Are you SURE your writing says what you mean?

There is a wonderful grammar joke floating around the internet. . .
What's the difference between a company that knows its sh$% and a company that knows it's sh$%?
If you think that little apostrophe is irrelevant, you soon might be.

Should you hire a Subject Matter Expert or a Technical Writer?

Think about the last time you brought a product with a horrible instruction manual. It was full of jargon, left out important steps and made you feel like a moron, right? It was probably written by somebody who was an expert on that product. Somebody who already knew how to use it and had no clue what a novice owner needs to know. It was written by a subject matter expert.

You can tell when a product manual is written by a technical writer. The term "technical writer' may make you think use geekspeak, but the opposite is true. Most technical writers are very good at explaining complex things in Plain Language.

Technical writers:

  • use plain words and clear descriptions
  • don't skep steps
  • don't assume you know ANYTHING about the product
  • can spell

This is an article written by a scientist (subject matter expert) who was told to make his writing as dense as humanly possible. How To Write Like A Scientist. Actually, this guy is a pretty good writer. This article is great.

Plain Language is a hot topic

Medical Examples:

According to the Institute of Medicine: "Health literacy is not only about education. A person who has finished high school and knows how to read may still not be able to navigate the health system." http://iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2004/Health-Literacy-A-Prescription-to-End-Confusion/healthliteracyfinal.pdf.

In fact, some studies show that patients who don't understand their disease are more likely to die from it. http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/16/1695

Here is a US Surgeon General talking about health literacy: http://www.healthliteracyoutloud.com/2011/05/31/health-literacy-out-loud-59-surgeon-general-richard-h-carmona-m-d-m-p-h-facs-talks-about-the-importance-of-health-literacy/

Some diseases require patients to make a difficult choice about treatments. Written materials in Plain Language can be very helpful: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6947/5/16

Informed consent is a document that a patient signs before surgery or before starting a clinical trial. They should be written in Plain Language. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110715135325.htm



Business Examples:
Swap the management-speak for plain English http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/managing/business-education/swap-the-management-speak-for-plain-english/article2026574/

Employee benefits documents should be in Plain Language: http://ebn.benefitnews.com/news/plain-language-healthcare-insurance-literacy-2714880-1.html

Federal Government says no more gobbledygook job listings: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/prospects-for-federal-job-announcements-plain-language-is-the-law/2011/07/20/gIQAcuwVQI_story.html

Do you play the alphabet soup game? http://spon.ca/acronyms-reduce-citizens-to-baffled-bystanders/2011/07/06/

Best ever example of biz speak: Firm counsel offers excellence in the delivery of conceptual roadmaps around the critical path to your strategic milestones. Its creative approach will provide a step change in your holistic vision and cause a paradigm shift in your value proposition. Yikes! See the article about AVOIDING biz speak here: http://www.firmcounsel.co.uk/?p=45


Legal Examples:


Even the Federal Government is discouraging the use of big words. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 calls for writing that is clear, concise, and well-organized.
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