Technical Writing: Listening

I recently participated in a discussion on LinkedIn where another writer posited a question about the best Technical Writing tool. My immediate thought was that my most important tool was ‘listening.’ If you are a technical writer, you probably already know how important listening is. Although, I have met more than a few tech writers who just write what they hear without really listening. If you are an aspiring tech writer, listening is a skill you should develop as quickly as possible.

Notice in the previous paragraph, I made the distinction between hearing and listening. This is a major distinction. Most of our information is gathered through interviewing various sources, primarily the Subject Matter Expert, or SME-pronounced smee, like the pirate. The only problem with this is that most of the SMEs don’t speak any language but their own. That means we have to learn to speak SME. Unfortunately, the SMEs don’t all speak the same language either so you have to learn the language of each individual SME.

Not only do we have to learn to speak SME, we have to be able to listen between the lines. By this I mean that the SME may be saying words you can understand but those words don’t fit with what you are documenting. So, you have to backfill. When the discussion seems to be veering in an unfamiliar direction, you have to stop the SME and ask for more information, more what, why, and where. This can sometimes make you feel like an idiot, usually because the SME is looking at you like you are an idiot but my recommendation is to just smile a nice vacant smile and keep probing. And, don’t worry. Feeling like an idiot will seem normal in no time.

One way to be certain you have heard what the SME intended to say is to reword the information and say it back to the same SME. They will frequently recognize that you repeated what they said but it really wasn’t what they meant to say. What? Yeah, it gets confusing.

All of this seeking and listening can be time consuming for both you and the SME. My best advice is to write first and question later, when that is possible. So, if you can write topics from requirements or specifications, do that. Or write topics from your own observations of the user interface or technical documents. Or write topics based on all the bits and pieces you picked up at meetings, if you were lucky enough to be invited to meetings.

Why write first? I have found that most SMEs find repeated personal interviews to be intrusive and a waste of their time. If you can cobble something together on your own for the SME to read and speak to, the SME will easily be able to see if you are on the right path and correct you if you are not. You may even get lucky and get it right the first time saving both of you some unnecessary effort. If you are way off base, the SME still has something substantive to use while straightening you out. In any case, most SMEs appreciate the fact that you are making an effort on your own.

When not to listen to SMEs requires some experience, as well. Some SMEs fall in love with their own prose and want to see it word-for-word in the final copy. They really think that they are the writers and all we do is type it into the final format, whatever that is. If you don’t handle these SMEs carefully, you may have the devil’s own time getting information out of them again. Blame your edits on space or the editor or suck it up and admit you have to earn your keep somehow.

Two other sources of excess word creep you need to not listen to are the requirements engineers and the marketing folks. Some of the requirements writers and engineers not only want to tell the end user how to use their product but the logic behind the user interface and what it offers. When this happens, you can try to explain that end user wants to stay in ignorance of how the sausage was made. Or, you can just put one finger of each hand in each of your ears and start singing while they are talking. This usually works but it can also make future encounters a bit tense.

As for the Marketing types, you should out that the current marketing must have worked because the end user already bought the product and further marketing blah-blah is probably not necessary.

In any case, listening beyond hearing, listening judiciously, and not listening to every SME or marketing director who fancy themselves technical writers, are learned skills that are a part of every technical writer’s toolbox. Use them wisely.

Online Business and Article Writing

Article writing is a legitimate way to promote your online business and ensure a good supply of targeted and interested traffic arrives at your site and you can consequently make money at home.

The headline is important for any article that you write to promote your online business but what if people get into your article and find that what you are writing about is rubbish. What does this do for your online business promotion? Does this help you make money at home?

It flaws it and weakens it and this is not what you are trying to do as your key objective of writing articles is to be informative and to drive interested and targeted traffic to your web site. So writing inferior articles defeats the purpose of your primary goal and this should always be considered before submitting an article to the Ezines.

To create your intriguingly interesting article content you need to learn to keep on track and although some people are pushing out a thousand and one articles every twenty four hours with some article creation machine there is no comparison between these and a well thought out and delivered article.

Another advantage of keeping on track when writing your article is that people will follow what you have to say right to the end of the article and this will lead them to your website link. If they then enter your link then there is a fair possibility that they will end up doing business with you.

Another issue that you may find when you are submitting the same article to numerous Ezines is that you have issues with duplicate content. With all the information going around on the internet there is always potential issues that the exact same article will end up being on several different directories.

This probably wouldn’t be such an issue if Google and other major search engines hadn’t had to confront the problem and come up with a workable solution. The solution that they arrived at was to relegate ‘duplicate content’ in whatever form it was found to be ‘junk’.

This causes major concern for the article marketer and the article directory owners. The directory owners seem to have overcome this issue to some degree by adding comments and other paraphernalia to articles within the directory so that they are never 100% the same as articles in other directories. They also have policy on authors being required to only submit original work.

As webmasters with our own blogs and Squidoo lenses etc it would be wise if we followed similar policy for our own sites as a way of ensuring they remain highly relevant to the search engines due to their uniqueness.

