Monday, August 27, 2012

short and sweet

I was reading through old "ask a manager" posts and came across this one regarding short cover letters. If you read down through the posts, AAM and the comment corps have a rousing discussion of business vs. academic writing and the need to write clearly and concisely.

Nobody wants to read a three-page cover letter. And nobody wants to read technical reports that put you to sleep two pages in.

I am a relentless cutter of superfluous words. I hate the unnecessary passive voice, sentences that you get lost in and have to start over to figure out what the suject is, and redundant phrases. I love thwacking through the clutter to edit a mess into something that is readable.

Not everyone shares my mania for clear, concise technical writing. But it doesn't hurt to keep in mind that in science, what matters are the ideas. This isn't high school, where you're trying to pad your 11th-hour essay to fit the word count. Nobody cares how big your words are - and if they're too big, perhaps it's time to abbreviate. Remember, you're writing to communicate, not punish the reader!

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