New: Book Report: Letting Go of the Words

I'm a professional technical writer and I recommend this book about writing: Letting Go of the Words. I theoretically train engineers so that they can write clearly. This book would help those people--will help those people. I'm going recommend it. (Brief pause to log on to work and recommend the book on my internal blog-equivalent... Ah, thank you for your patience.) I don't tend to recommend writing books to engineers. Just The Elements of Style sometimes, but that book doesn't address the problems most of these geniuses have when writing.

I work with a bunch of web programmers. They might be confused by some chapters of this book, chapters which talk more about usability issues than about word choice. Protip: some of the same goofs that can make a web page unusable can make a web page's words unreadable.

But there are chapters about word choice, too. And about keeping your audience in mind, and figuring out what they're trying to do, and helping them to do that.

Of course, plenty of this stuff is controversial--amongst technical writers, who are detail-oriented folks who tend to bicker over minutiae. Maybe I like this book because I largely agree with its point of view. I'm sure that some of my colleagues would consider it harmful. (OMG a quick overview blurb before the three paragraphs of background material necessary to truly understand that blurb!!?! Yeah, I'll burn in hell for that by some standards--but maybe I'll let folks know whether it's worth their time slogging through those three paragraphs, spare some of those people the trouble.) Maybe I should ask other writers what books they recommend, make sure I'm listening to other points of view. But it took me so long to find a book that I'd recommend, I just kinda assumed none of them had a book that they recommended. I learned my craft in the school of hard knocks, didn't everyone?

Anyhow, I'm excited. So yay.

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Posted 2009-03-28