Top Reasons Why Every Company Needs to Hire a Technical Ghostwriter

Organizations invest significant resources in building products, research, and creating innovative solutions. Often, the information that emerges from these advancements involves highly technical and particularly specific content.

As a result, general audiences may struggle to comprehend the valuable information presented fully.

It is crucial to translate decidedly specific information into a more digestible format to facilitate technical content for a broad audience. Nevertheless, doing so requires writers with a combination of writing skills and a keen understanding of the subject matter.

In this article, we will explore how a technical ghostwriter can take complex technical content and translate it into an easily consumable form. In addition, we will take a look at five key reasons why hiring a technical ghostwriter can be beneficial for any company.

Hiring a Technical Ghostwriter

Technical content is everywhere. Folks consistently come into contact with overly specific information such as installation guides and technical manuals.

However, interacting with this type of content may become frustrating for a broad audience due to their lack of technical expertise.

Organizations, therefore, face a challenge when producing technical documentation. The documentation must reflect its content accurately while simultaneously making it accessible to a general audience.

This challenge requires the intervention of a skilled professional with specific technical expertise and writing ability.

Consequently, a professional technical writer can solve this conundrum.

A technical ghostwriter can help any organization take complex material and mold it into an accessible format. Thus, a technical ghostwriter’s job is to present content so a general audience can take advantage of the information at their disposal.

For example, a well-written and easily digestible installation manual facilitates user interaction with a product. As a result, users will rely less on customer service, thereby alleviating pressure on the product manufacturer.

When to Hire a Technical Ghostwriter

In essence, organizations, corporations, academic institutions, or publishers can hire a technical ghostwriter when they need someone to produce high-quality technical materials. In particular, hiring a technical writer is often part of the final step in a process.

Consider this situation:

A research team has concluded a study. The team has carefully curated the data and must now proceed to write their report.

However, the research team aims to reach as many people as many as possible. Naturally, this aim requires the research team to produce a comprehensible report to anyone without highly specialized knowledge. At this point, a technical ghostwriter can greatly facilitate this stage of the process.

On the whole, technical writers are useful when staff in an organization lack the writing skills or time to draft materials for public release.

Researchers are great at reporting their findings. However, their language use generally focuses on industry-specific jargon. As a result, a mainstream version is necessary for public dissemination.

Hiring a technical ghostwriter is also crucial when time constraints represent a serious consideration.

For instance, product launches are commonly time-sensitive matters. Documentation needs to be ready in time for the product launch. However, delays in manufacturing, issues with suppliers, or unforeseen matters might create additional pressure on in-house staff. Thus, hiring a technical ghostwriter can alleviate the pressure while making up for the lost time.

Lastly, hiring a technical writer saves needless effort down the road.

Unfortunately, initial documentation releases reveal issues with readability.

Users frequently complain that the material is too complex or confusing to understand. As a result, the documentation must go through further revisions and modifications, thus leading to unnecessary time and effort.

A technical ghostwriter can solve that matter from the first documentation release.

Specifically, technical writers understand the target audience. Therefore, technical writers can adjust the material accordingly.

Ultimately, a reputable technical ghostwriter helps optimize time and effort.

Hiring a Technical Writer for Specific Projects

Generally speaking, a technical ghostwriter’s skill set is valuable in any project. Nevertheless, it helps to contextualize precisely what a technical writer brings to the table. As such, it is worth considering two potential scenarios.

First, a corporation has concluded an internal audit of its financial statements. The auditors have issued their reports and highlighted their main recommendations. Now, the corporation’s management needs to get an executive summary and letter to investors and shareholders explaining the audit’s findings.

In this situation, a technical ghostwriter can take the decidedly technical materials and translate them into a more digestible format for investors. The technical writer must possess superb writing skills coupled with a deep understanding of financial literature to achieve this aim.

Second, a non-profit organization intends to launch an environmental awareness campaign. The organization has based its campaign on a study underscoring the effects of climate change on America’s ecosystem. The study presents its information in a highly technical format. However, the organization wants to disseminate this information to the general public.

In this scenario, a technical writer can take the material in the study and transform it into an easy-to-read layout. As such, the technical ghostwriter needs to combine solid scientific knowledge with outstanding writing skills.

The previous examples indicate how a technical ghostwriter can help any organization take specific content and convert it into a suitable form for a wide audience.

Most importantly, organizations may lack staff with the skills needed to achieve this objective.

As a result, having a trusted technical writer on call can greatly facilitate disseminating complex information.

5 Reasons Why Hiring a Technical Writer Can Be Beneficial for Any Company

Hiring a technical ghostwriter can greatly enhance an organization’s objectives. On the whole, hiring a technical writer represents an overall investment by transforming complex materials into easily digestible formats. As such, there are five key reasons why hiring a technical ghostwriter can be beneficial for any company.

1. Improved communication

Companies and organizations need to communicate with their target audience. However, it is not always easy to do so. After all, there might be markedly technical materials that may exceed a general audience’s scope. As a result, this disconnect between audience and material may lead to communication breakdown.

To improve communication, organizations can employ a technical ghostwriter to bridge the gap in communication.

Example: A company plans to pitch a new product to investors. However, the product’s technical specifications require specific knowledge to grasp the product’s usefulness fully. Therefore, the company hires a technical ghostwriter to produce an information kit so investors can get a clear picture of the product’s specifications. Consequently, the company can lure investors into its new venture.

2. Awareness of the target audience

Often, organizations produce materials from their perspective.

In other words, the information considers the organization’s point of view leading to decidedly complex materials.

This approach may leave the target audience without a clear sense of how the information offer value to them.

In contrast, a technical writer’s expertise can help organizations take materials and flip them into the target audience’s perspective.

As such, a technical ghostwriter can repurpose information taking the target audience’s understanding, or lack thereof, to produce relevant materials.

Example: An insurance company wants to inform its customers about changes in the applicable legislation. Company lawyers have issued a legal opinion stating the changes’ implications on the company’s services. Nevertheless, the legal opinion exceeds a general audience’s understanding of legal matters. As a result, the insurance company hires a technical ghostwriter to translate the documentation from legalese into plain language. This approach allows customers to comprehend the implications of legal changes on their policies fully.

3. Investment in time and effort

Hiring a technical ghostwriter is an investment in time and effort. In particular, hiring a technical ghostwriter allows company staff to delegate writing tasks to a trusted partner.

This benefit is pivotal, especially when current staff members lack the time or experience needed to produce written documentation. As such, a technical writer can tackle content production while the company’s staff continues to focus on their core functions.

Example: A software design firm has recently completed a new product release. Along with the software, the design team has produced the relevant documentation. However, none of the software design team members have had much experience writing documentation for public release. As such, tasking one or multiple team members implies taking time away from core functions to focus on writing. This approach creates the need to work overtime, increasing workload and pressure on team members.

By hiring a technical ghostwriter, the company invests in alleviating pressure on its design team. The team can confidently continue to produce software and its technical documentation while the technical writer produces the material for public release. As a result, the increase in productivity offsets the financial cost of hiring a technical writer.

4. Objectivity

Typically, technical ghostwriters are external third parties. As such, a technical ghostwriter does not have a direct stake in the company’s work.

This condition makes a technical ghostwriter an impartial third party when producing documentation.

In contrast, in-house staff may have a bias due to their stake in a project or endeavor. As a result, in-house staff may consciously or inadvertently skew documentation to reflect information in a favorable light.

In contrast, a technical ghostwriter can produce materials with a clear, objective mindset.

Example: A company launching a new service needs to produce documentation for its clientele. In-house staff members have produced documentation extolling the benefits of this service. The technical documentation sounds more like marketing copy, thus creating unrealistic expectations in the service’s offering. This situation is the result of the company staff’s natural bias. After all, they have a vested interest in seeing their new service become successful.

In contrast, a technical ghostwriter frames the technical information from an impartial, third-party perspective. Of course, the technical writer wants their client’s services to be successful. Nevertheless, the technical writer does not have a natural bias. As a result, the technical writer can be forthright, thus building realistic expectations of the service’s offerings.

5. Scalability

Most organizations have an occasional need for writing services. The need for writers is often part of specific endeavors that require content creation. Under these circumstances, employing full-time, in-house writers may become an unnecessary expense for the company. While technical writers can certainly collaborate in other areas, their specific expertise may be underutilized. This approach may lead to employing resources sub-optimally.

Hiring a technical ghostwriter or contracting a ghostwriting agency remedies this situation. In particular, having a trusted ghostwriter partner (individual or agency) provides organizations with the flexible scalability it needs based on requirements.

Example: A company needs to produce substantial amounts of documentation on a tight turnaround. As such, the company can employ the services of a ghostwriting agency to meet its deadline. The ghostwriter agency can furnish a team of writers to get the job done within the expected timeline. Moving forward, the company can employ individual writers as needs arise. Moreover, the company can hire technical writers only when needed. This flexibility allows organizations to use their resources optimally based on their current needs.

Making the Decision to Hire a Technical Ghostwriter

Hiring a technical ghostwriter or ghostwriting agency can be one of the most valuable decisions any organization can make.

The benefits ghostwriters represent an investment in time and effort while boosting productivity and output quality. Consequently, deciding to hire a technical ghostwriter boils down to finding the right match.

Finding the right technical ghostwriter may seem like a complex task. Nevertheless, choosing the best professional ghostwriters depends on their experience and skill set.

Therefore, organizations should strive to meet with technical ghostwriters before employing their services.

During these interviews, decision-makers can accurately gauge the specific skills these writers bring to the table. In doing so, organizations can find the ideal writer for their specific needs.

Lastly, companies must look beyond the project at hand.

Fostering an ongoing relationship with a professional ghostwriter will take the guesswork out of producing documentation moving forward. As a result, both organizations and writers can develop a mutually beneficial partnership.

