Here’s a little tip from my technical editing and grammar class about why there’s so much accepted redundancy in English:
“It all goes back to that fateful Battle in Hastings in 1066. After the Anglo-Saxons lost, Norman rule was established in England and with it, a second language. In order to rule the country (and be understood), court officials, lawmakers, and judges had to repeat themselves in both official languages (sound familiar?). Commoners, anxious to put on airs and sound official, incorporated these redundancies into everyday language, bringing about some of the phrases we have today:
- Null (Anglo) and Void (Norman)
- Just (Anglo) and Proper (Norman)
This writing habit is now so widespread that writers often think they need to use the and/or construct to accommodate both words, when the best solution is to simply remove the offending redundant word or phrase.”
In one of the courses I teach at BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology), I received an email from a very keen participant asking how to prepare for the course (Technical Editing and Grammar course – 1008). Inspired by such enthusiasm (this is what makes September great!), I decided to take it further and include information for anyone interested in improving their core skills as a technical writer.
Get a Quality Style Guide – Consider ordering the Chicago Manual of Style (I have both an online and hard copy version). It’s an excellent investment for anyone interested in high-quality English-language writing.
Learn MS Word – Research the Track Changes feature in MS Word. There are other software programs technical writers need for writing, but MS Word is still the most common. As a technical writer, you’re expected to use Word at an advanced level.
Learn hard copy markup – It may seem archaic, but hard copy markup makes you indispensable when editing and developing large documents).
Learn the Most Common Grammar Errors – In my course, we learn the ten-top grammar errors. Don’t feel you have to know all grammar errors (that’s what a good style guide is for), but your credibility as a writer is increased exponentially if you know the core ones. To find out the ten-top grammar errors, take my course.
Write, write, write! – to get your foot in the door, take every opportunity you can to write and edit even if it means working for free. Ensure you ask low paying (or non paying) clients to let you keep a copy of the before and finished versions, so you can use them to market yourself.
Throughout both COMM 1007 – Technical Writing Style and COMM 1008 – Technical Editing and Grammar classes, Jason stressed the importance of learning industry standard software used in technical writing. The amusing visuals he used and his approachable manner helped to make the classes very engaging. And his frequent anecdotes about experience in the industry helped me understand something about the real work of a technical writer.