Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dr. T and his Resourcefulness


Too many companies out there are lacking in good communication with their client base. They believe complicated sentences with big words give the company intellectual prestige. Honestly, if they only knew, it is really quite embarrassing for the company as they publish article after article.

I recently came across an article about a guy affectionately known as "Dr. T" in his work place. Dr. T made the employee spotlight in this company's recent quarterly newsletter.

As a writer, you know you want to get that first paragraph right. It leads the reader down the slippery slope to get them to the end of the article. In the story about Dr. T, I am left scratching my head wondering where do I get me some of that.

Consider the following sentence:

Dr.T as we call him, used resourcefulness to purchase his first computer, a Commodore 64.

He used resourcefulness? How do you use resourcefulness? Do you buy it at K-Mart off the shelf and sprinkle it upon a wish in hopes you get a C-64? Could you print resourcefulness on a Commodore Vic20 printer and use it as legal tender?

Perhaps, it would read better if the writer had said "a resourceful Dr. T worked to purchase his first computer."

This shouldn't have made it past editing, but it did. This is the problem with many companies and their corporate writing. They try to make writing a complex art, using big words, complicated sentence structures, and other bad habits in hopes of sounding intellectual. What happens is the reader gets bored or worse gets lost trying to discover what the company actually does or is trying to convey. Therefore the investment in having a writer on staff gets wasted in complicated sentence structure. The reader eventually gives up.

Remember you have less than ten seconds to grab a person's attention. My attention stopped at this poorly written sentence. I didn't read on as I kept wondering how you buy something using resourcefulness. Unfortunately, this same company is a master of writing complicated sentences that often distract from what they actually do, therefore few in the city they are headquartered know why they are there. That can't be good for business.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Plain Writing Act: New Federal Law Will Create Technical Writing Jobs

The government will soon hire lots of technical writers by October thanks to the new Plain Writing Act. The act forces the government to write in plain English to simplify government publications. There appears to be an all new federal government style guide produced by the law.

The Associated Press writes about the new law:

The federal government is rolling out a new official language of sorts: plain English.
That's right: Pursuant to regulations promulgated thereunder and commencing in accordance with a statute signed herein by President Barack Obama, the government shall be precluded from writing the pompous gibberish heretofore evidenced, to the extent practicable.

That sentence contains 11 new language no-nos.

Obama signed the Plain Writing Act last fall after decades of effort by a cadre of passionate grammarians in the civil service to jettison the jargon.

It takes full effect in October, when federal agencies must start writing plainly in all new or substantially revised documents produced for the public. The government will still be allowed to write nonsensically to itself.


I have always heard government publications are written on an eighth-grade level. What's this say about public education?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Duck Creek Technologies Sends Technical Writer Rejection Letter With an Obvious Grammar Problem

The following rejection letter was received from Duck Creek Technologies in Bolivar, Missouri, a computer software company. The rejection letter is the basic you don't meet our qualifications letter, but notice how quickly Duck Creek proves whoever wrote the letter is grammatically challenged as they attempt to tell the Technical Writer they aren't qualified for the job.

Click to enlarge