Technical communication quote collection

Subject: Technical communication quote collection
From: One of the Hardings <harding -at- US -dot- NET>
Date: Sun, 11 Jun 1995 12:32:17 -0400

The following list includes about 99% of the quote suggestions I received
over the last week in addition to my own favorites. My thanks goes out to
everyone who indulged me with their favorite few quotes, or who, in a few
cases, sent me entire "quotes favorites" files. Finally, special thanks to
Rose Wilcox because I stole and modified her quote categories. ;-)

Here you go!


All my life I wanted to be someone; I guess I should have been more
-- Jane Wagner

Although our information is incorrect, we do not vouch for it.
-- Erik Alfred Leslie Satie

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
-- Unknown

It's more important to be nearly right and understandable
than to be academically accurate and unintelligible.
-- Unknown

"Then you should say what you mean," the Mach Hare went on.
"I do," Alice hastily replied; "at least--at least I mean what I
say--that's the same thing, you know."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "Why, you might just as
well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see'!"
-- Lewis Carroll

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the
difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
-- Mark Twain

If this sentence were in Chinese, it would say something else.
-- Douglas R. Hofstadter (cited by)

Different representations of the same knowledge will lead to different
analyses, different insights... Pictures, graphs, tables, and text are all
different manners for presenting information. The type of representation
that is most effective will depend upon the material to be presented and the
use which it is to be but. Thus, depending upon the material to be presented
and the use which it is to be put. Thus, depending upon the material and the
task, some representations will be better that others... The trick, of
course, is to develop representation: that capture the important, critical
features of the represented world; that are themselves in an appropriate
format to enhance the person's access to the information they represent;
that support and simplify the computations needed to deduce implications or
to determine regularities and structure within the representations
-- Don Norman, "Things that Make us Smart"


Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to
pick out one person -- a real person you know, or an imagined person and
write to that one.
-- John Steinbeck

Is there anyone I haven't offended yet?
-- Mort Sahl

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
-- Robert Frost

If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.
-- Kingsley Amis

Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences.
-- Gore Vidal


...As it is, some books, nearly perfect, are known to become transparent
when opened under the influence of the proper constellation, when the full
Moon rests in place. Then it is not uncommon for a man to become lost in a
single letter, or to hear a voice rise up from the silent page; and then
only one imperfect letter, one missing page, can bring him back to the land...
-- Howard Schwartz

...By necessity every book must have at least one flaw; a misprint, a
missing page, one imperfection...
-- Howard Schwartz

Hungry man, reach for the book: it is a weapon.
-- Bertolt Brecht

When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and
-- Desiderius Erasmus

A book is a mirror. Is an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to
peer out.
-- G. C. Lichtenberg

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's
too dark to read.
--Groucho Marx

This is the best book even written by any man on the wrong side of a
question of which he is profoundly ignorant.
-- Thomas B. Macauly

The covers of this book are too far apart.
--Ambrose Bierce

"What is the use of a book," though Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"
-- Lewis Carroll

Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an
interesting companion.
-- Anne Rice


Whistler's Law: You never know who is right, but you always know who is in

If you wish to know what a man is, place him in authority.
-- Yugoslav Proverb


Craft is perfected attention.
-- Robert Kelly


Show yourself more human than critical and your pleasure will increase.
-- Domenico Scarletti

I never give them hell; I just tell then the truth and they think it's hell.
-- Harry S. Truman

The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.
-- Mark Twain

One becomes a critic when one cannot become an artist, just as a man becomes
a stool pigeon when he cannot be a soldier."
-- Gustave Flaubert


Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.
-- Mark Twain

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's
-- H.G. Wells

A good many young writers make the mistake of including a stamped,
self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. The
is too much of a temptation to the editor.
-- Ring Lardner

Most editors are failed writers--but so are most writers.
-- T. S. Eliot, from R Giroux's _The Education of an Editor_

As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.
-- Mark Twain

An editor... comes down from the mountain after the battle and shoots the
-- Unknown (writer?)