5 Steps to Finding the Right Ghostwriting Agency for Your Technical Book

Do you think most politicians, business tycoons, celebrities, and experts write their own books? Think again. As you might have guessed, many bestselling books are written by ghostwriters working for ghostwriting agencies.

Ghostwriting agencies have gained massive popularity in recent years because, with them, you can get your content curated by an experienced team of professionals just the way you want it.

But what types of services can a ghostwriting agency offer you if your content is highly technical? And how do you choose the right ghostwriting agency?

Choosing the Right Ghostwriting Agency for Your Technical Book

Technical ghostwriting is a lucrative profession. The job of a ghostwriter is to take your technical content and turn it into something engaging, interesting, and informative for the target audience.

So, how do you choose a ghostwriting agency that is the right one for your book? The following steps will help you understand the entire process and make the right decision.

1. Clearly define your book.

The first thing you need to do is define the goal of your technical book and what you want it to cover. For this, you will have to explain your requirements to your chosen ghostwriting agency.

You can either provide them with written information or a verbal explanation.

Providing detailed information to ghostwriting agencies will help them clearly understand everything and write your book accordingly. As a result, you will avoid multiple rewrites and save time.

Make sure you provide the following information to your chosen ghostwriting agency.

The Title and Subtitle of Your Book

Clearly state your title and subtitle to avoid ambiguity. The ghostwriting agency may suggest changes based on their experience to improve the title. The ghostwriter can help you determine how clearly the title conveys what the book is about. Will it grab your reader’s attention? Will they be satisfied that the book delivers on the promise of the title?

The Message You Want to Relay to Readers

Explain the message you want to relay to your readers thoroughly. Tell the ghostwriter what information should be included in the content and what information should be excluded.

An effective way to confirm that your ghostwriter understands your message is to request an outline before they begin writing. It will save you time and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Remember that your ghostwriter may suggest some changes to the agreed-upon outline during the writing process. Accepting or declining changes would totally be up to you.

The Three W’s

The three W’s structure is the most effective way to define your content. It can be a valuable tool for helping to clearly define the scope of your book. The three W’s take you through three stages: What happened? What changed? What’s the latest situation? Use the three W’s when you discuss the outline of your book with a ghostwriting service.

2. Interview the agency.

Once you have shortlisted some ghostwriting agencies, and determined which ones might be a good fit, you need to prepare for interviews with each of the agencies you have selected.

You should assess them in the following categories to help you make the right decision.

Their Experience and Niche Knowledge

Few ghostwriting agencies are experienced in every niche. The knowledge and experience of their ghostwriters are what determines how good a fit they may be for your project.

Some ghostwriters have more experience writing memos and reports, while others prefer writing product descriptions, datasheets, and whitepapers. You will have to choose the one that can work comfortably in your niche.

A nonfiction ghostwriter may not need to perform much research if they are already an expert on the subject of your technical book.

Your Target Reader

You may have a good understanding of your target audience, and your ghostwriting agency should too. An excellent ghostwriting agency can help you create content that successfully engages your target reader, since the success of your book lies in your ability to connect with your target audience.

They will help research and identify your ideal customers by developing a market segmentation plan. Segmenting the broad market into smaller groups of like-minded individuals who share specific needs, behaviors, and characteristics will enable them to engage better with your target audience while writing the book. Next, they will ensure your writing goals are clear and concise.

3. Outline the project.

A good ghostwriter understands that outlines are a great way to start a book writing project.

An outline helps to present the ideas for any topic using a coherent structure.

It’s a good practice to request an outline from your writer to be sure that they understand the purpose of your technical book.

How will you tell if the outline is good enough?

The outline should clearly define what you want your readers to understand concerning your topic. It should establish the structure for the entire book.

Also, the outline should be divided into headings and subheadings to distinguish the book’s main points from the supporting points. The sections need to be ordered in a way that will make sense to you and your readers.

The best ghostwriter for your technical book should be ready to deliver an outline that will make you eager to see the rest of the content.

4. Discuss schedule.

Time and Payment

You should clearly discuss your book project’s budget and timeline with your ghostwriting agency. The discussion should cover the time needed to write the book, the volume of the content, the amount of research, and the payment schedule.

The time to complete your technical book can vary from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the size and type of content.

It would be best to be prepared to give your ghostwriter ample time to finish your book.

Many ghostwriting agencies request an upfront fee and milestone payments.

Some writers choose to collect 30% of the project fee upfront, another 30% after submitting the first draft, and the remaining 40% at the end of the project. Milestone payments like this offer protection for both you and your ghostwriter and can ease the work process.

5. Sign an NDA.

NDA stands for a Non-Disclosure Agreement. It is your legal right to get an NDA signed when working with a ghostwriting agency.

It covers a wide range of legal aspects, royalties, and your rights to the book.

NDAs are usually unique and best kept simple. Key features that should be included are the time frame, the definition of confidentiality terms, information about the purpose of the NDA, and other essential legalities.

With an NDA in place, everyone’s interest is protected, and your ghostwriter will not be able to claim ownership of the book or share your book idea with anyone else.

Benefits of Hiring the Right Ghostwriting Agency

By now, you may be questioning why you should hire a ghostwriting agency when there are so many steps needed to choose the right one. Hiring a ghostwriting agency has several advantages, including avoiding the inconvenience of project delays, low-quality writing, inauthenticity, and plagiarism.

No Delays

Delegating your writing task to a ghostwriter is a great way to meet your deadlines for completing a book and publishing it. With a lower chance of delays, you’ll get your final copy on schedule.

Some delays are emotional, and if you haven’t written a book before, you may find it challenging to get started.

You may keep procrastinating about writing your book when there are so many other things that need your attention – such as family, important business meetings, or medical appointments.

Ghostwriters can handle your technical book more objectively because they are simply doing their job, and they have done it many times before. They have the skills and experience to write your book within a specified scope.

High-Quality Writing

If you aren’t a professional writer, you may have difficulty creating high-quality content that will appeal to readers. Your book needs to be more than just your thoughts on paper; your ideas should flow naturally from one section to the next. This is what will make your book engaging and informative.

The educational level and experience of a ghostwriter are crucial for technical ghostwriting.

Ghostwriting agencies obtain and verify the background and academic level of their writers.

You can rely on the reputation of a ghostwriting agency when you consider hiring them. An easy way to review their reputation is to read feedback from clients, usually provided in the website's testimonial section.

A high-quality ghostwriting agency gets excellent reviews from its clients, ensuring your book will be written by top-notch ghostwriters.

Plagiarism-free Content

Plagiarism involves one writer taking another person’s content and presenting it as their own. It is unethical and unacceptable.

Professional ghostwriting agencies often run plagiarism checks on their content to ensure you are getting a 100% original book. Since it is their work to write content, professional ghostwriters uphold the highest standards against plagiarism and deliver unique content.

Authenticity

Inauthentic content contains non-factual information. Such content can cause you embarrassment, and your technical book will lose its credibility. It can hurt your reputation and negatively affect your future projects.

A high-quality ghostwriting agency should understand that you have a goal for your technical book, and you want your book to fulfill your purpose.

For example, you may wish to use your technical book to help advertise or sell certain products. The content of your book should engage with your audience and benefit your business.

As you are the author of your book, it should reflect your message to your audience.

A high-quality nonfiction ghostwriter can weave your company or brand values into the content. They can ensure your technical book aligns with your other content and successfully integrate your advertising strategy with your overall business and brand.

Conclusion

When looking for a ghostwriting agency to write your technical book, you should take the time to choose one that is best able to meet your needs. A ghostwriting agency with a good reputation is more likely to share your valuable knowledge through well-written content.

During your search for a ghostwriter, a good approach is to start by shortlisting five to six ghostwriting agencies. You don’t want to spend the time interviewing dozens of ghostwriting agencies if you can avoid it.

When you are discussing your project with a ghostwriting agency, you should assess the skill level of their ghostwriters. You can ask to see some of their previous work, which will help you analyze whether they match your writing style and voice.

Always be clear about what you expect from your ghostwriter and discuss all details of the process. Cooperation and communication between you and your ghostwriting agency are the keys to setting your ghostwriter up for success with your technical book.

Finally, try not to rush the process of selecting a ghostwriting agency. If you find one that you believe will be a good fit, it could be worth waiting for the writers of your choice if they are not immediately available.

Finding the right ghostwriting agency for your technical book doesn’t have to be challenging, and following a systematic approach can help smooth the process and get you the best results.

7 Tips for Choosing the Best Technical Writer for Your Project

If you’ve ever been tasked with writing technical documents for a diverse audience, you know that it’s not as simple as it sounds.

You are well versed in your area of expertise and could talk about it for days on end. But when it comes to explaining it to someone outside your field, you find that it’s much easier said than done.

That’s where hiring a technical writer pays off.

What does a technical writer do?

A technical writer creates documents such as user manuals, help files, instructional videos, white papers, press releases, newsletters, e-mail messages, and web pages. Hence, they may also be called instructional designers, instructional technologists, instructional specialists, instructional developers, instructional facilitators, or instructional consultants.

This professional writer usually works directly with a client to determine what information needs to be included in a document.

The writer then researches the subject matter and develops content based on the client's requirements.

Once the content is developed, it is presented to the client for review and approval.

Do I really need a technical writer?

There is an increasing demand for technical writers globally, and research shows that the demand for technical writers should grow by 7 percent between 2019 and 2029.

The need for technical writers is increasing because preparing a technical document can be quite tricky. Unfortunately, you may not have the resources to train your employees to perform this function. This means you will need to contract out the job to a qualified technical writer.

