Learning New Things About Writing

As you know, I love grammar. After teaching writing for 25 years, you’d think I would know everything about writing. You’d think I’d become bored.

Well, I don’t. And I love that I don’t. There’s always more to learn about the craft of good writing. It makes writing and teaching writing continually exciting.

This year, I’ve been studying how to help technical writers improve their craft. I normally teach more creative writing for those in the humanities. But when you work with scientists, mathematicians, and engineers (aerospace, computer, architectural, civil, mechanical, chemical, electrical), you teach them mostly about precision, clarity, and order in a document. You help them simplify complex concepts. Besides all the things I regularly teach (strong verbs, audience, persuasive techniques, pacing), I find I’m teaching so many new things and emphasizing new skills:

I teach about descriptive versus functional headings and how to guide readers through a document. I teach the advanced grammar of using interrogatives (asking the reader a guiding question) avoiding nominalization (when you turn a verb into a noun), perfecting parallel structure in a sentence, and making use of adjectival nouns to eliminate too many prepositions. So many new skills! I’m loving it! Do you know all these concepts? I didn’t! Technical writers need these skills. It turns out I do, too.

I’m becoming a better wrier. I’m becoming more precise.

I think about all these genius students who will go change the world. I think about all the things they’ll write in their lifetime. What a joy to be part of their journey!

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