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.
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.
Sarah 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
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?
When 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.
Did 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.
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