RE: lifecycle or life-cycle or life cycle

Subject: RE: lifecycle or life-cycle or life cycle
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: "West, Michael" <Michael -dot- West -at- gsjbw -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2006 09:07:15 -0400

Michael West said...

> > the computer industry and it's marketing departments have, quite
> > frankly, done some interesting things to the English language.
> In general, professional marketing communicators use language with
> thought and care than most technical communicators. I offer this as a
> judgement rather than fact, because no "proof" is possible. As with
> such generalisations, one can find plenty of exceptions. But marketing
> writers stand to gain or loose considerably more than tech writers do
> getting the words "tuned" just right.

I have a bit of a quibble with your opinion; however, my quibble is more
with interpretation of the purpose of the writing than the skill or care
of the writer. Marketing writers are out to produce "attention-grabbing"
materials, while the best technical writers fight the egotistical urges
of anyone who wants their words in print and try to "disappear" from the

As seekers of the limelight, marketing writers pay close attention to
what is "trendy" what is "cutesy" and what is "humorous" and will often
attempt (what they think is) clever and different ways of pitching
whatever product or service they want you to buy. They want you to bite
on their headline, set the hook with a snazzy intro, and reel you in
with the meat of their copy.

Technical writers, on the other hand, know that their audience is not
going to read their manual front to back, cover to cover (unless they
are highly disturbed individuals or forgot to carry anything else while
waiting for car repairs). Readers will look for specific bits of
information at specific times, and the goal is to provide that
information so it's easy to find, easy to use, and doesn't waste the
reader's time.

Analyzing these two opposing purposes, I'd have to say that I would
agree that most "bad" marketing writing is more interesting to read than
"bad" technical writing. To a casual reader, that can make it seem more
carefully crafted, when in reality it's just doing a better job of
holding the reader's attention. However, I do disagree that marketing
writers use more care in selecting their words for the precision of
their meaning--marketing writers care more about the "feeling" their
words evoke (the connotative definition) than the precise explicit
meaning they convey (the dictionary definition).

Finally, I have to ask if the quoted text above includes purposeful
unexpected word placement or just a common word choice error. Instead of
the opposites "gain or lose" the author wrote "gain or loose." In the
context of talking about marketing writing, it's true that good
marketing writing can "gain" a lot of interest and sales for a company,
while bad marketing writing can "loose" a tide of negative public
opinion against an organization.

I don't want to pick on Michael, but errors like this are my biggest
argument AGAINST computerized spell-checkers. It's easy to have a
typo--I know I make typos all the time; but when we have automatic spell
checkers that correct our documentation and emails even as we compose
them, it's insane the number of times that a typo will get corrected to
the WRONG word. Argh! It's disgusting!

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