Web Explored: Writing Technically, Cutting Courage & Others

writing technically - Digital view technical things

One of the great­est chal­lenges of fac­tu­al writ­ing is writ­ing tech­ni­cal­ly, or cov­er­ing aspects that are spe­cif­ic to your pro­fes­sion, or spe­cial­i­ty. Writ­ing tech­ni­cal­ly can be one of the tough­est chal­lenges we face. We all have those ‘spe­cial’ words, the jar­gon or lan­guage of our spe­cial­i­ty and it is all too easy to lapse into that tech­ni­cal jargon.

 

Writing Technically

Tom DuPuis of Instruc­tion­al Solu­tions talks about tech­ni­cal writ­ing, offer­ing “9 Tech­ni­cal Writ­ing Tips Every Writer Needs to Know”. The key here is tak­ing a tech­ni­cal or spe­cial­ist sub­ject and explain it clear­ly and con­cise­ly. One aspect that is vital to think about is “a tech­ni­cal doc­u­ment is your con­tri­bu­tion to pos­ter­i­ty. That’s right, you are pass­ing on tech­ni­cal knowl­edge for read­ers now and in the future”. Thus writ­ing needs to be time­less in nature, describe the com­po­nents that peo­ple need to know about as effec­tive­ly as possible.

If any of your writ­ing involves writ­ing about the tech­ni­cal aspects of your pro­fes­sion then you will need to re-read, check and val­i­date the advice offered. One oth­er aspect I would like to high­light is “The bet­ter instruc­tions are the ones that are most effec­tive for the read­er, regard­less of the word count”. This is true whether you are writ­ing for a blog or cre­at­ing a tech­ni­cal manual.
 

Big Words

Big BenSarah Moore, writ­ing for The Write Prac­tice makes enjoy­able read­ing. In “How to Use Big Words With­out Mak­ing a Fool of Your­self” she talks about find­ing out that the mean­ing for a word is dif­fer­ent than you thought it was. Have you been there? I have. She shows read­ers six dead­ly sins, includ­ing the way we con­fuse sim­i­lar words that have an oppo­site meaning.
 
I love her thought “if you’re not sure, fol­low my mom’s oft-repeat­ed advice: look it up”. That was also my mother’s advice. I agree, look­ing up a word either on-line or in a dic­tio­nary can clar­i­fy things great­ly. Hav­ing looked up many com­mon say­ings and it has turned out the are often mis­spo­ken. No mat­ter how much we love those words or phras­es you can test your tongue around, they feel good when you speak them, but the most cru­cial thing is that you use the right word at the right time and know what it means.
 
Dominique Jack­son in Life­hack talks about the “25 Com­mon Phras­es That You’re Say­ing Wrong”. For exam­ple: ‘I could care less’ ver­sus ‘I couldn’t care less’. Most peo­ple use the for­mer phrase, when they mean the lat­ter. If you have no inter­est it means you couldn’t care less.
 

Continuing on a Theme

Tom John­son in “Why sim­ple lan­guage isn’t so sim­ple: the strug­gle to cre­ate plain lan­guage in doc­u­men­ta­tion” also looks at tech­ni­cal based writ­ing, or writ­ing tech­ni­cal­ly. Par­tic­u­lar­ly why writ­ers don’t use sim­pler lan­guage. His first point is that writ­ers don’t realise their writ­ing is hard to read. He gives many exam­ples, includ­ing lib­er­al exam­ples show­ing analy­sis by the Hem­ing­way App. 
 
Per­son­al­ly, I look at tools, like Hem­ing­way or Gram­marly with mixed emo­tion. There are ele­ments that are very help­ful, but oth­ers that are less so. I don’t believe that sim­ply because a sen­tence is 119 words long doesn’t make it auto­mat­i­cal­ly hard to read. Despite that I do agree that, espe­cial­ly when writ­ing has tech­ni­cal ele­ments writ­ers are con­tent to embrace com­plex­i­ty, rather than break it down. Com­mon sense is a required ele­ment of edit­ing.
 
Fur­ther John­son argues “maybe writ­ers don’t embrace sim­ple lan­guage because they fear this sim­plic­i­ty will lead to une­d­u­cat­ed-look­ing prose”. I have cer­tain­ly met writ­ers who use this philosophy. 
 

Whose Opinion Matters?

who by Maialisa CC0 Public Domain from PixabayWhen it comes to oth­er people’s opin­ion of us Joui Turan­dot tells us “I have made this mis­take many times in the past. I let anoth­er person’s opin­ion cloud my own vision with­out first ask­ing myself whether I even respect that opin­ion”. She isn’t the only per­son to have made that mistake.
 
In our mod­ern day lives we do seek val­i­da­tion and feed­back for many of the things we do. Some feed­back can’t be avoid­ed (for exam­ple if you com­ment on this page), but there are many times we should apply a fil­ter. Some opin­ions we sim­ply don’t need to hear
 
Turan­dot con­tin­ues “I am sen­si­tive. One unchecked opin­ion can cause me to feel unground­ed and unable to think clear­ly”. Whose opin­ion of you mat­ters? Think a lit­tle and ensure you fil­ter cor­rect­ly.
 

Cut with Courage

This next seg­ment returns to writ­ing. I thank Dr. Noelle Sterne who offers wise advice in “Cut with Courage” at Two Drops of Ink. One of the chal­lenges all writ­ers face, the glo­ri­ous piece of prose that goes one step too far. Her advice “we must learn to edit our work with less parental pride and more out­sider objec­tiv­i­ty”.
 
That is so tough to do.The first chal­lenge is detect­ing the writ­ing where we have gone too far. You mind will protest at remov­ing the words. I have been there say­ing “it is nec­es­sary” or “it proves my genius”. But I think this also links to writ­ing tech­ni­cal­ly and our desire to use the words those shar­ing your spe­cial­i­ty under­stand. If the piece will be read by lay peo­ple then plain Eng­lish is vital.
 
It mat­ters not how much hard work you have put into the piece, those extra­ne­ous phras­es we adore, have to go. This applies as much to non-fic­tion writ­ing and blogs as it does to fic­tion, per­haps arguable more so.
 

Twitter Search

Twitter BirdDid you know there was an advanced search fea­ture on Twit­ter? Jon Clark from Social Engine Jour­nal shows all how in “Every­thing You Need to Know About Twit­ter Advanced Search”. The exact phrase, any word, and oth­er advanced fea­tures are all includ­ed. You can also search for peo­ple, places, dates, and oth­er options.
 
Twit­ter is the worlds sec­ond most pop­u­lar search engine. The result, always, is a list of tweets. This can be use­ful as it can enable you to find peo­ple with spe­cif­ic inter­ests to con­nect to. It also makes avail­able a list of blog posts about a spe­cif­ic topic.

 

An Interesting Podcast

 

I will admit it — I have nev­er been huge­ly into pod­casts, but for some rea­son this inter­view between Jeff Goins and Maneesh Sethi seemed inter­est­ing. You can lis­ten to the poscast here, or see the full arti­cle by Jeff Goins here. Enjoy.

 

Web Explored

Web explored brings a series of arti­cles to my reader’s atten­tion that I feel need high­light­ing. If you are inter­est­ed in sim­i­lar arti­cles then please take a look at the Web Explored Cat­e­go­ry, or look at some of the following:

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