Saturday, March 21, 2009

Give priority to diction

Consciously or subconsciously, we search for suitable words to convey our thoughts. When we are quite sure about what we want to say, words come spontaneously; while, to express an idea that is not firmly fixed in our mind, makes us to cross out one choice after another until we settle for the exact word we want to use to communicate.

You can not mark this revision as a sign of indecision — even the world’s best writers worry about diction: the selection and use of words for effective communication. I believe they are great writers partly because they take pains in choosing the best word for the best place.

Words cannot be right or wrong — the effect created in context of a sentence measures value of the word. To add an edge in writing, we should learn to use words for their effect.

Annie Dillard, famous for her evocative descriptions of nature, confesses in an interview how she selects words — “I learn words by learning worlds…When I choose words, I think about their effect — of course I like to create a rich prose surface that pommels the reader with verbs and images. I think of them as jabs…That’s the vigor I want.”

Similarly, if we want to infuse freshness, strength and vigor in our writing, we must, like Dillard, learn the words that represent the “worlds”.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eliminate jargons in websites

Jargon, popularly known as meaningless chatter, is a kind of specialized or technical language representing a particular group or profession, as in habeas corpus (law) and cursor (computer technology).

It is pointless saying no-no, when jargon specifically addresses learned and technical terms for audience and situation in which they are appropriate, but using them unnecessarily while addressing a general reader is certainly a violation of the basic rule — it would be pretentious and frustrating to your audience.

Jargon has three chief characteristics:

Highly abstract often too technical in choosing diction, rhythm and passion — it shows a fondness for learned rather than popular words… maximize productivity for increase production or utilization of mechanical equipment for use of machinery.

Overdose of passive verbsIf a plan does not work, its objectives were not realized.

Conspicuous wordinessWith respect to employee reactions, management seems to have been inadequately advised.

Jargon comes together with inappropriateness, vagueness and wordiness into a segregated unintelligible style. And the style cannot create good impression but ambiguity for the reader.

So, keep your audience clearly in mind and use specific but common words instead.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Guidelines for analyzing your audience

While spending some time with Mr Joseph F. Trimmer’s great book Writing With a Purpose, I came across certain concepts on behavioral pattern of readers: I found it interesting and thus shamelessly sharing with you all…

Look! How he feels for readers while writing even a single sentence: do you have guts to follow his ideas?
The following is from his pen...

Who are the readers who will be most interested in my writing?
What is the probable age, sex, education, economic status or social position?
What values, assumptions and prejudices characterize their general attitudes toward life?
What visual graphics will appeal to them?

What do my readers know or think they know about my subject?
What is the probable source of their knowledge: direct experience, observation, reading or rumor?
Will my readers react positively or negatively toward my subject?
What sort of graphics are they used to seeing on this subject?

Why will my readers read my writing?
If they know a great deal about my subject, what will they expect to learn from reading my essay?
If they know only a few things about my subject, what will they expect to be told about it?
Will they expect to be entertained, informed or persuaded?
Why will the overall design of my text appeal to my readers?

How can I interest my readers in my subject?
If they are hostile toward it, how can I convince them to give my writing a fair reading?
If they are sympathetic, how can I fulfill and enhance their expectations?
If they are neutral, how can I catch and hold their attention?
What specific visual cues will interest my readers and enhance the subject?

How can I help my readers read my writing?
What kind of organizational pattern will help them see its purpose?
What kind of guide-posts, transitional markets and graphics will they need to follow this pattern?
What (and how many) examples and visual illustrations will they need to understand my general statement?