Language ROI Uncategorized Writing

What is Bad Spelling Costing You?

According to an article making the rounds last week from the good ol’ beeb: Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales:

He says he measured the revenue per visitor to the website and found that the revenue was twice as high after an error was corrected.

Language Uncategorized Writing


You know that obnoxiously trite line “The Oxford English Dictionary defines (fill in the blank with a simple word) as…”?  It just got a whole lot worse.

Recent additions to “the OED” (does everything need an acronym?) include LOL, ego-surf, and smack talk.  I gave the monitor the evil eye as I scrolled down the list of newly added and updated terms.  Now these words that will almost certainly fall out of style are cemented in our language ( says that entries are never deleted).

What about this bothers me so much? 

Business Language Writing

Words That Sting

Buzzwords are just like bad pop stars: they appear mysteriously, gain fans like the plague spreads, and seemingly vanish; yet new ones are constantly appearing.  Why do we continuously go through this cycle?

STS has banned buzzwords.  I learned quickly that even saying “buzzword” meant trouble—someone would be on a rant soon.  So I made a list of the most-abused words with suggested alternatives.  I hope I haven’t just created the new lingo.

Business E-mail Humor? Language Writing

A Quick, Easy Way to Save Bandwidth and Not Annoy People

As technical writers, we at Shoap Technical Services feel strongly about words. We feel they hold more power when chosen carefully and used with purpose.  We pride ourselves on only writing as much as needed to accurately convey a message, without allowing room for waste.

That’s why we reserve a very special type of hatred for one of those semi-universal annoyances of modern business culture: the e-mail footer disclaimer.  It should come as no surprise, then, that we took great pleasure in reading this Economist article explaining exactly how pointless these are. It all boils down to the fact that most of these disclaimers are unenforceable since they seek to impose contractual obligations in a unilateral way.

So please, please, save your bandwidth and mine.  Kill the disclaimers.

Language Process Writing

Free Technical Writing Workshop: 21st Century Trends @ Kennesaw State University

If you’re located in the greater Atlanta area and interested in technical writing, instructional design and related fields, you might want to stop by Kennesaw State University on April 14. KSU will be hosting a free workshop on 21st-Century Trends in Publishing and Researching in Writing Studies, followed by a Q+A session on publishing processes for scholarly publications.

Both the workshop and Q+A session will be led by technical writing expert Dr. Amy Koerber, editor of the Technical Communications Quarterly journal and associate professor of Technical Communication and Rhetoric in the English Department at Texas Tech University.

Registration is encouraged! For more information, check out the Georgia Writer’s Association event page at

Language Writing

Putting technical back into technical writing

As a student of writing for well over 40 years, I’ve learned one thing: you can’t write about what you don’t understand.  This is true whether the topic is Shakespeare’s contemporaries (my doctoral thesis topic), what you did during your summer vacation (a topic I never assigned when I taught Comp 101), or the attributes of an SQL database (which my company has recently done).  Or perhaps a more accurate statement might be, you can write about something you don’t understand but no one will understand what you’re saying.

Humor? Language Writing

Think That Abbreviation Through

As a technical writer, I feel communicating well is the primary focus of my job. Perhaps this is why I found the following email exchange particularly comical today:

Email from <name deleted to protect the innocent … or not so innocent>:

Language Writing

In Defense of Jargon

Someone recently posted an interesting question and answer over at TechWR-L that I wanted to touch on briefly as it is a topic on my (obviously) neglected list of things to blog about. The question was about how much jargon is okay to use in documentation. The answer posted in a comment was:

You only have too much jargon if the jargon interferes with the ability of the audience to understand what you’re trying to communicate. If the audience speaks that jargon on a daily basis, you’re doing them a disservice by trying to eliminate their jargon.


Passive Voice Rescued By Internet Scientists

After years of slander and ridicule, passive voice has been found to be useful by Jakob Nielsen’s eye-tracker research. Mr. Nielsen’s article, titled Passive Voice Redeemed for Web Headings, makes an excellent case for the use of passive voice as a sneaky way of “front-loading” keywords in headings for blog posts, articles, or other web content. It cites recent eye-tracker research as proof that Internet users tend to focus only on the first few words of a headline.