Technical Writing Tips

I accept that I live in a big world and English is not the native language of many people. Yet many people who write on the web are native English speakers. Perhaps too much texting has lowered the quality of prose, but writing better is not that hard.

One suggestion is simple. Write to communicate and not impress. Readers seek information and do not care about geek creds.

Another suggestion is do not write the same way the language is spoken. The spoken language includes body actions, tonal inflections, and facial expressions. Emoticons fall short at conveying that component of communication. Do not use texting language and shortcuts. The goal is to communicate and not be “cool.”

There are two incorrect grammar examples I see often when reading content on the web.

One example is the words lose and loose are different words. I lost count the times I have read people use loose rather than lose. Lose means failing to keep or to maintain; ceasing to have, either physically or in an abstract sense. Loose means to grant freedom or free from confinement.

The second example is confusing that and which. The difference is whether the words after that or which create a restrictive clause. A restrictive clause means the sentence changes meaning without the words. A non restrictive clause does not change the meaning of the preceding words. A non restrictive clause is additional supporting information but not critical to the meaning of the preceding words. There is a simple trick to help distinguish the two words. When using a restrictive clause, use that. When using a non restrictive clause, use a comma and which.

These two examples lead to a suggestion. Find a copy of The Goof-Proofer by Stephen J. Manhard. This thin book contains one and two page explanations outlining typical grammatical errors. I never regretted buying this teaching tool many years ago.

Another classic teaching book that never grows old is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. In writing circles this thin book is referred to as Strunk and White.

If English is not a native tongue, find somebody who is a native writer to help edit and proofread content.

Want help with your writing or need an editor or proofreader?

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Tech Writing

Next: Disheartening

Previous: Why Desktop Linux Still Hasn’t Taken Over the World