Re: Dumbing it down

Subject: Re: Dumbing it down
From: Dave Whelan <dwhelan -at- PANGEA -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 11:34:46 -0600

I think Ed's exhortation to us all to write like Carroll, Hardy, Hawthorne,
and Zola is a bit misplaced. After all, we are technical writers. The
"technical" part of our title implies that we write for a specific group of
people, not necessarily for anyone who can read. The more specialized the
audience we write for, the more likely it is that they will use an accepted
shorthand, or jargon, in their professional life. This is not to say that
they will expect their general fiction to be difficult to read, but in their
professional life, they will become frustrated with a writer who seeks to
write using a general vocabulary designed to be understood by everyone, when
their jargon is known and understood by themselves and their peers.

The most useful jargon may be completely unintelligible to general readers.
Professional language specialization reaches its ultimate in abstruse
mathematical calculations. A mathematical equation may use the most concise,
plain, and pure language form available; it may exactly describe a thought
to the people who understand it, but what would the readability checkers
make of it?

A piece written for a specialized audience does not necessarily have to be
accessible to everyone. This debate reinforces the need to know and write
for your audience.


David P. Whelan, Whelan Technical Services
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (204) 334-1339
mailto:d -dot- whelan -at- ieee -dot- org

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