August 25

R-e-s-p-e-c-t, what does that mean to you ?

pen Copy

by Wim Reimes

I often wonder whether it is me or ‘them’. It’s been too long that I’ve given ‘them’ the benefit of the doubt and, unfortunately, the day has come to fulminate against those who voluntarily or unknowingly abuse language.

Language, whichever is your mother tongue, is a gift. It has been created, improved, and nourished to enable human beings to communicate with each other. To make clear what cannot otherwise be understood, to transmit a message that cannot otherwise be transmitted.

It’s a given that English is not my primary language; in fact, it’s not even my second. This doesn’t hold me back, whenever I’m using it, to use it to the best of my ability. Yes, I might be somewhat of a perfectionist, but the main reason is that I have the utmost respect for the person who chooses to spend some of her valuable time to sit down and read my musings, much less listen to them. And that, my friends, is the crux of this message.

I admit that IT people usually don’t have a strong affinity for communication, but in my (extremely) humble opinion, the use of language is what sets apart the “better” from the “good”. Any poorly written offer, documentation, web page, customer testimonial, or e-mail shows your lack of interest in the person who will have to read it. It sends cold shivers down my spine.

Some tips to make your writing better:

  • Read it out loud. If it doesn’t sound good when you say it, it will not look good when it’s read.
  • Allow for peer review. Apart from the technical adjustments, ask your reviewer her opinion on it. Every mistake found is one less made.
  • Use a dictionary. There are plenty of free dictionaries online. If you are really desperate, Google the word. If it’s wrong, you have a 99% chance that Google (or your preferred search engine) will correct you. If it’s right, you can see the word being used in a context.
  • Use synonyms. There’s nothing more annoying than seeing the same word appear three times on the same page. Be creative with words; it will dramatically improve the reading experience.
  • Write often. Blogging is good exercise. So is writing articles, submitting papers, etc. The more you write, the easier it becomes. You might even become a master of word-fu in due time.
  • Every written document has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s the basic format of a story and it’s the format that allows for the easiest read. Even if you are writing a 100-page answer to an RFP, sticking with this idea will improve your document.
  • The power of the written word is limitless. It can backfire just as hard …

    (credit for the picture to Kriss Szkurlatowski.)


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