Technical writing: How to survive a brain cramp

Our guide to writing it well when you just don’t get it.

We’re always urging corporate editors everywhere to hold fast against the onslaught of jargon and buzzwords trying to sneak into their copy.

But what do you do when the writing is so technical and complex that you can’t understand the subject matter? At least with corporatespeak, we can laugh when a vice president urges “associates to break down their silos for the purposes of intra-departmental dialogue,” then rewrite it to say that people in different parts of the company should talk among themselves.

When it comes to technical material, however, all we do is scratch our heads and moved that story to the bottom of the editing pile.

And whenever that happens, we are reminded that there are two kinds of jargon in the world: what is unnecessary, which includes all those made-up words and industry buzzwords we learn to hate; and 2) what we have to live with, the technical language and industry terminology that describe our businesses, our industries and, well, the things we do.

It’s important to know the difference, and here’s the biggest one: There’s absolutely no place for jargon of the first kind, but jargon of the second variety is a necessary evil, and one that challenges every good writer to walk that fine line between accuracy and understanding.

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