Guardian says ‘optimising text for Ceefax, is inexcusable’

Today, I thought I would take a moment to point you at one of the funnier articles about technical writing I’ve read recently. After all, it is nearly Christmas.

The piece, by Martin Robbins on the Guardian Web site, is intended to reveal the clichés that journalists find themselves applying when they write about science for national newspapers. And it does that pretty effectively, repeating one good joke all the way through. By the end even the people commenting on the article have caught on. I even caught on, as you can see from the headline of this Blog entry.

Robbins went on to write another piece a week later, offering his vision for curing poor science writing. This too is pretty good reading.

But what can we learn from this, as the technical PR and marketing folk producing the material that these kinds of articles are ultimately based on? Well, we can learn two things:

1, Imitate the clichés: Yes, that’s right; all the things Mr Robbins says are bad, can be copied and used in PR material. They are clichés because they are effective. George Orwell would be rolling in his grave, both because I’m advocating employing clichés and because I’m employing a cliché in advocating them, but they do work. The trick is to slowly grow your army of clichés until you grow beyond them.

2, Don’t imitate the clichés: Which of course is number two. Genuinely expressive writing can be a wonderful way of reaching your audience and is required for everything you do to promote your company – from writing a press release to drafting your AdWords campaign. So, do some.

By the way, if you want to know what today’s headline is about, you will have to read Robbin’s second article. Not really what headlines are for, I realise, but I’m ignoring that particular cliché today.

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Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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