Writing It Right

Recently I had the opportunity to review documents already edited by an aspiring technical writer. The issues below appeared time and time again, so I made him a checklist.

If you want to improve your technical writing, take note, and then take the quiz below!

  • Avoid gender-specific language.
  • Avoid “in order”.
  • Do not precede lists starting with a partial phrase with a colon.
  • Used closed punctuation (add a comma after the second-to-last item in a list, before the “and”).
  • Don’t use “&” in text.
  • Avoid commas before “such as”.
  • A list starting with “such as” or “including” never ends with “etc.”
  • Learn definition of “comprise”.
  • Learn rules for capitalization.
  • Learn rules for comma use.
  • Spell out numbers smaller than ten.
  • Use present tense; avoid past and future tenses.
  • An apostrophe implies possession. Do not use for plurals. “60’s” is wrong.
Time to test your new knowledge! How many issues can you spot in this paragraph? (See the end of this post for my answer.*)
The potential operator, need’s to consider the Equipment comprising the playground. He will require at least 8 types of Toys, including balls, swing sets, basketball hoops, etc. In order to start using the playground Margies children offered to supply: softballs, tennis balls & bowling pins.
And now for a laugh. I spotted this advertisement on Feb 21, 2013:
Executioner available
  • Branding
  • Positioning
  • Design
  • Copywriting

Samples on request

I must say that my hair stood on end upon reading the heading. And this guy does copywriting! Oh dear.
*I spotted 13. What about you?



Am originally an Aussie, although have now spent half my lifetime in the Holy Land. Live in the green Galilee with a willing partner and three strapping boys. Love word games. Love environmental consciousness. Love being a freelance technical communicator. Love the community where I live.
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