Substitute damn every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor
will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
-- Mark Twain

The first draft of anything is shit.
-- Ernest Hemingway

Writers must rely more on the feel of a sentence than on the
dictates of a rule book.
-- James J. Kilpatrick, "The Writers Art"

There is no urge so great as for one man to edit another man's work.
-- Mark Twain

Learning the value of silence is learning to listen to, instead of screaming
at, reality: opening your mind enough to find what the end of someone
else's sentence sounds like, or listening to a dog until you discover what
is needed instead of imposing yourself in the name of training.
-- Brother Thomas Dobush, _The Art of Raising a Puppy_

I write a lot-- every day, seven days a week-- and I throw a lot away.
Sometimes I think I write to throw away; it's a process of distillation.
-- Donald Barthelme

An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.
-- Orlando A. Battista

Editing is the same as quarreling with writers--same thing exactly.
-- Harold Ross


The first criterion of success in any human endeavor is intensity of
attention, or--less pompously, love.
-- W.H. Auden

One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in.
-- Wayne Gretzky

Only a mediocre person is always at his best.
-- Unknown

Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by hitting back.
-- Piet Hein

Many a man fails because he never tries.
-- Norman Macewan

No person who is enthusiastic about his work has anything to fear from life.
-- Samuel Goldwyn


Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand
things that won't work.
-- Thomas A. Edison

The man who makes no mistakes usually does not make anything.
-- Edward Phelps

Error is a discipline through which we advance.
-- William Ellery Channing


In all other writing, I refuse to kowtow to the perverse beliefs of dead
-- Steve Fouts

Is there grammar in a title. There is grammar in a title. Thank you.
-- Gertrude Stein

Grammar is very likely. Having a fancy for remembering a recent event.
Grammar has nothing to do with form. Grammar is accountable.
-- Gertrude Stein

Forget grammar and think potatoes.
-- Gertrude Stein

Ego sum rex Romanus, et supra grammaticam. [I am the Roman king, and am
above grammar.]
-- Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor


He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as
dead; his eyes are closed.
-- Albert Einstein

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not
sure about the former.
-- Albert Einstein

All great truths begin as blasphemies.
-- George Bernard Shaw

Insults are the last weapons of those who have been defeated by the facts.
-- Unknown

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging
day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.
-- Stephen Vincent Benet

All relevant people are pertinent.
All rude people are impertinent.
Therefore, no rude people are relevant.
-- Unknown

Try not to become a success, but rather to become a man of value.
-- Albert Einstein

Life is something to do when you can't get to sleep.
-- Fran Lebowitz, _Metropolitan Life_

Success is when those who know you best love you the most.
-- Unknown

He was eminent when my eminence was merely imminent.
-- Miles on the TV show Frazier

If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy?
-- Unknown

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true
mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
-- Oscar Wilde

There is only one success--to spend life in your own way.
-- Christopher Morley

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you
-- e.e. cummings

I personally think we developed language out of a deep inner need to complain.
-- Jane Wagner, Lily Tomlin

To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to loose one's self.
-- Kierkegaard

Every one is concerned about apathy.
-- Richard J. Daley, Mayor, City of Chicago.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's more fun to arrive at a conclusion than to justify it.
-- Malcolm S. Forbes

I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death my right to
mock you.
-- Matt Hicks, Tech. Writer, Unidata

All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current
conceptions and institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging
conceptions and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently
the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships. There is the
whole case against censorship in a nutshell.
-- G. B. Shaw

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
-- W. B. Yeats

My mother once said, "If you screw up, 'fess up or you'll mess up more
than you screwed up!"
-- I accidentally deleted the email

My favorite quote re: technical communication is the STC Code for
Communicators, which, naturally, I can't find at the moment. It's
a really nice, idealistic statement of what it is I like to think
I'm doing.
-- See above attribution

Life's been nothing but paperwork.
-- Gustav Mahler

Never put pen to paper!
-- Lady Ida Sitwell

Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.
-- Robert Benchley


A good conceptual model allows us to predict the effects of our actions.
Without a good model we operate by rote, blindly; we do operations as we
were told to do them; we can't fully appreciate why, what effects to expect
or what to do if things go wrong. As long as things work properly, we can
manage. When things go wrong, however, or when we come upon a novel
situation, then we need ... a good model."
-- Don A. Norman


The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.
-- Satchel Paige

When we have done our best, we should wait the result in peace.
-- J. Lubbock

Consider the postage stamp, my son. It secures success through its ability
to stick to one thing till it gets there.
-- Josh Billings

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
-- Japanese proverb

Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot
be overcome when they are taken together yield themselves up when taken
little by little.
-- Plutarch

Don't bother about genius. Don't worry about being clever. Place your
trust in hard work, perseverance, and determination.
-- Sir Frederick Treves

Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.
-- Samuel Johnson

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
-- Winston Churchill

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right.
-- Henry Ford


Chance favors the prepared mind.
-- Louis Pasteur

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
-- Elmer Letterman


People forget how fast you did a job -- they remember how well you did it.
-- Howard W. Newton

