Re: extra words: unnecessary or educational?

Subject: Re: extra words: unnecessary or educational?
From: "Robert Plamondon" <robert -at- plamondon -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 07:03:13 -0700

The problem with extra words is that they open extra cans of worms, which
then must be dealt with. The solution is generally to decide what it is
that you're trying to get across, and to say only that.

Additional MATERIAL can be a good thing, where you give examples, diagrams,
tables, equations, photographs, or whatever illustrates the point you're
trying to make. But it's rare for technical writing to suffer from excessive
focus. It's more typical for the text to be unfocused, raising lots of
issues in the reader's mind that are never dealt with properly.

All in all, I prefer:

"Your workstation's transfer program copies files to and from remote


>When you access the transmission program from a connected workstation, you
>can transfer files from the system's hard disk to the workstation or in
>the reverse direction (from workstation to hard disk).

In addition to being shorter, it avoids the following issues in the

1. Both the "workstation" and the "system" are systems. Confusing.

2. In the original, it's not really clear where the user sits. At the
workstation? At the "system"? Does he have to shuttle between both?

3. The location of the transfer program is also vague. The user presumably
launches a workstation-resident transfer program and uses it to communicate
with the "system."

4. Both the "workstation" and the "system" presumably have hard disks, but
only the "system's" hard disk is mentioned. Why? Does the specific mention
of "hard disks" mean that the transfer program can't move files to RAID
arrays, floppy disks, RAM disks, network disks, Flash disks, etc.? Better to
drop the mention of hard disks than to open this can of worms.

5. "Copy" is more precise than "transfer." The implications of "copy" are
that the original file is left in place, and a new copy is made on the
target system. The implications of "transfer" and "move" are that the file
exists in only one place at a time. These terms are widely abused, but the
implications remain nonetheless.

6. The phrase, "a connected workstation" is clumsy and vague. If all we
mean is that both systems need network connections, this is the expected
case these days (definitely so for workstations; less so for PCs), and
probably should not be mentioned in an introductory sentence.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon
President, High-Tech Technical Writing
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com
(541) 453-5841


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