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> Some readers project a sarcastic or rude
>"tone" on the words I've written.
I have sometimes had the same experiences with my intentions
being misinterpreted. Ultimately I suppose it's my fault, but
that doesn't stop me from pondering other causes...
As writers we are trained, or we train ourselves, to express
thoughts directly with the most specific words, and the minimum
number of words. This is generally how we achieve clarity.
Sometimes I write this way on the first try, other times I have
to rewrite over and over again. And sometimes I don't get there
Unfortunately, to some people this "clarity" sounds terse or
abrupt, and can be interpreted as some kind of rudeness. They
may be expecting a more ornate language that to us sounds like
overblown purple prose, but to them sounds personable and
friendly. Once you strip out subjunctives, unnecessary
adjectives, windy introductions etc, I guess it can sound pretty
I also suspect (just a hunch) that some people, especially
higher-ups, are subconsciously irritated by someone who writes
better than they do -- they may think you are arrogant or
American culture is fundamentally anti-intellectual. We distrust
and vilify people who appear to be smarter than ourselves. And
people who write well run the risk of appearing to be
I remember when some shops were still rolling out email for the
first time, and it was considered acceptable for managers to
refuse to use email. You got to know which managers wanted
email, and which ones wanted voicemail or paper memos.
The email-shunning managers tended be very effective in person.
They had learned to dominate meetings for whatever reason...
maybe they were tall, had good hair, a sonorous voice, or they
just knew how to schmooze. They had learned how to use their
traits to ensure their place in the hierarchy. In a meeting, a
raised eybrow from one of these folks could demolish your entire
But when subordinates (such as tech writers!) started sending
email to these people, the raised eyebrow and sonorous voice
didn't work anymore. If you sent them a request or proposal that
was logical and well written, they couldn't pull rank and
dismiss you so easily. They had to respond with an equally
clearly reasoned response -- and some of them were not capable.
Suddenly the playing field was a little more level, and ideas
could compete freely. These managers had to get used to the idea
that via email, mere tech writers could interact with the team
as peers, and they didn't like it. These may be some of the
people who are scouring your writings for signs of arrogance.
In the end, their projections of sarcasm or rudeness on your
writing probably reveals a lot more about them then about you.
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