RE: Writing to your audience

Subject: RE: Writing to your audience
From: "Dan Goldstein" <DGoldstein -at- riverainmedical -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2011 09:42:17 -0500

I passed this on to a science educator I know. Her response was, "Why
blame Sachse for his failure to communicate? Why not blame the other
chemists for their failure to understand?"

I explained to her that, from my point of view as a tech writer, it's
never the audience's fault if they fail to understand me.


-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Neilson
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 1:15 PM
To: TECHWR-L
Subject: Writing to your audience

I happened to be looking up cyclohexane and came upon this short piece:

http://www.chem.yale.edu/~chem125/125/history/Baeyer/Sachse.html

It tells of Hermann Sachse's discovery in 1890 of the correct
conformational structure of cyclohexane, and of his failure to
communicate it to other organic chemists. He even made 3-D models, but
his work was rejected precisely because it required the reader to cut
out and fold a paper model. "It is not possible," wrote a reviewer, "to
write an abstract of this paper, especially since the author's
explanations are hardly understandable without models."

Sachse produced various explanations of the structure, using very hairy
trigonometry and geometry, that no chemist bothered reading. He died
three years later. The structure was not validated until 1918, and not
fully recognized until 1950.

The article concludes with:

"Know your audience, and express yourself in terms they can understand."


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