RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!

Subject: RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!
From: "Porrello, Leonard" <lporrello -at- illumina -dot- com>
To: 'Michael West' <mike -dot- west -at- bigpond -dot- com>, 'Edwin Skau' <eddy -dot- skau -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2011 17:18:30 +0000

By "different language," I thought Edwin was using "language" loosely to describe different modes of thinking. Some people "think" primarily kinesthetically; others are primarily visuospatial, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and even social thinkers. Someone who is a genius at and very well educated in basketball may not be able to write a coherent paragraph. Similarly, someone who can write and even reason exceptionally well may not be able to do advanced mathematics well (and vice-versa). And then there is wisdom, which is apparently transcendent.

It is very, very rare for a person to be talented and educated in several modalities, and being unable to write well says something only about one's talent and education in humanities. It says nothing about the general quality of one's mind or even education. Steve Jobs pointed out, "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully."

I take pride in my writing and education, and I have great respect for people who can do things that I can't, even if they can't write well (which is often the case). My goal as a writer is to make concepts and processes easily comprehensible to my readers, regardless of individual modes of thinking, and I can't see how feeling smug about my own particular set of talents could help me to do that well. And besides, if every well educated person could write well, I would be out of a job.

If there is a problem in our educational system, it isn't that it doesn't make good writers out of everyone. It is that each discipline lauds itself as the be-all and end-all of human endeavor.


-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+lporrello=illumina -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+lporrello=illumina -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Michael West
Sent: Monday, October 10, 2011 3:36 AM
To: 'Edwin Skau'
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!

I'm sorry, your comments don't (to me) make sense in relation to the
original post. This is not about translation or ESL according to Andrew
Plato's comments. No mention was made of problems with the English language
generally. The issue as I understand it is about writing clearly and
succinctly, and that can only follow from thinking clearly.

As for what you call the "wiring" of the brain, I know nothing about that,
but I do know that the overarching purpose of formal education is to teach
people how to think clearly and express themselves clearly. At least it used
to be - God knows what they think they're doing nowadays. My personal view
that is that many teachers are not all that capable of thinking clearly;
they are too loaded up with dubious ideological baggage and political
correctness. (Disclaimer: I'm married to a teacher who is a notable
exception to this generality.)

--

Mike West


From: Edwin Skau [mailto:eddy -dot- skau -at- gmail -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, 10 October 2011 6:04 PM
To: Michael West
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Help - my consultants cannot write!

> Clear writing requires clear thinking. Well-educated people can
> write clearly and succinctly.

True. However, they probably think clearly in a different language, and
don't translate that into English very well.

> People who haven't developed that skill by the

> time they finish their education probably never will.

Also generally true, although I've seen people pick up skills late in life
that their mental OS didn't originally seem to provide for. The old thinking
on this subject believed that the brain couldn't be rewired, but that has
changed in the face of new evidence to the contrary.

Edwin


On Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 5:45 AM, Michael West <mike -dot- west -at- bigpond -dot- com> wrote:

> I am in desperate need of tech writer training for my consultants. I
> have a bunch of information security consultants who cannot write. Its
> infuriating. I edit their material and I want to wring their necks.
> They blather and yammer on about this and that - I need to teach these
> people how to succinctly express complex ideas and write reports.

Forget it. Clear writing requires clear thinking. Well-educated people can
write clearly and succinctly. People who haven't developed that skill by the
time they finish their education probably never will.

You could try sending them to your local Info Mapping franchise to help them
learn to organise their blather. Well-organised blather often passes for
clear writing. A small percentage of them will benefit from the course.

My memory may be faulty, but I seem to remember a certain discussion in this
forum, a while back, in which one contributor maintained that "everyone
knows how to write" and that the most important consideration in technical
communication is how much the writer knows about the subject matter. Has
that person changed his mind, or have I imagined the whole thing?
--
Mike West


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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Michael West
Re: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Edwin Skau
RE: Help - my consultants cannot write!: From: Michael West

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