Re: Writing to your audience

Subject: Re: Writing to your audience
From: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2011 10:23:05 -0500

Endemic in the profession? I knew a chemist who had a seepch ipemdimnet that made it difficult to understand him. "Other people do not listen carefully," he told me. (It sounded more like "Othrppldnt lisncrfly.")

I certainly have encountered scientists and mathematicians who suggest that, "Everything you need to know (about this subject) is contained in these few mathematical expressions. If you need it explained or drawn out for you, then you are unworthy of knowing it." This attitude also holds the theory as being sufficient, and bears the possibility of closing the door to further knowledge by rejecting nonconforming data as experimental error.

On 02/28/2011 09:42 AM, Dan Goldstein wrote:

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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References:
RE: Writing to your audience: From: Dan Goldstein

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