Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 4 Aug 1996 to 5 Aug 1996

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 4 Aug 1996 to 5 Aug 1996
From: Marilyn Barrett O'Leary <moleary -at- LSUVM -dot- SNCC -dot- LSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 1996 09:45:40 +0100

From: Friedlander_Tori who wrote:
>Subject: "It Ain't Literature, Y'know"


> Whether his sentence structure is correct or not, is one issue. For
> me, the more important point was his statement, "this ain't
> literature, you know." Its not the first time he's said it either.

> But for me, as the writer, I believe that I should do the best job I
> can. I strive for clean, clear writing. I believe that good writing
> is invisible and that bad writing (be it redundancies, bad grammar,
> etc.) detracts. I have watched people, with no experience as writers
> or editors, try to read a piece of bad writing and fail to come up
> with the essence.They get too caught up in noticing the mistakes.

> My question is this, to anyone who cares to answer, either privately
> or to the list in general, is he right? Am I trying to turn technical
> writing into literature when I demand that the writing not become
> slipshod? What say you? I would genuinely like to hear.

Tori: You are right, sort of. Technical writing is not literature but it
is clear, concise composition and, as such, needs to be easy for people to
understand. Writing carefully is important. However, this person appears
to want to do a good job too. The disagreement is about sentence structure
or style. This colleague might have developed personal preferences and a
personal style of technical writing that has worked for a long time. By
challenging it, you are challenging a method that, for this person, is
"good" or at least "usable". When you say "They get too caught up in
noticing the mistakes" to this person, you mayunwittingly suggest that this
tried method is "wrong." How about a basic discussion of style and the
techniques you both think are important and why? I'll bet you'll learn
from each other and things will go smoothly afterwards. Try it. Marilyn
Barrett-O'Leary

Marilyn Barrett O'Leary
Louisiana Sea Grant College Program
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-7507
504-388-6349
moleary -at- lsuvm -dot- sncc -dot- lsu -dot- edu

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