Re: What's "Technical"?

Subject: Re: What's "Technical"?
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1996 07:38:31 PDT

Ian White writes:

>I support the view that Eric is being over-restrictive about discussions
>of grammar and usage. Technical writing is a specialized form of
>language and has its own special needs.

Hardly. Much technical writing is aimed at a general audience, and
must be couched in language that they will understand. For this
audience, grammar and usage issues are the same as for any general
writing. The need for clarity and precision is hardly unique to
technical writing: any announcement of an upcoming potluck has
the same requirements.

(While writing clearly is hard work and requires constant attention,
real trouble rarely lurks at the word level. Understanding the
material, fitting an appropriate and clear structure to it, and warding
off interference from well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning co-workers
are usually the make-or-break tasks.)

Writing that is aimed at a general technical audience must necessarily
pick up the language used by that specific audience. But questions
about professional jargon are all the same: "Is X a real word or not?
And what does it mean?" People unfamiliar with the specific profession
involved will give answers that consist of meaningless noise, while
those who ARE involved with the profession will give answers that might
be helpful -- IF you can separate the sheep from the lambs.

Thus, grammar and usage questions are not very satisfactory from
a signal-to-noise point of view.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon, President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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