For those of you out there writing for businesses, churning out corporate documents, letters, professional emails and all of that, how much attention do you pay to the language you’re using? Do you find yourself using twenty-five words when ten would do? Have you been using ‘utilise’, ‘elucidate’ and ‘price points’ for so long, you’ve forgotten words like ‘use’, ‘explain’ and ‘cost’ exist? Have you been using ‘action’ as a verb??
This post is for you! I’ve been looking around for resources for professional and technical writers, and I’ve come up with quite a few good links.
First, one of my favourites is weaselwords.com. Spawned by Watson’s Dictionary of Weasel Words, Contemporary Cliches, Cant & Management Jargon, by former political speechwriter Don Watson, this site collects some truly impressive examples of obfuscating, irritatingly waffling language. I can also recommend his book Death Sentence, which is basically a really entertaining rant about the decline of the English language.
Another book to take a look at is The Professional Writing Guide: Writing Well and Knowing Why, by Roslyn Petelin and Marsha Durham. It covers spelling, punctuation, grammar and sentence construction, includes letter templates, guides to writing emails and memos, tips for formatting professional documents, and advice on creating a style guide. Petelin and Durham also advocate plain English over weasel words, and there’s lots of examples to help you work out how to apply their advice.
I found quite a few links via Manage Your Writing, to jargon dictionaries, websites extolling the virtues of plain language, and a whole textbook about technical writing. There’s also The Cluetrain Manifesto, which isn’t a writing guide as such, but more a book about the internet and online marketing. It’s a bit old-school, created in 1999, but the chapter I read was really interesting.
I also came across 50 Awesome Open Source Resources for Online Writers, which includes links to writing software, online dictionaries and references, and heaps of other useful little tools and bits and pieces. Check out the organisers that can help you track your submissions and who you’re waiting to hear from, the dictionaries you can add to your desktop, and the handful of alternatives to Microsoft Word. They’ve got links to screenplay formatting programs, organisers for non-fiction citations, and even a program that will help you track storylines in a long piece of writing.