Writing for Effect

There’s a prevailing notion that unless you are writing fiction or poetry, writing is not that hard. After all, we can speak the language, so being able to write in it shouldn’t be any more difficult than just having a conversation. The truth is that good writing is hard to come by, and it can indeed be difficult.

Writers are keen observers, and they must be able to choose the right words to put in the right place at the right time for the right audience. Combining observation with communication makes for writing that is compelling and effective. Done right, the reader doesn’t even notice the writing, because the content is delivered clearly and transparently.

That’s where technical writers excel. Much of their work is supposed to be invisible. Unfortunately, being unnoticed also usually means being unlauded as well. You might read some great instructions that help you quickly and easily do whatever task you were attempting, but at the end you don’t stop and say, “Wow! What great instructions!”. No, you are more likely to credit the product with simply being well-designed and easy to use, or yourself as being clever enough to accomplish the task at hand.

Being able to write in such a way that brings the content, not the writer, to the forefront is a skill that can be developed. Instead of searching for a jaunty turn of phrase, or emotion-laden wording, technical writers select plain words that communicate directly and simply. Good thing, too, because you don’t want the instructions for tax preparation, your employee handbook, or the operator’s manual for your car to be filled with flowery prose and unnecessary narrative.

Instead, good instructional, procedural or informational writing gets to the point quickly and effectively. The focus is on ensuring the audience understands the material and can use it to solve a problem, accomplish a task, or answer a question. With education and practice, that style of writing can become second nature, and achieve the effect that the writer desires, which is to inform the reader.

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