Here are some examples of situations where you might need a technical writer:

  • Your company sells products that require instruction.
  • Your company provides technical support for products that require instructions.
  • Your company produces instructional materials for use by other people.
  • Your company makes presentations to customers, suppliers, investors, or potential partners.
  • Your company wants to improve its image through advertising.
  • Your company wants to attract new customers.
  • Your company offers services to small businesses.
  • Your company is expanding into new markets.
  • Your company plans to sell more than one product.
  • Your company wants to expand its market share.
  • Your company sells software.
  • Your company uses technology to make sales calls.

What should I look for in a technical writer?

Undoubtedly, a good technical writer will create content that will boost your brand’s image and set you apart from your competition.

Because hiring a technical writer is a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly, we’ve put together seven tips to guide you in choosing the best technical writer.

1. Expertise

Choosing a technical writer who has worked in or written about your niche means they can create content that will suit your business perfectly.

In addition, their portfolios and previous writing experience will reveal their writing style and voice, which will help you determine if they are the best fit for your business.

Your ideal technical writer should be interested in your field, familiar with your subject matter, and have experience with similar projects. In addition, you need someone who can create compelling content for your target audience and drive traffic to your business.

2. Excellent Grammar Skills

Do not underestimate grammar skills in your quest for an ideal technical writer. You need someone who can string words together in a clear, accurate, and reader-friendly way.

Grammar is crucial for readability, credibility, clarity, and communication. Unfortunately, readers will find it hard to trudge through a work that is peppered with typos and grammatical errors.

Writers with poor grammar skills are not taking their craft seriously and will string words together haphazardly. But a professional technical writer with excellent grammar skills must have taken the time to master good grammar, which shows a level of commitment to the writing craft. Besides, a document with no grammatical errors will be more enjoyable to read.

3. Creativity

A technical writer must be creative to develop evergreen, unique content for your business.

They should be open to new ways of doing things and create content that stands out from the competition.

Since creativity opens the mind and keeps it active, creative writers will easily use their imaginations to develop creative thoughts, broaden their thought processes, enhance their logical skills, and improve their problem-solving abilities.

By using their creative skills, your ideal writer should be able to craft a decipherable, compelling, and engaging set of instructions out of otherwise complex information.

4. Knowledge

This is probably the most important quality to look for in a professional technical writer. Your ideal writer should be well informed about subjects relating to your specific niche. In addition, they must have enough knowledge of the subject matter to provide accurate information.

Industry-specific knowledge eases the process of understanding and conveying your tech-related information to your audience. This knowledge makes a technical writer more valuable and makes the writer’s work easier.

Hence, a good technical writer should improve their knowledge and skills by studying continuously.

5. Willingness to Learn New Skills

The ideal technical writer must be well-versed in your niche or willing to learn all there is to know about it. Willingness to learn shows that a writer is hardworking and passionate about getting your work done.

Therefore, you should hire a technical writer who is ready to learn new skills and has the tendency to challenge themselves continuously. This will make it easier for them to convey your complex technical information more straightforwardly.

A writer who demonstrates a willingness to learn new skills can take on more responsibilities to prove their commitment to your work. Such people are usually more motivated and have the self-discipline needed to meet your set goals.

6. Adaptability

Not all technical writers have a voice or style that matches your company’s vision. But a good technical writer should be able to adapt quickly and acclimatize to your specific needs.

This soft skill is not just a desired quality but a necessity for technical writers. You want to hire a technical writer who is versatile enough to learn new documentation tools, the latest technologies, and new ways of presenting technical information to your target audience.

For the sole purpose of creating meaningful content for your particular audience, a professional technical writer will readily adapt to new technology, guidelines, language, or standards instead of sticking to old ones.

7. Proficiency with Writing Tools

Technical writing has evolved since the days of using pen and paper.

As a result, there is a wide range of assorted tools or software you can work with to develop great content, format your document, and communicate information more effectively in today's digital landscape.

Although technical writing requires expertise, a technical writer armed with the best technical writing tools will help immensely. In addition, these tools have features that help improve the documentation process by making it easier and faster.

Some of the tools to look out for are grammar checkers like Grammarly and plagiarism checkers like Copyscape.

Final Thoughts

Effective technical writing presents information without necessarily attracting attention to itself. Because it is meant to express, not impress the reader, you will need to hire a technical writer who knows their onions.

A good technical writer is an enabler of information whose primary focus is to move your readers to take the desired action. Therefore, having the key features to look out for at your fingertips will go a long way in choosing someone who will help demystify your technical documents for your target audience.

The Ins and Outs of Technical Writing

Technical writing is a handy tool for anyone who wants to communicate tech-related information. It is an art involving communicating information from one person or group to another so that the intended audience understands and uses the information effectively.

However, the technical writing process is not complete without a skilled technical writer. One who is creative, innovative, organized, disciplined, and can communicate ideas concisely using appropriate language.

In this article, we will dissect the art of technical writing to equip you with everything you should know before you set out to write those technical documents.

What is technical writing?

Technical writing is a specialized form of communication that involves using simple language to convey complex ideas in an understandable manner.

In his book, The Insider’s Guide to Technical Writing, Krista Van Laan simply defines technical writing as “…a continuous process of learning, carefully gathering, sifting, organizing, and assessing, all while trying to craft something that makes sense for a user.”

This art of communicating complex ideas and instructions so that others easily understand them has been around since ancient times. The first known reference to technical writing was found in the writings of Aristotle (384-322 BC).

This included his summary of 'Doctrines of Pythagoras' and a dictionary of some philosophical terms.

Meanwhile, the term 'technical' referred to any kind of specialized knowledge and was first used in the 1930s when engineers began using written documents to communicate their work with one another.

However, the term became more widely recognized after World War II when the U.S. military adopted it for all of its technical publications. Since then, it has been applied to many different fields, including engineering, science, medicine, business, law, and education.

In modern times, however, there are many different types of technical writing, including:

  • Technical documentation (technical manuals)
  • Software documentation
  • Website content
  • User guides
  • Training materials
  • Presentations
  • Advertising copy
  • Instructional videos
  • Computer-based training programs

How is technical writing different from other forms of writing?

In general, technical writing differs from most other forms of writing because it focuses on delivering information rather than entertainment.

For example, technical writers may write reports, manuals, specifications, letters, proposals, presentations, articles, and books.

Technical writing stands apart from other types of writing in its purpose and style.

Strictly utilitarian, this type of writing aims at conveying information rather than amusing or entertaining readers. Hence, it should be presented clearly, concisely, accurately, and objectively to keep readers engaged and interested.

In technical writing, there is no need to use a flashy writing style to appeal to readers’ emotions because anyone who picks up a technical article to read is already drawn to the subject.

So, technical writing strictly informs the readers in a simple, meticulously accurate, direct, and reader-friendly manner to move them to action.

Why is technical writing important?

Technical writing is needed in many different areas of our society today. It comes in handy in high-tech environments because their complex topics need simplifying to appeal to target audiences.

If your technical information is well documented, you will minimize misinterpretation and ensure that your audience follows the desired set of actions, such as complying with safety precautions or using a device safely.

The following are just a few examples of what you would need technical writing for:

  • Software developers often need help creating documentation for their products. This includes user guides, installation instructions, and reference materials.
  • Web designers need to create content that explains how to use their designs on the World Wide Web.
  • Network administrators need to write documentation explaining how to set up a network.
  • Business managers need to write reports describing their company’s financial status.
  • Marketing departments need to create sales brochures and product catalogs.
  • Public relations professionals need to write press releases and news articles.
  • Government agencies need to write legislation and regulations.
  • Corporate training departments need to provide instruction manuals for employees.
  • Medical researchers need to write research papers and grant proposals.
  • Engineers need to write specifications for their projects.
  • Scientists need to write scientific papers and books.

How to Start Technical Writing

There are many different ways to begin writing a technical document. Here are three common approaches.

1. Brainstorming

Brainstorming is usually the first step to writing a document. When brainstorming, you will generate ideas, explore them, and develop them into a technical document.

It is a way of thinking about ideas for the project.

For example, you may find yourself talking out loud while sitting alone in a room, or you might write down notes on scraps of paper.

Brainstorming helps you think through all possible solutions to a problem before making a decision.

It’s also a valuable technique for coming up with great ideas for a book, article, speech, or other written pieces.

2. Freewriting

Freewriting is a method used to get thoughts flowing. It allows you to explore ideas without worrying about how well those ideas flow together.

This writing technique helps to generate new ideas and improve your writing craft. It also helps push through writer’s block and gives you fresh perspectives on any idea you may have while writing.

The idea is to write freely without any restrictions. You will not have to pay attention to grammar, spelling, or other writing rules. Instead, you can focus on clearing out distracting thoughts.

3. Concept Development

Concept development is a process of defining and refining ideas until you reach a final solution. Therefore, it requires careful planning and organization.

First, you'll need to make sure that everything fits together logically.

Once you've developed a concept, you'll need to test it. Testing involves asking people questions and observing their reactions.

Once you're satisfied with the results, you'll want to write up your findings.

What To Avoid in Technical Writing

Here are some things to avoid when writing a technical document.

1. Grammar and Spelling Errors

Grammar and spelling problems can cause several communication and miscommunication issues that can negatively impact your readers’ perspectives about your work. They will confuse readers and reduce the quality of the writing.

Common grammatical errors include sentence fragments, using unclear antecedents, misplaced modifiers, incorrectly using apostrophes, and improper use of punctuation, among others.

If you’re unsure about a word or sentence, you can use tools like Grammarly and Language Tool to cross-check your work and ensure it is free of grammar and spelling errors.

2. Poor Punctuation

Punctuation matters a great deal because proper punctuation is essential for successful communication. Punctuation marks help clarify meaning by separating words, sentences, and paragraphs.

If you misspell a word or put a comma where it doesn't belong, your reader won't know what you mean. Incorrect punctuation signifies a wrong relationship between ideas, which will confuse your readers.

Therefore, you need to double-check to ensure all necessary punctuation is in place within the document.

