Writing What You Don’t Know

Not only do I compose fiction, I also write non-fiction — for a company. It’s a great gig. And I’m happy with it.

One of the interesting challenges I face is how to write instructions for the novice user without alienating those with more experience. This also involves updating the previous year’s documentation. Sometimes the written language is incomprehensible. At times, it’s entertainingly wrong. Still, the majority of the time, it’s a case of the original writer never having used the product and writing the instructions without adequate research. Makes for terrible inaccuracies.

For example: ironing various fabrics. One type requires special care and ironing techniques. The original writer merely stated to iron in the direction of the pile. No. If you’ve ever done that, you get a shiny result that means the pile has been crushed (it can be saved by taking it to a professional dry cleaner). But, oh well, guess the original writer never had to “iron” velvet. And it’s obvious they didn’t research it or read the label.

Fortunately, this is illuminating for me and good reminder to be very careful when compiling instructions. Errors that can be avoided, should be avoided.

The same caution applies to writing fiction: if you don’t know something, look it up. Pressed for time? So? Look it up anyway. Better to be correct in this case, than glaringly wrong. And, anyway, the Internet provides you with a good starting point. Use it? 🙂

Writing What You Don’t Know

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