Good technical or academic writing is objective, yet many writers inadvertently insert their own opinions about, and responses to, the content. In this way, they damage their credibility and reduce the value of what they write.
Feelings, emotions, opinions, and beliefs are called, collectively, individual perspective. An individual perspective indicates the perspective of one person: the writer. In all forms of technical writing, your individual perspective is inappropriate.
Think about your reader. Your reader is seeking believable, credible information. Your opinions, etc. are not believable, credible information. They only apply to you; they do not apply to your reader.
The most obvious cases are sentence that contain such phrases as I feel that, I believe, and in my opinion. If you can express the idea as a fact, do so. If you cannot express the idea without those phrases, remove the sentence entirely.
Writers also interject their individual perspectives by using particular words and by making judgments, as explained below. Continue reading
Situational irony – A picnic gone terribly wrong
Is It Ironic? Case 1. You’re walking down the street with a friend. Ahead of you, you see a man stumble on a crack in the sidewalk. Your friend laughs at the man. A moment later, your friend trips on the same crack. “Oh,” you say, “that’s so ironic!” No, it isn’t. That’s not ironic.
Case 2. Later, you go home and turn on the television. You see a news story about a politician getting hauled into court for lying under oath. That same politician had recently accused fellow politicians of being deceitful. “Oh, that’s ironic,” you say, laughing. No, that isn’t irony either.
Case 3. Finally, just before going to bed, you walk through your house, turning off the lights and complaining about your family members who left them on. However, when you turn off the last light, you realize that you have to walk back through the house in the dark. While doing so, you knock your shins on a chair. You rub your shins and say “It’s so ironic that I turned off the lights and made myself walk in the dark!” No, that isn’t ironic either.
In fact, the only thing ironic about these three events is the fact that you thought they were ironic! Continue reading
The basic principle for writing about complex subjects is to do the work necessary so that the reader can understand you easily. Of course, your first task is to make sure you understand your own ideas. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” With this in mind, here are three strategies to help you write clearly about complex ideas, each taken from 300 Days of Better Writing by David Bowman.
Day 33: Use the simplest correct words.
Using big words makes you seem smart. They make your reader think, “Wow, this writer really knows a lot!” Right? Probably not.
Using words that are outside of your readers’ common vocabulary may have three effects, all negative. First, they reduce the readers understanding of what you are trying to communicate. Second, they distract the reader from what you are trying to communicate and force the reader to concentrate on word meaning. Third, they can give the impression that you are trying to impress the reader, which will make you seem pretentious. If your goals are communicating clearly and improving your credibility, use the simplest correct words.
One note about the “correct” word: While you are choosing simple words that mean what you want to say, you also need to consider how readers will respond to them. As such, you need to think about the tone you wish to create. Continue reading