Ulla de Stricker, de Stricker Associates
Have you ever winced at a grammatical blooper, stared at a sentence several times to make sense of it, or felt inundated by meaningless filler words and fad expressions? Have you ever been somewhat annoyed to be responsible for chasing back three sentences to figure out where “this” might be pointing? Does it bother you when human beings are reduced to the status of inanimate objects through the use of “that”? Do you inwardly say “ouch!” when a writer’s apparent desire to sound sophisticated results in a malapropism?
You are not alone. Though sloppy language and playing fast and loose with grammatical rules are “the new normal,” we writing professionals share a sense of disappointment when we come across instances of poor or lazy writing.
Naturally, clear and precise writing is essential for technical materials whose purpose is to drive, say, correct use of expensive equipment or avoidance of risk to life and limb; but why not show courtesy to all readers, no matter how casual the occasion? Elegant writing is an easy way to polish our professional brands—all it takes is a bit of extra care and a willingness to revisit a piece of writing multiple times: Did a common error creep in because it is so common? Could the point be made in fewer and simpler words? Are the idioms correctly applied