Article writers however have faced this problem some have decided to stay with only the top ranking article publishers and write unique articles for these recognized publishers like Ezines and Go Articles. This is a good option as you will build a base of readers who look forward to your articles being written knowing that they won’t be found anywhere else. Your ‘expert’ status is probably the easiest to build using this method.

Some authors use the method above but then re write the articles after they have been accepted by the major publishers and then submit them to the article directories. This too is fine if you have the time to make the changes and you know what you are doing.

Others have not changed how they present their articles and have left the problem up to the directories. This isn’t a bad option either but if you want to publish as wide as possible this option probably isn’t the best because it will see some of your articles being rejected or removed because of duplicate content.

Article writers need to consider avoiding duplicate content and how best they can overcome the issues that face them in this area. The major issue though is content. Writers write on subjects that are relevant and they write to eventually become recognized as experts, even if you are an expert for the novice you want your content to hold up and be relevant and helpful to your audience.

This is the main aim of writing articles to create good back links for your online business website.

Royal Letter Writing As a Social Commentary

In April 2008 at the age of 86, Prince Philip was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection. Articles and press reports about his well-being emerged over the next couple of days. Many mentioned that he was able to read and answer letters from his bed, which suggests a reassuring level of health. Oh… he must be okay if he can receive and  write  letters. Indeed, this reference to the prince’s health and letter  writing  demonstrates the strong and ongoing relationship between the British monarchy and letter  writing . The death of Princess Diana and the publication of her letters brought renewed attention to the practice of correspondence. Princess Dianne was an avid letter writer, a  custom  that served her well with hundreds of adoring subjects but proved to be highly problematic for the royal family. Who can forget the letters to her butler?

Throughout history we capture a glimpse into a historical time through the published letters of the reigning monarch. For example, the letter  written  by Elizabeth 1 in the sixteenth century shows of the current turmoil between her and Mary, Queen of Scots:

October I586.

You have in various ways and manners attempted to take my life and to bring my kingdom to destruction by bloodshed. I have never proceeded so harshly against you, but have, on the contrary, protected and maintained you like myself. These treasons will be proved to you and all made manifest. Yet it is my will, that you answer the nobles and peers of the kingdom as if I were myself present. I therefore require, charge, and command that you make answer for I have been well informed of your arrogance.

Act plainly without reserve, and you will sooner be able to obtain favour of me


This example demonstrates the power of letter writing as a social and historical commentary. It is clear that Elizabeth 1 was pretty ticked off with Mary Queen of Scotts and told her so in very plain terms. It seems that the current royals are as enthusiastic in their letter writing today as their ancestors have been throughout history. Their view of and perspectives on life will undoubtedly be preserved.

Historically, there are instances of the more common man writing letters that were posthumously published; the works of Samuel Pepyes in the seventeenth century are an example. I would like to pose a question… How will our descendants know about their social history in four hundred years time? Instant messaging is wonderfully instant– but also quite temporary. Letter writing offers the means and ways by which to preserve our individual social histories.


Harrison, G. B., ed. The Letters of Queen Elizabeth I.

New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1968. 181

Dissertation Editing Service

A dissertation editing service provides professional editing and proofreading services to improve your dissertation. Even if you have completed your rough draft dissertation, a professional dissertation editing service can make all the difference in the final quality of your dissertation. If your final dissertation is concise, well documented, clear, and organized, it will be accepted by the dissertation board.

Requirement for Graduation

A dissertation is an essential component of a Ph.D. or doctoral study. As a student, dissertation editing is the most important academic task you will ever perform. Yet most students are exhausted by the time they have a rough draft. A dissertation editing service can help to fix any details you may have overlooked. Regardless of your topic or subject, the dissertation must fulfill all academic requirements specified to your university. It will contribute substantially towards the doctoral student’s field of study. In the vast majority of doctoral programs, submitting an accepted Ph.D. dissertation is a requirement. You cannot graduate until your dissertation is finalized, defended, and ultimately accepted by your review board.

Various Components of Editing

A professional dissertation editing service can provide a multitude of editing and proofreading services specific to your needs and comments. For instance the edited dissertation will be grammatically flawless and formatting will be perfect. It is also urgent to have proper organization and structure. The service must ensure your dissertation writing reflects an academic style of writing, from the introduction to the conclusion. In addition to manually and thoroughly checking the dissertation manually by an expert editor, the editing service will run your paper through spelling and grammar check software to ensure that the writing is flawless.

Citations and Avoiding Plagiarism

Since plagiarism can result in the rejection of your dissertation, the dissertation editing service ought to check for plagiarism, citations, and proper quotes and paraphrases. Sometimes writers accidentally plagiarize. The editing services can make sure that all quotes are properly cited with the page number. If it is a direct quote, it must be cited with a page number and author. Even if you paraphrase, there still needs to be an intext citation.

Once you have gone through the very lengthy process that leads to the final completion of your dissertation, it needs to be edited thoroughly. Even if you read it critically several times, you may still not be able to see your errors in language, formatting, or citations. This will be particularly true if this is your first attempt at writing a dissertation. Hiring a dissertation editing service provides advantage of having your writing reviewed by professionals and experts, who are likely to have reviewed hundreds of such dissertations.