3. Lack of Style

Style refers to the overall appearance of a document. It is how you use your words, punctuation, formatting, grammar, and spelling.

A writing style includes elements like font size, typeface, margins, spacing, and page layout. If you don’t follow established guidelines for these elements, your document will look sloppy and unprofessional.

A lack of style will make people see you as a careless writer. But if you pay more attention to your writing style, it will reflect positively on your brand image.

4. Unnecessary Details

Details are sometimes necessary to explain concepts clearly, but too much detail can slow down reading.

It's easy to feel like you have to include every little fact and statistic in your document. However, don't let your desire to be thorough cause you to lose sight of the main point.

Good technical writers know that they need to be concise and leave out unnecessary details.

Re-reading your document after writing will help reveal any unnecessary information you might have included. If the reader does not have to know a particular detail, leave it out.

5. Inappropriate Language

If you want your audience to understand what you are talking about, you need to avoid using inappropriate language in your writing.

The use of inappropriate language in your technical writing will mar your credibility, weaken your argument, and turn off your audience. Some words are inappropriate for technical documents. For example, slang or colloquial language makes your document sound casual and informal.

Therefore, when writing, you want to ensure that your language suits the audience you are writing for and matches your purpose.

6. Inconsistent Formatting

Formatting refers to how text appears on a page. Different formatting styles increase readability and visual appeal. For example, boldface and italicized text stand out more than regular text.

However, if the formatting is inconsistent throughout your document, readers may find your document chaotic and difficult to read.

A well-formatted document is one with consistent, clear formatting. It will add more weight and credibility to your technical documentation and make it more reader-friendly.

7. Bad Organization

Organization refers to how the material is arranged within a document. This essential element ensures that your work is clear, logical, focused, and effective.

An organized document is more readable and visually appealing to readers. It is almost impossible to get someone to stick around and read your document if your work is not organized.

Also, if your tech-related document is organized, it flows smoothly from one topic to another. If your flow isn’t smooth, your audience may lose interest.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, effective technical writing takes a series of specialized skills. While you may be an expert in your field, chances are that writing just might not be your cup of tea.

If you find that you are lacking in any of the areas listed above, you may want to consider hiring a professional technical writer. A professional will be able to work closely with you to develop the perfect technical documents for your business, leaving you time to focus on the areas in which you excel.

Communication Preferences: Why They Matter When Working With SMEs

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are highly regarded in organizations and appreciated for their skill, experience, and expertise. If you’ve been recently assigned a technical project that involves working with a SME, you may be wondering how to get the most out of your conversation with them. 

Effective communication is an art, and while it seems safe to assume that everyone would prefer the same way of communicating in the English language, this is not always true and can lead to miscommunication and frustration for both parties involved.

In this post, we’ll be going over some of the different communication preferences as well as why they matter when communicating with SMEs.

Understanding Communication Preferences

It’s important to understand that people tend to have different preferences and styles when it comes to communicating.

And studies have determined that personality plays a large role in how a person prefers to communicate.

To ensure project success, you need to have open lines of communication. That said, it's important to note that communication may be rendered useless if you don’t approach your SME correctly.

There are numerous directive and non-directive communication preferences. Understanding a person’s preferred way of communicating will help you get through to them more efficiently.

This way, you can relay information in a way that ensures the listener feels understood, comfortable, and engaged.

Think of it this way: You wouldn’t expect a shy coworker to relay information effectively in front of a group of people. In the same vein, when you don’t approach someone with their preferred communication style, it’s easy for lines to get crossed.

It all boils down to how effective your way of communicating with someone is. While emails might work for one person, for example, they won’t do much for another. When you approach someone with their preferred communication method, they’re better able to receive the information.

People can be categorized into four main groups based primarily on their personality and cognitive preferences:

  • Movers
  • Motivators
  • Collaborators
  • Thinkers

Depending on the category that fits the SME you’re working with, they’ll each want to know very specific things.

Movers

Movers are more straightforward. They’re interested in learning about facts and the bottom line of what you’re looking for, so it’s best not to beat around the bush.

For example, when speaking with a mover, it’s a good idea to tell them exactly what you need and when you need it.

For example, if you need them to complete the project within a certain time period, it’s important to state this upfront and clearly.

Motivators

Motivators like to look at the big picture. They frequently ask for the “whys” of situations. It’s best to give them an idea and watch their minds run free.

For example, don’t just tell a motivator that you want something done. Describe the big picture goal you are trying to accomplish.

Collaborators

Collaborators, on the other hand, tend to respond better with a passive and people-oriented approach. When speaking with collaborators, it’s a good idea to explain how you want people to gain from your project.

For example, you could share that you aim to inform your target audience of the best way to handle their identified problems.

Thinkers

Lastly, thinkers are the most detail-oriented of the bunch.

They prefer to know about every aspect of your project from its creation to your goals in the future. When speaking with thinkers, it’s better to focus on giving them tasks to focus on.

For example, instead of telling them what you want done as a whole, give them a checklist of things you'd want them to accomplish individually.

Why Communication Preferences Matter

Identifying your SME’s communication preference ensures a more seamless exchange. Essentially, this may minimize miscommunication and misunderstandings that could result in delays or even project failure.

For example, if your SME prefers to chat over text or email, you may want to cut back on the Zoom meetings to meet their preferences. This will help them process their thoughts more effectively and then relay their insights.

SMEs come in many different types, with a wide variety of personal preferences regarding their respective industries, work styles, and ability to cooperate with others. This means that there are many ways to approach your SME, depending on how they prefer to communicate.

There are five types of communication you should consider:

  • Verbal. This includes video or physical meetings where you’re able to discuss a project openly and freely. It’s a great way to communicate with your SME if they like chatting over coffee or discussing projects along with other people.
  • Non-Verbal.  For SMEs who may not have a good handle on their communication skills, it’s important to pay attention to nonverbal cues such as eye contact, hesitation, or even sighing.
  • Written Communication. Some SMEs prefer to have entire conversations over email or a messaging app. This way, they can understand exactly what you need more quickly, and they’ll have a reference of your conversation moving forward. Keep in mind, though, that this may have a negative impact on your collaboration — especially if one party isn’t able to express their thoughts concisely.
  • Listening.  Make sure you are always open to suggestions and comments. SMEs focus on putting a lot of thought and analysis into the solutions they proffer, so keep an open mind as you can expect their feedback to be incredibly valuable.
  • Visual Communication. Some people are more receptive to visual cues like images, graphs, and presentations. So, some SMEs may prefer to see visual representations of what you have in mind for delivering your goals effectively.

Determining the Best Method of Communication

By now, you’re probably asking yourself how you can determine the correct way of communicating with a SME. In reality, there’s no cookie-cutter way of finding this out.

The best course of action would be to simply ask how they prefer to communicate and build an evolving strategy to best suit their strengths and weaknesses.

This way, you don't make any assumptions, and you're able to meet the needs of your SME immediately from the beginning. To do this better, read on to find a useful collection of strategies that will help streamline the process.

Strategies for Working with SMEs

Working with SMEs can be daunting — especially if you have no prior experience. The good news is this: It’s all a matter of knowing how to approach them. Subject matter experts are people too. And all they really want in the end is to make sure your project thrives.

To make sure this happens, you’ll need to meet them halfway. 

Here are some tested and true strategies for working with SMEs so you don’t get off on the wrong foot.

Set Clear Expectations

Workflows flourish when everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. The same can be said of working with SMEs. Subject matter experts don’t have a lot of free time on their hands — which is why it’s important to treat their time valuably.

Before you get started, it’s important to lay out all your expectations such as:

  • How often or what kind of information you want them to share with you
  • How they can share information with you
  • What kind of results you expect them to accomplish
  • What their responsibilities will be

Offer Flexibility When Planning Meetings

When planning meetings with a SME, it’s important to make sure you make the most out of their time.

As mentioned before, subject matter experts are incredibly busy, so you can’t expect them to sit through 2–3-hour meetings several times a week.

Make sure you ask about their schedule before planning anything. This way, you can negotiate a schedule that works best for all parties involved.

It’s also a good idea to let them know beforehand how much time you’ll need from them. This way, they’re able to organize their schedule more efficiently and their entire focus is on your agenda.

It’s also important to consider which aspects of the project are best suited to their expertise. If they choose to make time for you, you should consider tackling subjects that require their most specific involvement.

For example, if your SME is involved in the marketing process, you should discuss marketing-related topics at the beginning of your meetings. This way, you can get the most important parts of the conversation done immediately, and you’re not wasting their time.

Use Positive Language While Communicating 

SMEs, like any other person out there, respond to positive language better than negative communication. While we don’t recommend praising them for falling short, it’s important to maintain a positive approach when you talk to them.

The London School of English recommends the following tips to facilitate positive communication:

  • Focus on positive phrasing. For example, instead of saying the information is not well-researched, you could say something like: “A more detailed review of the statement might be needed.” This way, you’re able to tackle issues without discouraging your SME.
  • Avoid using negative words. Focus on using “good” and positive words instead of negative ones. For example, if you want to tell them you don’t agree with their idea, you could say: “Thanks for sharing; I’m just a bit unsure about that, though. What else do you have in mind?”
  • Use modifiers to minimize issues.  Instead of exaggerating, you may want to downplay negative news. The use of phrases such as “slightly,” “a bit,” and “quite” could help deliver your feedback in a softer tone. For example, you could say: “I’m not quite sure I understand your presentation. Do you think we might modify it slightly/a bit, to better drive home the message?”
  • Use neutral questions to encourage positive answers. Be less assertive. In this regard, you want to encourage your SMEs to exchange ideas with you. A good way to do this would be to invite them into the conversation by asking their opinion.  

Manage Their Time Properly

When it comes to maximum time management and efficiency, SMEs characteristically appreciate it when they're presented with information in a clear, succinct, and direct manner.

