Re: Technically Speaking

Subject: Re: Technically Speaking
From: Allen Schaaf <soundbyte -at- sound-by-design -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2002 16:47:43 -0700


Dick, John, et. al.,

Like you, Dick, I have edited speeches given at conferences and found that there was tons of things to remove and re-order in order to make them intelligible in a written form, or even for an audio tape.

Alas, I do not have the references to the source research anymore, but here are a couple of clues that may help understand the differences between speeches and the written word.

The first is that about 80% spoken language is redundant. We often repeat the same information in various ways to help provide different pathways to understanding.

The second is from studies done in the late 60's. Verbal communication is about 54% body language, 39% tone of voice and delivery, and only 7% the words themselves. So when you listen to a tape you are deprived of half the information that is communicated. When you see just the words on paper, most of the communication that happens in front of the live audience is gone.

It is my belief that these are the reasons behind the value of visuals in manuals and approaches like information mapping.

Best to your and yours,


Allen Schaaf
Sr. Tech Writer
Currently looking for work.

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>)





At 12:54 AM 8/16/02, Dick Margulis wrote:

John Fleming wrote:
One area I am thinking of looking at is the differences between the written environment and the spoken environment.

[snip]

John,

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.

[snip]

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>


Allen Schaaf
Sr. Tech Writer
Currently looking for work.

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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