It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.
-- Mahatma Gandhi

It is quality rather than quantity that matters.
-- Seneca


Anything simple always interests me.
-- David Hokney

There's not much to be said about the period except that most writers don't
reach it soon enough.
-- William Zinsser

The shorter and plainer the better.
-- Beatrix Potter

Definition of "3D Shaded Polygons": The number of 100 pixel
triangles drawn per second, randomly oriented on the screen,
specified within terms of X-Y or possibly Z, which a color value
specified for each vertex or intensity in floating point or integer
(which ever yields greater performance), the color is interpolated
with Gourad shading.
--TRG (?)

brevis esse laboro, obscuris fio. (I try to be brief, but only become more
-- Horace

Let thy words be few.
-- Ecclesiastes 5:2

A sentence is not emotional a paragraph is.
-- Gertrude Stein

The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the
greater the profit.
-- Fenelon

If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as well as
sunbeams--the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.
-- Robert Southey

He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I
ever met.
-- Abraham Lincoln

Brevity is the soul of wit.
-- William Shakespeare

Be obscure clearly.
-- EB White

"Well," said Owl, "the customary procedure in such cases is as follows."
"What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?" said Pooh. "For I am a Bear of
Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me."
"It means the Thing to Do."
"As long as it means that, I don't mind, said Pooh humbly.
-- AA Milne

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
-- Albert Einstein (according to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations)


The greatest possible merit of style is, of course, to make the words
absolutely disappear into the thought.
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne


Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
-- Albert Einstein

It is impossible to dissociate language from science or science from
language.... To call forth a concept, a word is needed; to portray a
phenomena [sic], a concept is needed. All three mirror one and the same
-- Lavoisier

The biggest problem is that there's still a lot of dorks in computing.
-- Dan Gookin, _DOS for Dummies_

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-- Arthur C. Clarke

Soon anyone who's not on the World Wide Web will qualify for a government
subsidy for the home-pageless.
-- Scott Adams

Concerned users will be relieved to note that no software engineers were
harmed during the testing of this product.
-- (Unknown) product disclaimer

The economic and technological triumphs of the past few years have not
solved as many problems as we thought they would, and, in fact, have brought
us new problems we did not forsee.
-- Henry Ford II


An ill-chosen word is the fool's messenger.
-- Anonymous

By its very nature a word is an instrument of paradox.
-- Oswald Wirth

Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.
-- Winston Churchill

I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about
-- Steven Wright

What's another word for Thesaurus?
-- Steven Wright

Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?
-- Steven Wright

A writer lives in awe of words, for they can be cruel or kind, and they can
change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors
like butter in a refrigerator.
-- John Steinbeck

The more articulate you are, the more dangerous words become.
-- May Sarton

On great use of words is to hide our thoughts.
-- Voltaire

The safest words are those which bring us most directly to the facts.
-- William Shakespeare


Work keeps us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need.
-- Voltaire

The body of every organization is structured from four kinds of bones.
There are the wishbones, who spend all their time wishing someone would do
the work. Then there are the jawbones, who do all the talking, but little
else. The knucklebones knock every-thing anybody else tries to do.
Fortunately, in every organization there are also the backbones, who get
under the load and do most of the work.
-- Leo Aikman, _On Bones_

No shirt, no shoes, no paycheck ...
-- Gwen Barnes, Tech Writer, Mustang Software, Inc.

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.
-- James Matthew Barrie

State of the art automation will never beat the wastebasket
when it comes to speeding up efficiency in the office
.-- Ann Landers

Dreams are the stuff that make life worth living. Give them up, and you
give up all that truly matters. Write for yourself, not for recognition or
success. If those fruits are to come, they will come. But the work itself
must be the primary and major satisfaction."
-- William Heffernan

Form should always follow function (except in the Marketing
-- Barry West, Tech. Writer, S2K

I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.
-- Jerome K. Jerome

I can't stand the proliferation of paperwork. It's useless
to fight the forms. You've got to kill the people producing
--Vladimir Kabaidze, General Director, Ivanova Machine
Building Works, Moscow

The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but
what they become by it.
-- John Ruskin

Reading the manual is admitting defeat.
-- Unknown

Labor disgraces no man, but occasionally men disgrace labor.
-- Ulysses S. Grant

If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as
Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote
poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and
earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.


The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't
help it.
-- Leo Rosten

If you were a member of Jesse James's band and people asked you what you
were, you wouldn't say 'Well, I'm a desperado.' You'd say
something like, 'I work in banks,' or 'I've done some railroad work.'
It took me a long time just to say 'I'm a writer.' It's really
-- Roy Blount, Jr.