Here are a few ways you can show them how you can help manage their time:

  • Identify content and areas where you can do your own research.
  • Schedule meetings at their convenience so they’re fully committed.
  • Don’t rush them. It’s important to give them a reasonable deadline or notice for tasks that they need to accomplish.
  • Focus on your goals and expectations. Don’t beat around the bush.
  • Give them access to the right tools and resources to help them streamline their work.
  • Give them complete control over their time.

Be Open to New Ideas 

It’s important to listen to what your SMEs have to say. They’re your subject matter experts for a reason. While you may be focused on doing something a certain way, you need to open your mind to suggestions and comments from your SME.

From complaints to information that they think would be beneficial to your project, make sure you always lend a listening ear, as doing so will equip you with vital information that could be crucial to the overall success of your project. This way, your SME knows you value their knowledge.

Besides, there’s no reason for you not to listen to what your SME wants to share. After all, the success of your project relies on how well your subject matter expert performs.

Final Thoughts

Working with SMEs isn’t as hard as you think it is. In fact, if you have the right strategy in place, and you establish expectations clearly early on in the conversation, you shouldn’t encounter any problems at all.

That said, communicating with your SME poses a unique challenge. To ensure project success, you should focus on maintaining open lines of communication while keeping your SME’s communication preference in mind.

Remember that, ultimately, you and your SME both want the same thing: to communicate your thoughts effectively.

With this information, you’re now better equipped to work effectively, with respect for your SMEs time, effort, and skill, all while reducing the possibility of errors, ambiguities, and wasted time.

How Can a SME Work with a Technical Ghostwriter to Create Company Documents?

Can scriptwriters edit movies, or farmers manage grocery stores? In theory, yes. But it’s not the go-to solution for a reason.

Scriptwriters understand their movies but rarely possess professional grade editing skills. And farmers know their produce but generally lack the interest and knowledge needed to run an entire store.

The same logic applies when you ask SMEs to write company documents. Sure, some SMEs can reach into a hat and pull out the particular interest, mindset, expertise, and time needed to create those documents.

But that’s the exception, not the rule. For most companies, hiring a technical ghostwriter is a much better approach to getting those important documents written.  

Now, that may seem like a fairly broad—and possibly expensive-sounding—proposition. And you probably have many follow-up questions.

So, let’s begin by talking about SMEs and their relationship with writing technical documents. (Spoiler alert, it’s generally not ideal.)

The issues that most SMEs have with writing technical documents comes down to more than raw wordsmithing. After all, even SMEs who generally enjoy writing can struggle with technical documents. In most cases, the very qualities that make people excellent SMEs render them ill-suited to create great company documents, especially ones directly related to their particular projects.

When it comes to technical writing, SMEs’ strengths usually morph into these pain points:

  • Too close to the subject
  • Too distracted by details to focus on the larger picture
  • Don’t understand their target audience’s mindset or desires
  • Lack the bandwidth for work outside their “real” job

But when do these broad pain points actually manifest in the technical writing process, and how can a technical ghostwriter solve them? The answers depend on the specific document at hand.

Let’s start by breaking down the different types of technical writing, and identifying exactly how a technical ghostwriter can help with each of them.

  1. Documents that attract and persuade the general population
  2. Documents that instruct non-SMEs
  3. Documents that persuade decision makers
  4. Documents that inform other SMEs

Documents That Attract the General Population – Why Should Average Joe Care?

Photo by Pressmaster from Pexels

Brochures, press releases, and trade publications are the shiny toys of technical writing—they exist to catch and hold the average reader’s notice. Why is this product interesting to me? How does it make my life easier?

Such questions are to a SME what the following are to a Parisian-trained, only-buys-gourmet-beans barista: Would it kill you to drink instant instead? For that matter, what’s the point of caffeine when we could all just get more sleep?

SMEs, knee-deep in their field, don’t instinctively ask those larger-picture, accessible questions. And when someone else asks them to explain, they hardly know where to begin. A career spent obsessing over a particular stem, leaf, or twig makes it difficult to back up and view the entire tree, much less the combined landscape of forest, mountain, and lake.

That becomes the technical ghostwriter’s first job: Asking those large-picture questions in the first place, and then teasing out a useful answer.

“If you ask a pipeline services engineer what was cool about their latest project, they’ll first say something like ‘We cleared a pipeline by using x tool instead of y tool,’” technical ghostwriter Barbara Adams explains. “They won’t automatically produce answers like ‘We reduced this many emissions, which in turn reduced greenhouse gases,’ so you have to be able to get them to dig a little deeper and describe what the reader would care about.”

It’s not surprising that SMEs don’t easily pinpoint which parts of their field lay people find interesting or meaningful, and which parts boring. After all, if SMEs weren’t already inherently fascinated by their field, they wouldn’t be SMEs.

And even SMEs who do have a knack for asking and answering those questions won’t consider it a priority; their primary job is to complete the project, not defend or explain its existence.

“If you ask them a wider question like ‘Why was this important?’ or ‘How does this solve a problem?’ they can usually think of a good answer, but they consider it a waste of time to sit down and do so,” former cyber-engineer and writer Joe Brule adds.

It’s not surprising, then, that SMEs particularly dislike writing such attention-getting documents. It takes time and several mental somersaults for a SME to back away from those fine details, find the larger picture, and use the picture to catch an audience’s attention, all to convince the audience of something the SME already believes: The product or development is interesting and worthwhile.

And that’s just the mindset needed to write such documents. We haven’t even gotten into the actual time and labor involved in writing, editing, and formatting. If a SME is already reluctant to pile a fun writing project onto their full plate, they’ll run screaming from one they actively dislike.

Barbara Adams says it best: “For a press release or a trade publication, they’ll usually just hand it over to me.”

Everyone’s happier when the technical ghostwriter asks the larger questions, translates the answers, considers the audience, hooks the audience, gives them a call to action, and, most importantly, gets the words onto paper.

Documents That Give Instructions to non-SMEs – Press X While Holding Y and Gluing On Z

User manuals, policy documents, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) teach non-SMEs how to do something. Anyone who’s ditched the user manual for a YouTube tutorial knows exactly how difficult it is to follow, much less write, good instructions. How do I use this thing? It’s a simple question. Why am I being forced to read someone’s dissertation?

Even SMEs with writing talent usually aren’t well positioned for creating instructions like manuals or SOPs—they’re simply too close to the process to break it down properly.

Teaching what feels automatic to us takes particular patience and skill, akin to showing a toddler how to hold their fork or tie their shoes. But at least parents can backpedal and answer a child’s questions in real time—someone reading a bad SOP can’t immediately run screaming to the writer.

As former Hewlett-Packard technical writer Dennis Chiu points out, SMEs often overestimate what a typical user already knows and understands. One of the ghostwriter’s main functions, then, is to catch those gaps from the beginning.

“Experts don’t break out of acronyms easily,” Chiu says. In an on-the-nose example: “You and I know what S-M-E stands for, or you wouldn’t be writing this article. But do you think the average reader knows? When I write a manual, I usually repeat the acronym several times, just to make it easier for the user. But someone else in the industry might not think of that.”

Of course, omitting information is just one pitfall—SMEs are just as likely to include far too much.

“Engineers are data people; they love to give you all this data and show off all the wonderful things this piece of software does. Most users don’t give a damn about how it works, they just wanna turn on the car and drive,” Chiu says.  

This is another case of the gap between a SME’s instincts and reader’s needs. From the SME’s point of view, the product’s extra features, backstory, and improvements are fascinating and worth knowing.

An engineer would love to tell you about tensile strength, heating element, and cost-effective material—but most buyers just want to make sure their coffee pot is dishwasher-safe.

“Even at work, SMEs sometimes overestimate what people need to know—for example, not every employee who reads news stories on the company’s internal website wants to hear all the details of a project,” Barbara Adams says.

Even if the SME could magically transmit their thought process onto a Word document, the result might be an unusable behemoth for the specific reader.

A huge part of the technical ghostwriter’s job, then, is sifting for information that actually belongs in each document, for the particular audience.

“When it comes to a user manual, I always say, ‘Just the facts, ma’am,’” Chiu says. “Don’t you hate it when you’re reading a manual, and they don’t get to the point until the fourth or fifth paragraph? My job is to make it as easy as possible to find the answers.”

Documents That Are Technical but Target Decision Makers – What Matters to the Bottom Line?

White papers, case studies, requests for proposals (RFPs), and technical request documents (TRDs) form a counterintuitive category. On one hand, they’re highly technical and thus tempting to hand off to a SME.

However, such documents usually target decision makers, not fellow SMEs. As a result, the language, goal, and scope of the paper still require a professional writer’s focus and editing skills.

SMEs often assume that people in their field speak their jargon—but in reality, a decision maker might be too far removed from those niche details.

Once again, a technical ghostwriter has good instincts for what their target audience will actually understand and writes accordingly.

Above all, the ghostwriter understands that these documents have a very specific goal—and they know what information actually pursues that goal.

Despite its technical content and language, Adams reminds us that a white paper has a marketing purpose. If left to their own devices, a SME may pile on data and details that distract from that marketing purpose.

A technical ghostwriter, however, knows what raw material is actually necessary to make the sale—and what to cut.

“When writing an RFP [Request for Proposals], SMEs often want to include their suggestions on how to do something. Which makes sense, because they’re experts and have their own opinions. But that’s not the point of an RFP—it’s a document that asks vendors to provide the solution. If you wanted to solve it yourself, would you be writing the RFP?” Joe Brule says.

Documents for Fellow SMEs – Finally, a Chance to Geek Out!

SMEs feel much more comfortable writing for fellow SMEs—that’s where conference papers, technical manuals, some white papers, and some trade publications come in.

A familiar audience, plus the rare chance to share those details, data, and tangents, make a much more inviting writing experience.

