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Jimmy Cracked a Comma and No One Cares

The title of my post is a reference back to Tom Johnson’s recent post, Duct Tape Technical Writers.  He uses that term to describe technical writers who worry more about their product and less about the grammar rules only a few really know.  He praises such writers because of three major results they produce:

1. They get the product out there.

2. They save their company money.

3. They’re aware of their audience, and they use it to their advantage (they don’t spend two hours worrying about a colon).

Is it wrong for a technical writer to care about grammar?  I don’t think it is, but maybe it’s not a bad idea for us to be careful how much time we spend on it.  If we’re costing our companies time and money that we don’t need to, we’re not doing our jobs.  So how do we strike a good balance?  I expect point three from the list above is our answer: know your audience.  If you’re writing instruction manuals, chances are your audience won’t care if a comma’s missing or if you forget to capitalize a word.  They will care if you give them a sentence that they, for the life of them, can’t figure out.  So maybe we ought to feel okay producing work closer to the copy editing level?  We can’t allow lethargy in our work, and we can’t allow perfectionism, so maybe the best idea is to allow leniency?  I think if we’re concerned about producing a quality product, but realize a few things are a little off, we can allow for some leniency in order to get our product out in the open and get our companies in the green.

Till next time,

John R Larsen

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