "pipe-laying" occur in the original sentence. You've introduced those ideas because you assumed "a length of road" from the original sentence might be the same as the dictionary's "section of pipe."
     

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Okay, it is much clearer.

    Neither "section" or "pipe-laying" occur in the original sentence. You've introduced those ideas because you assumed "a length of road" from the original sentence might be the same as the dictionary's "section of pipe."
    What? The sentence I inquired in the OP is:

    the workers adopt a section-by-section procedure of road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    process: a series of events that produce change or development.(Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary)
    process: a series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result.(Collins English Dictionary–12th Edition)

    procedure: the order or method of doing something. (Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary)
    procedure: a way of acting or progressing in a course of action, esp an established method (Collins English Dictionary–12th Edition)

    process vs. procedure: A process is a set or series of actions directed to some end or a natural series of changes; a procedure is a series of actions conducted in a certain manner, an established way of doing something. (Farlex Trivia Dictionary)

    Culvert installation: Step 1 road-digging, Step 2 pipe-laying, Step 3 backfilling.
    The order or established method of doing "road-digging" first, "pipe-laying" next and "backfilling" last is a procedure. The sentence in question describes a technique (or method, or procedure) "to minimize the negative effects on the traffic and daily life of the citizens along the road" (#1).
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    What? The sentence I inquired in the OP is:

    the workers adopt a section-by-section procedure of road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling.
    The incorrect sentence that you invented because you misunderstood the original sentence. There's no point in discussing it. There's no "section" in the original sentence. There is "a length of road" with any number of pipes.
     

    much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    NewAmerica, I think the example sentence in the dictionary misled you. The word "section" doesn't call to mind a length of pipe in native speakers' minds. A student can turn to the section of the reading being discussed in her class that day. Condominiums can be built in a special low-tax section of your town. A man can have bug bites on the upper section of his calves. This is a very flexible word for any division of anything (it comes from the Latin word for "cut"). As Kentix pointed out in #8, the word alone does not convey anything about its length, only the fact that it has been divided from some larger whole. A section of the sky is thousands of light-years wide, but one section of the Golgi apparatus inside an animal cell might be measured in microns.

    As you will see in #2, when I first read the OP I thought you were referring to sections of road, presumably ones smaller than a block. Even in the context of laying pipe, I wouldn't have guessed you meant sections of pipe.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    when I first read the OP I thought you were referring to sections of road, presumably ones smaller than a block.
    That is exactly what I intended to say by "section". Please allow me to reiterate that the sentence under discussion (i.e., adopt a section-by-section procedure of road-digging, pipe-laying, and backfilling) was invented by me (Skatinginbc) as a translation of a Chinese sentence in the Chinese forum.
     

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Thank you.

    The meaning of "section" (and "length") has now become more unambiguous.

    Practically, the section or length here is about 30 meters. So the workers are now proceeding 30meter-by-30meter,first excavating a 30m-section/length of road, then laying the pipes and covering them...

    Okay, 30meter-by-30meter sounds awkward and a 30m-section/length of road sound redundant. ;)
     
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