“When it comes to a conference paper, they want first crack at it,” Barbara Adams explains. “They do want help with the organization and editing, though, so I’ll look at drafts in various stages of doneness.”

Yet even with conference papers, those familiar pain points crop up. For starters, SMEs don’t always understand fellow SMEs’ language.

“A mechanical engineer may assume that a civil engineer will understand their language and world, but that’s not always the case,” Adams says.

Even two engineers in the same niche may find language barriers. “A fellow mechanical engineer who works for a different company may have picked up company-specific terms or slang,” Brule adds. “In practice, the technical writer ends up standardizing the language for the SME.”

Once again, it comes down to time—SMEs have no interest in formatting, standardizing, or editing on top of their “real” job.

Help me to Help You

With all four document categories, the SMEs’ pain points occur in at least some form: being too close to their field, not understanding their audience, being distracted by the details, and not having enough bandwidth.

And in each case, the technical ghostwriter provides objectivity, targets the audience, sees the larger picture, and—most obviously and importantly—actually gets the job done.

It’s not surprising that, according to Barbara Adams, half the SMEs she’s worked with really welcome help; the rest are willing to get help.

Then there are those who are reluctant to have someone even attempt to give them a hand. “The ones who are reluctant to work with a ghostwriter are usually afraid I won’t have the technical savvy to help them . . . there’s a learning curve, but eventually they grow to see me as a partner,” she says.

What was that last word? Ah, partner.

We’ve discussed what the technical ghostwriter brings to the table, but what can the SMEs and decision makers do to make the process easier? After talking with several technical ghostwriters, we’ve compiled some best practices they would love to see from SMEs.

1. Keep the ghostwriter on the same project from beginning to end.

Decision makers might be tempted to save time by assigning multiple writers to one product’s array of documents—one for the press release, one for the user manual, one for the technical manual, and so on. In the long run, though, assigning everything to one dedicated ghostwriter results in better documents all around.

“If I was the boss I would have the same writer create the installation manual, user manual, and technical manual,” Dennis Chiu says. “[Ideally] I’m with the engineer every day. As they write the software, I’m interviewing, I’m sitting down at the computer, I’m playing with the software myself, I’m doing revisions to my manual.”

This method also assuages the SME’s greatest fear of writers—that they won’t be tech savvy enough to keep up with the engineer. If the technical ghostwriter works on the project from beginning to end, they become an expert in their own right.

Sure, it’s tempting to bring on the ghostwriter later in the process to save money or time, but that’s like waiting until the last minute to see the doctor—problems may arise that can’t be fixed.

“If [a SME] submit[s] an abstract and it gets accepted for a conference, I can’t edit it at all, [even when] the abstract is really poorly written,” Adams says. “In an ideal world, they’d give me their white paper draft first, then I’d pull the abstract from it and edit both. When [that happens], I’m so happy.”

2. Refer to the specific style guides, glossaries, and authoritative sources.

Sure, SMEs often don’t understand each other’s jargon—that’s exactly why standard language and glossaries exist in the first place. And writers love SMEs who actually use them!

“Here’s what often happens,” Brule says. “Engineers often say ‘weakness’ or ‘susceptibility’ when they should be saying ‘vulnerability’—the National Glossary of Information Assurance has a specific definition for vulnerability. Always refer to an authoritative source like that to look up the proper terminology.”

“Please, please use the style guide,” Adams says simply.

3. Be open to questions – both low- and high-level.

Taking the time to answer technical ghostwriters’ questions can irritate SMEs, who generally want to focus on their main job.

Even technical writers with considerable expertise, however, often find interviews a necessary step in the process.

“Accept that sometimes I’ll have to ask more elementary questions,” Adams says.  

Chiu, armed with his own engineering degree, reveals that, “I like to start with the thousand-foot view, and then get into the data and details.”

“I ask the engineer to talk to me like I’m a first-time user—that’s who I’m writing for,” he says.

That being said, SMEs are often pleasantly surprised by technical ghostwriters’ savvy.

“The greatest compliment I ever had was when a SME assumed I was an engineer,” Adams says. “I wish SMEs knew that technical writers actually find this stuff interesting, and like it.”

4. Keep the technical ghostwriter informed.

Even for projects where the SME remains fairly hands-off, there’s one vital way to kick things off.

“Send me all the relevant background information at once, early on,” Adams advises. “It’s better to share too much than too little. If you leave something out at the beginning, I may have to start over.”

It’s the same reason Chiu prefers to work with programmers from beginning to end. “One update can mean I have to ditch my entire manual draft,” he said. “That’s why I talk to the programmers, I work in the same room with them.”

5. Tell the technical ghostwriter what you want.

Remember that the ghostwriter is here to help you—and they can only do that if they know what you need.

Do you want them to write the entire document from beginning to end, just edit and format, or combine existing documents? Experienced technical ghostwriters have done all of these things and are happy to be of service.

Ultimately, though, this is your document.

As Adams says, “Take ownership. It’s your paper, not mine. I’ll make suggestions, but you’re the decision maker.”

Remember the “ghost” in “ghostwriter.” They’re here to quietly help, not take over the company brand. When you have pain points, they’ll step in–just as little or as much as you want.

Why to Hire a Technical Ghostwriter: 5 Ways a Technical Ghostwriter Can Help Your Company

The great American author Mark Twain once said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” No offense to Mr. Twain, but writing is not quite so simple. Writing requires a combination of skill and expertise that takes time to develop.

And in the business world, time is a luxury few companies can afford. As a result, producing text, particularly technical texts, may be onerous in terms of time and money when done in-house. Thus, hiring a technical ghostwriter can save time and money.

In this article, we will dive into how to hire a technical ghostwriter as well as the ways a technical ghostwriter can help any company improve its interaction with clients and business partners.

When to Hire a Technical Ghostwriter

Companies often balk at the idea of hiring a technical ghostwriter. In some cases, businesses handle highly confidential information. As a result, an outsider may pose a risk. Also, some firms may feel that a ghostwriter may not fully capture their corporate culture.

Those arguments are all valid.

Nevertheless, there are situations in which hiring a technical ghostwriter makes sense. Specifically, the decision to hire a ghostwriter boils down to time and money.

Often, companies may have an abundance of technical experts. However, they may lack experienced writers.

The issue with inexperienced in-house writers lies in the time it may take to produce a technical document. Moreover, tapping an existing staff member may take time away from their main tasks.

Consequently, these staff members end up dedicating precious working hours to non-essential tasks.

Unless a company has dedicated in-house writing staff, hiring a technical ghostwriter is almost always more cost-effective.

A technical ghostwriter has a combination of expertise and skill. As a result, a good technical ghostwriter can help reduce the time and cost associated with producing high-quality technical documentation.

Ghostwriting expert Jane Friedman has this insightful tidbit to offer:

Ghostwriting is a fantastic option for people who have valuable ideas to share but lack the time, energy, or skill to put them into written form. Working with a ghost can have benefits beyond the final content.”

Indeed, this comment is true of any company that employs a ghostwriter. However, it is truly applicable for companies tasked with creating technical documents.

After all, valuable technical staff can better serve the firm when they’re able to dedicate their time solely to their main role.

Types of Technical Writing

Technical documents are not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. In fact, there are numerous pieces of content that can be considered a “technical document.” This includes:  

  • Manuals
  • Guides
  • Handbooks
  • Marketing content
  • Technical specifications
  • Press releases
  • Catalogs
  • Medical information
  • Diagrams
  • Computer code

A technical document is essentially any document that serves to provide a clear explanation of a complex topic. Therefore, the most important consideration becomes writing for the target audience.

Naturally, an end-user manual or guide must use plain language to explain the document’s contents.

By the same token, technical specifications intended for experts would most likely employ much jargon and terminology.

It is up to each company, with the help of their technical ghostwriter, to decide which document formats suit their objectives best. And the outcome should reflect the target audience’s understanding of the subject matter.

Main Benefits of Hiring a Technical Ghostwriter

Hiring a ghostwriter that is dedicated to the organization’s writing projects can be incredibly beneficial to a company in many ways. Here are five ways a ghostwriter can help a company with technical documents.

Number One: Completion of the Project

It may seem surprising to list project completion as the first way a technical ghostwriter can help a company. Nonetheless, it should come as no surprise to find that many writing projects languish and remain incomplete.

Generally speaking, the most common culprit of project incompletion is lack of time. However, other surreptitious causes keep companies from following through on writing projects.

First, staff members may lack writing experience. As a result, they may not feel entirely comfortable writing a technical document, especially if they have never written one before.

Second, staff may already be overwhelmed with work. Therefore, adding another task to a heavy workload discourages its completion.

Third, some staff members may be unwilling to take on the project, particularly if there are no incentives behind it.

Consequently, a technical ghostwriter can ensure the project reaches completion.

As professional writers, ghostwriters do not need coaching. They are masters at their craft. As such, there is no “learning curve” to consider. A technical ghostwriter can hit the ground running from day one.

Number Two: High-Quality Writing

Ghostwriters sometimes get a bad reputation in the mainstream. And sadly, some individuals’ poor work ethic justifies such claims. Fortunately, though, good ghostwriters outnumber the bad ones.

The secret to finding a quality technical ghostwriter lies in the ghostwriter’s experience. Therefore, companies should strive to vet potential candidates, and hire experienced ghostwriters whenever possible.

The surest approach to getting quality writing is to hire a ghostwriting company, instead of a freelance writer. Ghostwriting companies employ various writers with numerous areas of expertise. As a result, your project will have the attention of an entire team of technical ghostwriters who are well versed in writing the kinds of technical documents you need.

Number Three: Real-World Technical Expertise

A technical ghostwriter must be familiar with the topic they write about. After all, a technical ghostwriter without technical knowledge is a bad idea. As such, technical ghostwriters usually have the knowledge (and degrees) to back up their writing.

