Re: Breaking into the tech writing job market

Subject: Re: Breaking into the tech writing job market
From: Laura Lemay <lemay-lists1 -at- lauralemay -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- c" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2006 11:31:03 -0700

Something we have a lot of in our audiences. If you remember your
basic intro to tech writing classes, they tell you to write at about a
6th grade level.

I think that's a very condescending and obnoxious thing to say. And it's
probably a root cause of the "users is soooooo stupid" attitude that
makes a lot of engineers and tech writers unbearable, IMO.

Whoa, whoa WHOA whoa whoa.

As Mike explained in another thread, writing to a sixth grade level does not mean dumbing down your writing or talking down to the user. This is a specific term that refers to any number of readability indices (Flesch-Kincaid, Fog, Fry), which are scientific algorithms for determining the how easy it is to read a piece of text. Here are some URLs:

In general the readability score of a piece of text is based on syllable, sentence and word length. A higher score for reading level (10th grade or higher) means that a piece of text is more difficult to read. It does not mean that a higher scoring text is better than a lower-scoring text written at a lower reader level. Hemingway wrote at a fourth grade reading level.

When we as tech writers aim for a sxith grade reading level it just means we should be writing short, declarative sentences; that we are writing plainly and clearly; that we are using active voice, and that we are avoiding jargon or complex language our audience will not understand. Those basic rules apply regardless of complexity of the subject or sophistication of the audience.

This is the composition and rhetoric part of technical writing. Perhaps its time to re-read Elements of Style.

omit needless words

Laura Lemay Killer of Trees lemay % lemay %


WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word features support for every major Help format plus PDF, HTML and more. Flexible, precise, and efficient content delivery. Try it today!

Easily create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to any popular Help file format or printed documentation. Learn more at

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- infoinfocus -dot- com -dot-
To unsubscribe send a blank email to techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to lisa -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market: From: Robotti, Anne \(Carlin\)

Previous by Author: Cannot update index in Word
Next by Author: Re: Internships (was: Breaking into the tech writing job market)
Previous by Thread: RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market
Next by Thread: RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads