Technical writing: The arcane art of making sense

writing

‘What is it you do again?’, they would ask with a squint and slight tilt of the head.
Technical Writing.’
‘Oh,’ they would say, as the squint usually turns into a look of puzzlement. ‘What’s that?’

I’d wager that every Tech Writer out there has been through this very same interaction a great deal of times throughout his/her professional life. We are odd creatures, alienated by our very own professional choice. We tend to sit in a dark corner of the client’s office, working alone, with a half-full cup of coffee as our only company. We only look up from the worn keys of our laptop when someone comes and asks ‘Need to make a change to that decision matrix again.’

But what is Technical Writing?

If you google these two words, you are bound to open a Pandora’s Box of technobabble and long- winded definitions, the very anathema to the concept of technical writing.

Defining Technical Writing is simple: It’s the art of making sense.

Why Technical Writing is good for you

A lot of people enjoy and own consumer electronics. Tablets, laptops, smartphones, DSLR cameras, etc. And all these things usually come with a sizable instruction manual that shows how to get the best out of whatever item it refers to.But many people would not be technically minded. These manuals could explain and list every last feature included, and the user might still be none the wiser. It’s all gobbledygook to them, so such manual would be no good.

For you see, an instruction manual must make sense. There is no point writing a complicated and convoluted set of rules that only a few chosen ones would understand. Use simple, everyday language. Leave the flourishing for those secret moments spent in the dark, writing poetry or words of wisdom. And yet, we are all guilty of slipping in the odd darling word here and there, aren’t we. But be firm. Murder those darlings, as someone once said.

And don’t even get me started on adverbs. Slippery rascals they are, all of them. Those dastardly traitors give you away spectacularly, don’t they. Off with their heads I say.
Summarily.

So you see, technical writing is good cause it helps you. And anything that helps you must, by
definition, be good.

So I want to be a technical writer…what now?

Pick up your phone. Yes, you. Pick up that piece of smart technology that goes everywhere you go. Now, send a text to your friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, or to that soccer coach who always seems up for a chat. Easy, right? Type the text and press ‘Send.’ Done.

But hang on a minute. What if you had never sent a text before? Or had a mobile phone, for that matter. A lot of things must happen before you can send the text. You must switch on the phone. And for the phone to come on, its battery must be charged. And where is the battery? And the charger? Am I using the right charger? And after all that, you must find the texting feature. What does it look like? How do I use it? And by God, what if the phone does not come on at all? How do I troubleshoot it? Where is that damn manual?!

Not so easy all of a sudden, right?

If you want to be a Technical Writer, you must be two things, at least: Patient, and curious. You
can’t learn patience, nor can you acquire curiosity. Either you are, or you are not. If the
latter, pursue some other career. The world is full of seemingly successful people who cannot spell for their life, after all. I’m sure you will find your place in the world some day.

If you are the patient and curious kind though, well, then we can do business together and make sense of it all.

Welcome, Constant Readers…

library

… to the revamped Life Mirror site.

In this my very own corner of the Big Bad Web, you will now find a brand new theme and an updated layout guarding the gateway to a plethora of articles and pieces on current affairs, science news, quirky and offbeat stuff, and much, much more.

Do stop by while you’re browsing. It won’t take much of your time, I promise.

Twitter: In the land of the trolls, the quick-witted one is king

troll

Twitter crawls with trolls. So much so in fact, that if one were to play that game of quick word association favored by shrinks the world over and someone said Twitter, I would safely bet a month’s salary on what the response would be.

Trolls.

Twitter has lost out on big money specifically because of this scourge, as the tech wizzkids at Twitter HQ seem unable to control the rampant impunity of pro trolls. The company’s reputation is badly tarnished for becoming the platform du jour for zealous haters, loners, loonies, and overweight sofa dwellers the world over to funnel their own fears and insecurities at their target of choice.

But what is an online troll anyway? We’ve all heard about the other trolls, the ones you see in folk tales or children’s books in most European countries. They are short, stocky, ugly and rather repellent creatures with a penchant for hoarding stuff, particularly gold and other stolen valuables.

These mythological trolls enjoy living in isolation, out in caves up in snowy mountain peaks, or curled up inside makeshift burrows deep within the forest. Sometimes, trolls find shelter under bridges. Either way, they keep to themselves, and you better beware, for these beings certainly would not appreciate human company.

If they stumbled upon travelers, or wanderers lost out in the woods, trolls would set upon them and likely kill them and steal their valuables, perhaps out of fear and greed. Not a very gregarious bunch, these trolls.

Legend and mythology are not without a sense of irony, it seems, for today’s so-called online trolls are not that far removed from those monstrous creatures of yonder.

In fact, if there is one single feature that links both strands, is their marked lack of wit and intelligence.

Mythological trolls are easily outwitted by an intellectually superior opponent, no matter how strong or resilient the troll is, or thinks he is.

The rise of the online troll is far from a recent phenomenon, of course. They were already around by the time of the internet’s first careless whimper unto the free world, waiting to pounce on those whom they considered to be legitimate targets for abuse.

Truth be told, they have been around much longer, these trolls. In Norse mythology, five or six hundred years, give or take. In actual human society, far, far longer.

Today’s troll is yesterday’s bully. A short, stocky, ugly and rather repellent creature with a penchant for hoarding stuff, particularly gold and other valuables stolen from the other kids in the yard, or behind the local shop.

In today’s always-online world, the troll has found an easy, convenient -and more importantly, anonymous- way to bully his or her online peers. Heavy-duty trolls will be perennially at it, always searching for the next target on which to take a virtual dump.

But as we now know, the troll does have a key flaw. A monumental Achilles Heel hidden in plain sight that makes them vulnerable to quicker-witted heroes.

In dealing with the troll, avoid physical confrontation. Use your mind. Smite the offender down with one swift swipe of your crafty diction. Let them drown in their own brutish ignorance, and never, ever feed a troll’s misguided ego.