2

Let's say I helped my colleague to implement some algorithm (in C# programming language, for example. He didn't know how to write it and I explained that to him).

And now I'm writing a daily report:

Helped my colleague with the algorithm.

or

Helped my colleague with the implementation of the algorithm.

I suspect that this is incorrect. Am I right? What I want to write must be written this way:

Helped my colleague to implement the algorithm.

What I'm asking is the form of the statement. It is the same as of this statement:

"I painted it with a brush."

The phrase "with a brush" means that I used a brush to do something (painting). So I wonder doesn't the phrase "with the algorithm" mean that I used the algorithm to do something (helping)?

2

In general, sense will override grammar.

I would understand your sentence "Helped my colleague with the algorithm" to mean "I helped my colleague do what he/she wanted to do with the algorithm". If the colleague is a programmer, I probably helped implement the algorithm, or helped him/her understand it. Just as "I helped with the carrots" can mean you helped plant them, prepare them, cook them, eat them, carry them -- whatever is appropriate to the context and circumstance, whatever was the help that was wanted. In a bioinformatics lab, it might mean "sequenced the DNA of".

Grammatically it's ambiguous and will be disambiguated by the sense of the nouns:

  • I helped my colleague with the moustache -- Which colleague? The one with the moustache
  • I helped my colleague with my knowledge of Knuth -- What tool did I use to help him? My knowledge of a book
  • I helped my colleague with his woodwork -- What did he want help with? His woodwork

And so, in ordinary writing such as a weekly report, the following are almost identical:

  • Helped my colleague with the algorithm
  • Helped my colleague with the implementation of the algorithm.
  • Helped my colleague to implement the algorithm.

As a question of style, 3 is the best because: 1) it's more specific about what you did, 2) it's nice and concrete, avoiding "implementation". But that's just an opinion.

4

I will argue with the comments here, and say that these two sentences do not say the same thing, from a developer's standpoint.

I helped my colleague with the algorithm.

This indicates that your work impacted the algorithm itself -- perhaps you wrote a mathematical proof for it, gathered some research which led to its creation, pulled some all-nighters with said colleague to refine it, or so forth.

I helped my colleague with the implementation of the algorithm.

The key here is that the implementation of something is not the same as the creation of the object itself. Saying you helped with the implementation of the algorithm implies that it was fully formed by the time your work commenced, and that you only helped with a practical application, such as programming it into some piece of software or translating it to a specific programming language.

From your the beginning of your question, the latter appears to be the case. If this is some well-known, proven algorithm, then saying you helped with it is vague and obviously not entirely true. If it's a lesser known algorithm, that may be construed as downright plagiarism. The point is, the implementation is something you and your colleague created, whereas the algorithm likely already wholly existed beforehand.

Edit, to match yours:

Ah, now that you've clarified, I understand what you're asking. Technically yes, the two statements are of the same form -- the reason why the two are interpreted differently is the default action of the objects. What does a brush do? It paints. That's pretty much it, barring more minor applications. Now look at an algorithm: when you think of its default use, I imagine almost no one jumps straight to helps people. Algorithms do a lot of things, but helping people isn't the default (and it would be indirect, anyhow). Because an algorithm is something that is created and manipulated by a person, it makes more sense in the original context to assume you meant that you were helping someone do something to the algorithm, not vice versa.

How can this be made more clear? Supplement using for with, as with is vague:

"Helped my colleague using the algorithm."

"I painted it using a brush."

Ambiguity is your enemy in official reports. Clarity is key here, especially if your superiors are more likely to skim the report than slowly comb through it.

  • I'm sorry, I wasn't clear enough: What is was asking is the form of the statement. It is the same as of this statement: "I painted it with a brush." The phrase "with a brush" means that I used a brush to do something (painting). So I wonder doesn't the phrase "with the algorithm" mean that I used the algorithm to do something (helping)? – embedc Aug 19 '19 at 16:54
  • 1
    @embedc That explanation should be edited into your question and you probably should replace the grammar tag with ambiguity. – ColleenV parted ways Aug 19 '19 at 18:24
  • ^^ As @ColleenV stated, it would be helpful to edit your post with this update. If you do so, I can update my answer to match your edit! – Seymour Guado Aug 19 '19 at 18:36
  • @Seymour Guado Done) – embedc Aug 20 '19 at 14:18
  • @embedc Right back at ya – Seymour Guado Aug 20 '19 at 14:51

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