Often, technical ghostwriters are professionals who take on writing as a way of supplementing their income. However, the best technical ghostwriters make a full-time job out of it.

As a result, reputable ghostwriters offer their clients a singular combination of writing skill and technical knowledge.

Please keep in mind that the vetting process is essential when hiring a technical ghostwriter. Companies must ensure they are dealing with a professional in their specific area. After all, a ghostwriter may be a great scribe, but it is unreasonable to expect a good job without the proper technical knowledge.

Some companies employ retired professionals to write for them. Theseprofessionals usually have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Plus, they have the time to focus on writing. As a result, they can produce high-quality technical documentation based on knowledge and industry experience.

The English poet John Keats famously said, “Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.” Indeed, experienced ghostwriters make the content real.

Of course, anyone can do the research and regurgitate content. However, a true professional technical ghostwriter can write from experience. Consequently, this kind of content is extremely hard to match.

Number Four: Honest Feedback

Often, companies already have technical manuals and documentation in circulation. However, firms may not realize how good or bad these documents really are.

This situation is quite common when in-house staff (non-professional writers, of course) produce such documentation. Naturally, this is not to say that there are mistakes in the document. It just means that they are not as good as they could be.

Enter the technical ghostwriter.

A technical ghostwriter can offer an objective opinion on a company’s existing documentation. After all, a ghostwriter can serve as an impartial third party to evaluate the company’s current technical literature.

A professional technical ghostwriter will more often than not want to look over previous documents.

This task is important as it helps the ghostwriter get a feel for the company’s voice and allows the technical ghostwriter to ensure that they maintain the same voice.

As the technical ghostwriter reviews previous documents, they may offer some useful and constructive criticism.

Honest feedback is a good sign that a technical ghostwriter is not merely looking for a paycheck. It shows they are willing to look out for their client’s best interest. As a result, companies should take their ghostwriter’s opinions seriously. Perhaps these opinions can lead to another project, such as an update or correction of current documentation.

Nevertheless, veteran ghostwriter Steven Douglass offers this piece of advice: “If you want your ghostwriters to do extensive rewriting, editing, and reviewing of your material, then you may want to consider hiring a firm that specializes in this rewriting and editing.” This insightful advice underscores the benefits of hiring a ghostwriter to handle complex writing projects.

Number Five: One-Stop Solution

Undertaking a writing project in-house may require assistance from various types of professionals. For example, the company may need to employ not only writers, but editors and graphic designers as well to complete the final product.

This approach may lead to a disjointed effort. After all, employing several professionals could result in a lack of coordinated effort.

Hiring a ghostwriter can solve all these issues altogether. Ghostwriters, in particular ghostwriting companies, frequently employ writers, editors, proofreaders, and graphic designers.

As such, they have the necessary infrastructure to take a project from zero to completion without a hitch.

Risks of Hiring a Technical Ghostwriter

Naturally, there are risks involved in hiring a technical ghostwriter. Thus, organizations should consider such risks throughout the decision-making process.

First, hiring a technical ghostwriter without the compulsory technical knowledge is a huge blunder. A ghostwriter must have the necessary technical knowledge. Otherwise, the material may fail to deliver the appropriate content. Moreover, the material might contain inaccuracies. As a result, the editing process would take longer than anticipated.

Second, quality is a significant concern when employing a ghostwriter. As such, hiring a ghostwriter does not guarantee high-quality results. An interesting Entrepreneur article offers the following insight: “The reason you can’t get a guarantee is because you are not paying for a manuscript. You are paying for the ghostwriter’s time.” This piece of insight raises an important question: How can you ensure quality output?

The answer is rather straightforward. Recommendations are the most valuable commodity for ghostwriters.

Reputable ghostwriters value their time. They seek to complete projects as quickly as possible with the highest level of quality possible.

As a result, quality ghostwriters look to get it right the first time. Of course, professional ghostwriters offer revisions. Nevertheless, they are not out to waste time.

Consequently, organizations looking to employ a technical ghostwriter should always ask for references. Also, companies can agree to a trial run. A trial run may consist of writing the first chapter. If the material is up to par, the rest of the project can move forward.

Third, ghostwriters can be expensive. Often, the cheapest solution is the worst one. “Cheap” ghostwriters may outsource their work to non-native English speakers. This practice opens the door to a series of issues. Needless to say, be wary of bargain-basement prices. They may look good on paper, but they may fail to live up to expectations.

The best approach is to discuss the budget allotted for the writing project. From there, both sides can determine if there is a possible agreement. In the end, the best method lies in finding a technical ghostwriter that fits the organization’s spirit and culture. Working with the right fit makes agreeing on financial issues much easier.

Conclusion

Hiring a technical ghostwriter is a great way any organization can get a writing project off the ground. The savings in terms of time and money can truly make the entire endeavor worthwhile. Great technical ghostwriters provide high-quality content on time. Therefore, it makes sense to hire a professional ghostwriter whenever possible.

It is also worth considering the risks associated with hiring a ghostwriter. After all, anyone can claim they are a great writer. Therefore, finding professional ghostwriters boils down to understanding the nature of the writing process.

Reputable ghostwriters always seek to maximize the value they deliver. In contrast, sub-par ghostwriters look to offer the cheapest prices. Consequently, cheaper does not always mean better. Thus, it pays to take the time to hire the right technical ghostwriter.

Why Technical Writers Need Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style”

Raise your hand if you have ever heard of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.”

Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever used Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.”

Finally, if you raised your hand on the second question, raise it if you have used it lately.

Had the above commands been presented to me before I was given this blog topic, my hand would have remained firmly at my side. I have been a technical writer for more than 30 years. I’ve used “The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook,” the “Government Publishing Office (GPO) StyleManual,” and “The Chicago Manual of Style.”  But Strunk and White (as I found it’s commonly called)???

I’m pleased to say that in completing this assignment, I discovered a gem. And, in case you’re not familiar with Strunk and White or have forgotten its worth, I will tell you what I found.

Who Is Strunk, Who Is White, and How Did this Book Come About?

More than a century ago, William Strunk was an English professor at Cornell University. In 1919, he wrote a 43-page style guide and published it solely for use at the university. He called it “The Elements of Style.”

One of Strunk’s students was E.B. White. In 1927, White became a daily contributor to The New Yorker magazine, and he later wrote the well-known children’s books “Stuart Little,” “Charlotte’s Web,” and “The Trumpet of the Swan.”

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In 1957, thirty-eight years after having been Professor Strunk’s student, E.B. White rediscovered the little style. Strunk was deceased, but with the original publisher’s permission, White edited and expanded Strunk’s textbook.

The book has been revised three times (twice by White), and the fourth edition (2005) contains minimal changes, a new foreword by E.B. White’s stepson, and a glossary of grammatical terms. Since its publication in 1957, more than 10 million copies have been sold. To date, it has almost 7,000 reviewers on Amazon who have collectively given it a 4.6 out of 5. So perhaps those of us who have not heard of it are just late to the party, but let’s jump in.

Seven Helpful Aspects of the Book and How It is Written

1. It is 96 pages long.

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Imagine having to read all 1,146 pages of the 17th edition of “The Chicago Manual of Style.” Just navigating the hardcover version is cumbersome!

The “AP Stylebook” is just over half as long, but it makes me yawn just to think about reading it cover to cover.

But “The Elements of Style” is short and easy to read. And it’s not boring—but more about that later.

2. The style is simple, repetitive, and clear.

First, it states the rule. Then, it gives examples of how the rule can be used to improve or correct a sentence or group of words. If there are notable exceptions to the rule, they are provided.

Rule 19, “Express coordinate ideas in similar form,” provides a sampling of the many examples that are provided throughout the book.

Rule 19 emphasizes that “. . . the writer should follow the principle of parallel construction.”

The next directive about parallel construction states:

Some words require a particular preposition in certain idiomatic uses. When such words are joined in a compound construction, all the appropriate prepositions must be included, unless they are the same.

Then:

Correlative expressions should be followed by the same grammatical construction. Many violations of this rule can be corrected by rearranging the sentence.

Perhaps you would have successfully corrected or improved each of the above, but the examples themselves show how one rule, “Express coordinate ideas in similar form,” has included several related rules and provided clear and compelling examples.

3. The explanations are succinct.

Here are but two of an entire book full of concise, easy to grasp explanations:

A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses.

Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract.

4. You can take notes, underline, and easily find things again.

Both the book’s brevity and its organization are helpful in being able to use your highlighting or underlining to easily find things again. It’s especially handy to have it on an e-book reader where you can highlight passages and copy and paste sentences into a Note. Then, you can use the table of contents, your notes, and your highlighting to quickly find what you need.

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5. It’s readable because it’s expository rather than encyclopedic.

The book “talks” to the reader. It’s not a mere listing; it’s a commentary. It’s as though your 9th grade English teacher is explaining something to you (only funnier—but we’ll get to that one, too).

Rule 3 in Chapter 1 states simply, “Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.” Then the writer admits:

This rule is difficult to apply; it is frequently hard to decide whether a single word, such as “however,” or a brief phrase is or is not parenthetic. If the interruption to the flow is slight, the commas may be safely omitted. But whether the interruption is slight or considerable, never omit one comma and leave the other. There is no defense for such punctuation as

Marjorie’s husband, Colonel Nelson paid us a visit yesterday.

Imagine the words “there is no defense for” in the AP Stylebook. But that is one reason you can enjoy and remember the explanations.

6. The voice is emphatic.

There’s nothing wishy-washy about the language in this book. When the writer (whether Strunk or White) is disdainful of certain constructions, it is clear. When it’s important that you understand, the writer makes sure his point hits home. When something is poorly worded, there’s always an example of how it can be fixed, but there is also an explanation of why it’s poorly worded or what effect it has on the reader.

