Being John DocReaderWritten by Michael Knowles
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**************************************************************** Being John BookReader by Michael Knowles
When was last time that you chose to stand in shoes of your reader. If you never use your imagination to put you there, how do you know that you're writing for right audience?
Answer: You don't.
The only difference between a bad writer and a good one (beyond issues of basic mechanics) is that good writer always keeps an image of a single, specific reader in her mind. The writer develops this image and focuses on it in all stages of a writing project. I believe that ability to write for a specific reader is a practice that makes great technical writing possible.
It is our divining rod.
I happened across a document this week that purported to be a quick-start guide for a piece of lifesaving medical equipment. This guide was 59 pages long. And actual operating instructions for this reasonably simple unit began on page 22.
Folks, that is not a quick-start guide.
Now, I do not for one minute believe that writers of this particular document lacked writing skills. They didn't. Nor do I believe that they lacked an audience analysis; I'm sure they did one. What they did lack was image of an audience member -- image of a specific person. The veil lifts when we do that, and we see our work in a different light. We approach it differently.
Imagine clarity that would occur if, say, writers of IRS tax forms and instructions imagined themselves to be some specific person -- say, your Uncle Henry, an auto mechanic who dreads very thought of doing his tax return. The writers, if good writers they be, would create a far clearer set of instructions because they developed empathy for a single audience member. And Uncle Henry would likely not dread doing of his tax return quite so much because materials would be understandable.
WEEDING OUT YOUR WRITING Written by Arleen M. Kaptur
Weeding Out Your Writing
An accepted fact with any garden is that there will be weeds. Some have a lot and some have a few. However many there are, one thing is for certain. People pull them out, and throw them away. Weeds drain needed moisture and strength from plants that will produce harvest we are expecting. But weeds do have a purpose, and a very important one at that. Sometimes its weeds that give gardener incentive to go out to garden and tend to his plants. The plants, in turn, get needed attention they deserve and they grow better and produce more. So, weeds are not all that bad!
When we write, we plant seeds of ideas in articles, stories, and other written material. They begin to grow with embellishment such as descriptive language, conversation, and subplots. Many times we sit back to admire our handiwork and lo and behold! there are weeds. Spell check was having a bad day, or your embellishments describe a glacier instead of a small mountain stream. It’s time to get out there and weed. Maybe conversations are too long and there are too many unfamiliar phrases that are only understood by those in certain parts of country. One thing to remember is that your book or article may be read by people all over world. If you use “local” language, it may take some readers “a bit” to figure it out. As for descriptive phrases, they must be kept in perspective. A wild, ferocious, angry puma is by no means in same class as that nasty neighborhood cat that claws your screens and climbs your trees. Of course, he/she may appreciate build-up but your readers might get wrong impression. Or, on another note, maybe this cat is a supercat with super powers and therefore description is right. Only you writer can make that call!