17 Mar Jargon-free Writing: Tips for Techies
Scientists and engineers are not known for their writing skills… they even joke about it. But some interesting research has been done that points to the need for scientists and those studying and working in technical fields to be skilled writers as well as experts in their field. This movement has been going on for some time, and lately has been getting more attention as schools focus on skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).
In an article appearing in The Atlantic, Alexandra Ossola discusses a writing class for scientists at New York University where professor, journalist and author Stephen Hall challenges his students to distill their highly detailed research into just three paragraphs. Hall’s class is one example of many offered at colleges and universities where budding scientists are honing their writing skills beginning at the baccalaureate level. As educators focus on STEM skills in early learners, it’s clear that writing skills can and should be taught early among all children, including those kids prone to technical fields.
Heather Wolpert-Gawron sums it up in a post for Edutopia. STEM and Writing is a Super Combination. She addresses this very issue; instilling writing skills in kids to energize and empower their enthusiasm for science and technology
As communicators and marketers, we are often asked to play the writing role on behalf of technical professionals. Are there writers in this group? Yes, and highly creative minds too. But from experience, there can be a certain level of anxiety about writing among these colleagues. Building these skills early among technical professionals and bridging the gap with an ability to articulate their findings in plain language can only smooth the path. No one succeeds alone. Scientists need marketers, manufacturing engineers, efficiency and logistics experts, and above all capital, to leverage their work in a business environment. To get these people on board, scientists and engineers need the ability to tell their stories.
Some tips for STEM professionals about writing with clarity:
- Stay away from jargon. It’s not easy to do because the closer you are to a subject the more you accept jargon as common language. It is not. Simplify word choices.
- Know your audience and speak to them. It’s not so much about how you did it but what you learned and how that knowledge can be translated into a business opportunity.
- Tell the story. Be able and willing to explain your work in the narrative form. Problem, conflict, solution.
- Help people understand the implications of your results… what does/could this information mean? What is special about it? What are the unique differentiators?