For example, the commentary about the word “certainly” in the chapter called “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused” minces no words:

Certainly. Used indiscriminately by some speakers, much as others use very, in an attempt to intensify any and every statement. A mannerism of this kind, bad in speech, is even worse in writing.

Is there any doubt about the writer’s opinion of “certainly”?

7. The content is simply and logically divided.

Chapter 1: Elementary Rules of Usage – 11 Rules.

Chapter 2: Elementary Principles of Composition – 11 Rules.

Chapter 3: A Few Matters of Form – 11 short sections, beginning with a single plural noun such as “Colloquialisms,” “Headings,” “Numerals,” “Parentheses,” and “References.”

Chapter 4: Words and Expressions Commonly Misused – 121 usage errors, including misused words, words that are not interchangeable but often confused, and word endings. Some of these may trip up even experienced writers. Each is explained in one paragraph, and, in some cases, it is accompanied by an example or two as well.

Chapter 5: An Approach to Style (With a list of Reminders) – 21 reminders to help the reader create narrative writing that is tight, clear, effective, and unpretentious.

My Reactions, Some Things I Learned, and Things That Are Good To Review

Eight of My Reactions

1. Humility – I knew there were things I had to look up from time to time (besides technical terms and whether to add trademarks, registration symbols, etc.), but I was confident I was close to knowing it all. Well, Strunk and White proved me wrong. I had more than one revelation that caused me to think, “Whoops! I’ve done that incorrectly.” And there were several times that I thought, “Have I been doing that correctly?” And there were even times that I thought, “I’ve never heard that one before.”

2. Satisfaction and Appreciation – Mixed in with the humbling content, there were things in which I took satisfaction in having known and adhered to. There were things that made me thankful to have had Ms. Blocker for 9th grade English. It was good to remember her diagramming sentences on the board, how emphatically she spoke, and how desperately she wanted her teaching to stick. I wish I could write her a note and tell her that it did.

3. Amazement – How can so much be packed so tightly? By page 45, I thought, “Is there anything about writing and grammar that’s not in here?

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4. Realization (perhaps better communicated by “duh”) – I encountered things that I thought I had been doing intuitively. Strunk and White showed me that I was not so intuitive after all. “Oh,” I had to admit to myself, “there’s a rule and a reason for that. I just forgot and attributed it to my fine ear and logical mind.”

For example, Chapter 4, “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused,” addresses the use of these words:

Among. Between. When more than two things or persons are involved, “among” is usually called for: “The money was divided among the four players.” When, however, more than two are involved but each is considered individually, “between” is preferred: “an agreement between the six heirs.”

Had I been asked to fill the correct preposition in the preceding examples, I would have answered correctly. But I had forgotten or not understood the distinction to be “but each is considered individually.”

5. Surprise and Recognition – “Wow! How long has it been since I thought about that? Makes sense, though.” Here is one of the instances that took me back. Doubtless you will find others.

Rule 15, “Put statements in positive form,” provides three examples of improving a sentence by removing “not” and rewording the sentence. The writer than explains:

All three examples show the weakness inherent in “the word not. Consciously or unconsciously, the reader is dissatisfied with being told only what is not; the reader wishes to be told what is.

My reaction was, “How long has it been since I spent time thinking about the word ‘not’?” I must admit, however, it makes perfect sense.

6. Wondering About Overthinking – This made me realize that some things I’ve been overthinking or spending too much time to improve are fine the way they are. What a relief!

The idea of the word “none” being followed by a singular verb has been indelibly etched in my brain. In Rule 9, “The number of the subject determines the number of the verb,” I sailed right through using a singular verb after each, either, everyone, everybody, neither, nobody, and someone. I continued to congratulate myself in knowing:

But then I encountered this:

A plural verb is commonly used when “none” suggests more than one thing or person.

“None are so fallible as those who are sure they’re right,”

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Would I have worked at that sentence worrying that I should change the whole sentence so that it could rightly use “None is”? Would I have shrugged and said, “Well, it kind of sounds right . . .” Would I have overthought something that was already correct? Now, thanks to the writer having offered it as the exception, I don’t have to worry about it.

7- Enthusiasm – Sometimes Strunk and White simply elicits a “Yes! I wish other people could be convinced of that!” By the way, Strunk and White warns against overuse of the exclamation point, but I really am excited when I write that, and you’ll see why in a minute. Here’s what Strunk and White says:

Do not attempt to emphasize simple statements by using a mark of exclamation. The explanation mark is to be reserved for use after true exclamations or commands.

As it turns out, my sentences match the examples that are provided.

Every day, I read or hear a journalist misuse the English language. Yesterday, I read an article about a wedding. The bride died shortly before the wedding, and the families decided that the groom should marry the sister of the bride. The article began with:

“In a series of unfortunate events, a groom married the sister of his bride after she collapsed and died earlier in the wedding ceremony.”

Rule 20 of Chapter 2, “Elementary Principles of Composition,” says:

The position of the words in a sentence is the principal means of showing their relationship. Confusion and ambiguity result when words are badly placed. The writer must, therefore, bring together the words and groups of words that are related in thought and keep apart those that are not so related.

Then it provides four rules for avoiding ambiguity. Each rule is followed by an explanation and examples of awkward construction and how to improve them.

Yesterday, I also came across an article that said an endeavor “failed bigly.”

Here’s what Strunk and White has to say:

Do not construct awkward adverbs. Adverbs are easy to build. Take an adjective or a participle, add -ly, and behold! You have an adverb. But you’d probably be better off without it. … Words that are not used orally are seldom the ones to put on paper. Do not dress up words by adding -ly to them, as though putting a hat on a horse.”

And how many times have you heard, “Sadly, he passed away” or “Hopefully, the victim will survive.”

Here what Strunk and White says about “hopefully:”

This once-useful adverb meaning “with hope” has been distorted and is widely used to mean “I hope” or “it is to be hoped.” Such use is not merely wrong, it is silly. To say, “Hopefully I’ll leave on the noon plane” is to talk nonsense. Do you mean you’ll leave on the noon plane in a hopeful frame of mind? Or do you mean you hope you’ll leave on the noon plane? Whichever you mean, you haven’t said it clearly.

Now you see why I delight in saying “Yes!” and why I wish others were convinced of these blunders.

8- Pure Enjoyment – This book is short, engaging, emphatic, and sometimes an example is such a perfect distillation of the subject that you may stop, back up, and read it again. But there also some passages of unadulterated disdain that made me chuckle:

The foreseeable future. A cliché, and a fuzzy one. How much of the future is foreseeable? Ten minutes? Ten years? Any of it? By whom is it foreseeable? Seers? Experts? Everybody?

In Chapter 4, “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused,” there is a discussion of the word “people” that includes this warning:

The word “people” is best not used with words of number in place of “persons.” If, of six people, five went away, how many people would be left? Answer: one people.

Things That I Learned

Perhaps the sentences in this section will provide examples of little-known rules. Perhaps they will only serve to reveal the blog writer’s ignorance. But I am given some indication that I am not alone when I highlight a passage and my e-reader lets me know that 680 other people have highlighted the passage:

It is permissible to make an emphatic word or expression serve the purpose of a sentence and to punctuate it accordingly.

Again and again he called. No reply.

The preceding example is not one that a technical writer is likely to incorporate, but it was interesting. I knew it was employed in literature, but I didn’t know it was “correct.”

Rule 10, “Use the Proper Case of Pronoun,” contained this short gem:

Do you mind me asking a question?

Do you mind my asking a question?

In the first sentence, the queried objection is to me, as opposed to other members of the group, asking a question. In the second example, the issue is whether a question may be asked at all.

Again, I would have correctly identified the correct usage, but the example provided new insight.

I learned something from the paragraph below, as I thought “to” always followed compare in instances like these:

Compare. To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances between objects regarded as essentially of a different order; to compare with is mainly to point out differences between objects regarded as essentially of the same order. Thus, life has been compared to a pilgrimage, to a drama, to a battle; Congress may be compared with the British Parliament. Paris has been compared to ancient Athens; it may be compared with modern London.

Here are two more I’ve misused:

Enormity. Use only in the sense of “monstrous wickedness.” Misleading, if not wrong, when used to express bigness.

Claim. (verb). With object-noun, means “lay claim to.” May be used with a dependent clause if this sense is clearly intended: “She claimed that she was the sole heir.” (But even here claimed to be would be better.) Not to be used as a substitute for declare, maintain, or charge.

Things That are Good to Review

Here are some things the book offers that are worth your review.

1. Never forget structure.

Rule 12 in Chapter 2 is “Choose a suitable design and hold to it.”

A basic structural design underlies every kind of writing. Writers will in part follow this design, in part deviate from it, according to their skills, their needs, and the unexpected events that accompany the act of composition. Writing, to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur. This calls for a scheme of procedure.

2. Don’t get sloppy. Keep your editing fierce.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline.”

3. Appreciate brevity and review the techniques to achieve it.

The habitual use of the active voice, however, makes for forcible writing. Many a tame sentence of description or exposition can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice for some such perfunctory expression as “there is” or “could be heard.”

The writer then adds:

Note, in the examples above, that when a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus, brevity is a by-product of vigor.

Conclusion

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Simone Biles, 24, has won a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, making her America’s most decorated gymnast. Biles began gymnastics training when she was six years old. With 20 years of training and 32 medals, why does she need a coach?

The answer is simple. She needs critique and encouragement. Just as critique and encouragement keep Biles at peak performance, it can keep an experienced writer from lapsing into complacency.

Reading Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” combats complacency and replaces it with humility and determination. Using it for reference can provide constant encouragement. Precision can be mastered!

You may now feel like you have read dozens of reviews on a bookseller’s website. However, I hope you learned something more than the reviewer’s opinion of the book. I hope you learned something from the book itself.

And I hope you got a flavor of why it is a valuable companion reference for meticulous writers who, like those employed by The Writers For Hire, insist on precision in pursuing their craft.