Need to convey a wealth of information in a tiny space? When working in the technical world, writers are constantly torn between the need to accurately describe complex ideas and the desire to make them clear and accessible. Too often one of these principles is sacrificed in order to satisfy another. To avoid falling into this trap, the right knowledge is necessary.Arm yourself with these 3 tools and you’re sure to make your point quickly, clearly and memorably.
Vocab Grabber – Have a nagging suspicion that you’ve used a word too often in your document? Sure you have! I used the word “writing” twenty times in the original draft of this post alone. A new tool from the people behind the Visual Thesaurus (an excellent tool in its own rights), Vocab Grabber allows you to analyze the vocabulary used in large chunks of text. It supplies a concise breakdown of the type, number and frequency of words used in a text block, all graphed and mapped in quick, easy-to-read formats. Definitions, examples and synonyms are all a click away in this handy site, enabling you to rid your writing of the dullness of redundancy in seconds.
The OWL at Purdue – The least flashy of the three resources I’ll mention here, the OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue is nonetheless a consistently valuable resource in producing polished, well-formed writing. Covering a wide breadth of topics, I find myself constantly drawn back here to reference their tips, tricks and starting points, for everything from technical composition to email etiquette. These articles can be a great help in communicating clear and concise messages. Additionally, this site offers in-depth grammatical reference (try searching for “commas” or “apostrophes” in Google).
Poynter Online: Fifty Writing Tools– A list of 50 writing tips (in podcast form) from Roy Clark of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. These tips, excerpted from his book "Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer", are a collection of insightful techniques that can enrich and inform your writing. Clark’s suggestions, wrought from the journalistic world, can be surprisingly effective when transplanted into a business or technical forum. These approaches can aid in adding weight to your opinions and are particularly effective when applied to business emails or executive summaries. This is a site I revisit any time I have to write succinctly about thoroughly complex topics and need to keep the reader’s attention focused.
There are tons of resource materials online for aspiring writers today and a bit of digging can unearth new and informative sources to improve your knowledge. Mastering these tools will tighten and tune your compositional skills, allowing you to both captivate your audience and elucidate your topic. When writing documents for clients, I’ve found that these are powerful resources for imbuing my work with a clarity and accessibility that makes it stand out.