Re: Technically Speaking
John Fleming wrote:
One area I am thinking of looking at is the differences between the written environment and the spoken environment.
This is an area I've spent some time considering. It seems to me that different rhetorical contexts require modification of both diction and style. The old dictum that we should write as we speak is seriously flawed.
One of the things I get to do on a regular basis (lucky me!) is edit documents written by people who are effective speakers--and who do, in fact, write as they speak. So I get to see, right there on the monitor, the things that effective speakers do that do not work in print.
This then, taken in reverse, becomes advice for the technical communicator who wants to speak effectively. If you write a nice tight essay that reads well on paper and then stand up and read it aloud--or even memorize it and deliver it while making eye contact with the audience--you are going to sound brusque. (I know, because I get that a lot.) Padding the prose--restating your points, using even more examples, stretching, stretching, stretching, stopping to tell a story or a joke--makes you friendlier to the audience. It slows you down so they have more time to absorb what you are saying. It gives them time for their attention to wander and still feel they are keeping up with you when their attention wanders back. Standing up, writing the theorem on the whiteboard, and sitting down to wait for questions is not an effective technique for oral presentation, in other words. <g>
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Who says bad manuals aren't a risk to your life? Just ask the passengers of the jet where the engine caught fire because the company's maintenance manual was wrong about how to install one key bolt. (NTSB Report on GE CF6 engine fire, American Airlines flight 574, July 9, 1998. <http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/1999/AAB9903.htm>)
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