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On Writing Better: Tips from a South by Southwest Panel

by Tom Johnson on Apr 11, 2007 •
categories: technical-writing

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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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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