Eeyore was saying to himself, "This writing business. Pencils and what-not.
Over-rated if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it."
-- Unknown (but probably not A.A. Milne)

Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for
-- Russell Lynes

Nothing gives an author so much pleasure as to have his works respectfully
quoted by other learned authors.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.
-- Thomas Berger

What we really needed were a few more English majors to write the
-- Michael Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut

You manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not
original, and the part that is original is not good.
-- Samuel Johnson

Technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in
their writings. This makes them freaks in the world of writers....
-- Kurt Vonnegut

The most original authors are not so because they advance what is new, but
because they put what they have to say as if it had never been said before.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think that the university stifles writers.
My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a
best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.
-- Flannery O'Connor

The excellent tribe of grammarians, the precisians and all others who strive
to be correct and correctors, have as much power to prohibit a single word
or phrase as a gray squirrel has to put out Orion with a flicker of its tail.
-- The New York _Sun_, cited by H.L. Mencken, 1963

You become a good writer just as you become a good joiner: by planning down
your sentences.
-- Anatole France

Half my lifetime I have earned my living by selling words, and I hope thoughts.
-- Winston Churchill

One writer excels at a plan or a title page, another works away at the body
of the book, and a third is a dab at an index.
-- Oliver Goldsmith


I know everything. One has to, to write decently.
-- Henry James

Great Moments in Literature: In 1936, Ernest Hemingway, while trout
fishing, caught a carp and decided not to write about it.
-- Guindon cartoon caption

He was a multi-millionaire. Wanna know how he made all of his money? He
designed the little diagrams that tell which way to put batteries in.
-- Steven Wright

Documentation is like sex. When it's good, it's very, very good. And when
it's bad, it's still better than nothing!
-- Unknown

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.
-- Francis Bacon

[about writing projects:]
There must have been a time, probably somewhere near the beginning, when we
could have said 'no.'
-- _Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead_

An alarming new study shows that 14 percent of Americans do not speak
English, and the vast majority of them write computer manuals."
-- Dave Barry

Updating a manual is like changing tires on a moving car.
-- Edmond Weiss

A modern US Navy cruiser now requires 26 tons of manuals. This is enough to
affect the vessel's performance.
-- David Mankins

How do I know what I said until I read what I wrote?
-- Unknown

All writing is garbage.
-- Antonin Artaud

I'm writing an unauthorized autobiography.
-- Steven Wright

I wrote a few children's books...not on purpose.
-- Steven Wright

I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.
-- Steven Wright

Writing . . . identifies objects encountered in the dark.
-- Sharon Samuels

Easy reading is damned hard writing.
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne

The publishing world has long been viewed by the general public as one
inhabited by gentle, professional types--an ivory tower. It's perhaps in
reaction to this oversimplified conception that people in publishing have,
over the years, developed a professional jargon of
peculiarly violent cast.
One begins with relatively harmless maritime images--of galleys and
mastheads, of rivers and casting off--but before long one encounters
broadsides, sinkage, and widows.
Back on shore there are dummies and nuts running around,
armed with bullets and slugs, and other inferior characters (some with
bastard titles) on the skids and running ragged in the gutters. There are
line cuts and bleeds, cropping and blind stamping. Operative terms in this
world include _kill,_ _delete,_ and _blow up._ Chase leads to crash and
lockup, and then inexorably to hanging heads and dead matter. For the
doubtful, there is foul proof. But for the truly fortunate, there is
perfect binding.
-- _Success with words: A guide to the American
language_, the introduction to the publishing glossary

I like to write when I feel spiteful; it's like having a good sneeze.
-- D.H. Lawrence

I can't tell you what it is....but I want you to write about it.
-- Unknown manager

If you take hyphens seriously, you will surely go mad.
-- John Benbow

Tpyo? What Tpyo?
-- Kea d'Albenas

Anyone should be very suspicious of a sentence he's written that can't be
real aloud easily.
-- Andy Rooney

Truth does not stick to glossy paper.
-- William Horton

Writing is like prostitution: First you do it for the love of it, then you
do it for a few friends, and finally you do it for money.
-- F. Molnar

It's easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren't writers, and
very little harm comes to them.
-- Julian Barnes

****FREE BONUS****

Few people have the imagination for reality.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sometimes when reading Goethe I have a paralyzing suspicion that he
is trying to be funny.
-- Guy Davenport

The Harding Family harding -at- us -dot- net
Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right.
-- Henry Ford

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