When it comes to writing on-line (personal or corporate), I'm very much on the opposite end of the spectrum of the traditional PR and Marketing approaches. They generally involve hype, big words, and lots of flowery language that doesn't actually say anything.
When it comes to providing someone a list of simple rules to avoid doing that, I look to the famous George Orwell's excellent essay Politics and the English Language, written in 1946. Much of it is still very, very relevant today.
His six rules are a nice summary of the advice given earlier in the essay:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Of those, I think #2 through #5 are the most important. But with technical writing, it's often necessary to "break" rule #5 simple because you know your audience has the necessary knowledge.
If you're bored, take a random press release and try running it thru the filter of rules #2, #3, and #4. I suspect you'll end up with something far shorter, more clear, and just as informative.
Posted by jzawodn at September 13, 2004 03:37 PM