On Writing Better: Tips from a South by Southwest Panel

Writing, Better podcast at South by Southwest conferenceIn “Writing, Better,” a presentation at the South by Southwest conference in Austin last month, the presenters offer some good tips for writing:

  • Greg Storey says to focus on the structure of your story most of all.
  • Browyn Jones, says to try writing drafts in unsent e-mails as a way to feel more comfortable writing and also to write conversationally.
  • Erin Kissane, an editor for A List Apart,  says most writers’ manuscripts aren’t rejected because of grammar or punctuation errors. Their submissions are rejected for three reasons: the content doesn’t fit the audience of the publication, the structure/logic is poor, or the message is unclear.

Erin’s advice resonated strongest for me. I think as writers we sometimes focus too much on details of style, without first ensuring how the structure and logic of our content fits with our audience. Getting the commas right is important, but on a hierarchy of priorities for readers, it may rank near the bottom. Clarity and accuracy are critical, especially for technical subjects. Without clarity, even a grammatically beautiful sentence becomes worthless.

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm primarily interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication (video tutorials, illustrations), findability (organization, information architecture), API documentation (code examples, programming), and web publishing (web platforms, interactivity) -- pretty much everything related to technical writing. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog either by RSS, email, or another method. To learn more about me, see my About page. You can also contact me if you have questions.

18 thoughts on “On Writing Better: Tips from a South by Southwest Panel

  1. avi

    Was SxSW about technical writing, or writing in general? I agree that keping the story straight is the most important thing for the reader. However, in the technical writing world, everyone that don’t understand the technicalities, goes after spelling mistakes and typos ;-)

  2. Tom

    SXSW wasn’t about technical writing much at all, but I’ve written about the few presentations that do touch upon this subject. It was mostly about film, music, and interactivity.

    I agree with your comment about why people sometimes go after spelling and typos. That’s definitely true.

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  4. landscape architect

    Those who are interested in writing can get tips from Southwest Conference. Do not give priority to the readers. Give importance to your thinking write it in such a way it shows clarity and accuracy. Ornamentation in words give beauty to the article, but repetition of words irritate the readers.
    Regards, Bob Richardson
    http://4architector.com/

  5. PC Care Tips

    Nice blog with quality informations on writing. In fact writing is the main thing that takes a site to the top. Writing skills build up better SEO as well as it attracts people. Keep it up man and count me as one of your regular readers from now on.

  6. Nancy

    Great writing tips. In order to really captivate ones visitors it is important to also have a few photographs on the blog. Photographs that relate to the content…just an idea.

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