Tradeoff between precision and clarity

Subject: Tradeoff between precision and clarity
From: "Larry Kunz ((919) 254-6395)" <ldkunz -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 1994 10:41:38 EST

A few days ago, Liz Babcock referred to a quotation by Niels Bohr. . . .

> . . . . that communication of complex technical
> subjects was a tradeoff between precision and clarity. That made a lot of
> sense to me, since I'm struggling in the history I'm writing with such
> matters as how to explain the concept of precession in two sentences or less.

It makes a lot of sense to me, too, and it gives me a chance to plump
for a writer who IMO is the master of the craft: John McPhee. Read
any of his *New Yorker* pieces (most of which were subsequently pub-
lished as books) and you'll see what I mean. I'm not especially know-
ledgeable about, or even interested in, most of McPhee's subjects, but
I always find him informative and engaging.

The hardest part about reading McPhee is stepping back and trying to
figure out how he does it, because he makes it look so easy. Two of
the keys, I think, are his genius for making just the right analogy
and his use of the first-person, which makes me feel as if author and
reader are sharing in the process of discovery.

(Liz, I'll try to remember to bring something of McPhee's when I see
you in January. After all, I know you have lots of free time for
pleasure reading. :-)

Happy new year, techwhirlers!

Larry Kunz
STC Assistant to the President for Professional Development
ldkunz -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com

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