Jan 9, 2007

Technical Writing

by Terri Wagner

First, I must say the warm buttery grits I had for breakfast helped with the very cold temperature here in Dixie. Ok, I realize that 55 isn't cold for most of you but here on the Gulf Coast, it's chilly. I live about 12 miles from Pensacola and am a proud member of the SEC so the championship game last night was particularly satisfying, although it makes for an early morning.

I am an associate editor for a trade publication, which means I do a lot of writing for work and spend a lot of time in front of a computer which means I have to be careful what I eat, ha. Working for a magazine is fun because everyday there's a new challenge. My responsibilities include writing up news items, covering trade show events, editing incoming articles and proofing. Needless to say, we spend time arguing over whether that sentence needs a comma or not. This drives our managing editor crazy because she rightly so reminds us our clientile won't care if the comma goes there or not.

And that's really my point for the day. Whether you write about, remember the audience. Who are you pitching this to? As writers, we have a tendency to write to the editor/publisher/agent because in most cases they hold the key for our future. But the readers count most of all. In my time here I have edited hightly technical work from China, Russia and Europe, all of which have their funny little ways so different from the U.S. I have also discovered there are plentys of egos out there. Some of our long-term authors from outside the U.S. actually think their English is better than ours. Makes for lively emails posts in the proofing stage.

So skip all the agony over grammer and puncuation, believe me, the inhouse editors will fuss and fight over that anyway, pitch your story/article to your audience.

Anything exciting in my trade? Well yes there is. In 2002, I attended the very first Space Elevator conference in Seattle. It's an sci-fi prediction from the 1880s coming true for us. If you want to know more, check out Elevator World's, January 2001 issue at our site www.elevator-world.com. Yes, I wrote it and I am proud of that article, but the whole concept is quite amazing. And right now Europe is in the lead on getting it done.

Terri Wagner


  1. I didn't think I'd ever see the phrase 'warm, buttery grits' in the same article with 'space elevator.' It's a marvelous juxtaposition, and, I feel, must give a peek into the personality of the writer. (Check out the comma placement! Right? Wrong?)

  2. Comma placement is correct in the U.S. version of things, ha. I think the warm grits and space elevator tells you I adore science fiction and fantasy which means what I don't know.

  3. And right now Europe is in the lead on getting it done.

    They are? I'm not being all full of myself and there is a great deal of interest in the space elevator from Europe but ... most of what is actually going on in that realm appears to be US baed at the moment.

    What have I missed?

    Brian Dunbar

  4. Interesting post, Terri...and, yes, 55 feels cold to me as I'm here in sunny Gilbert, Arizona. As for space elevators, my first thought was not where they're being developed but whether they come equipped with wireless connectivity and laptops! If so, they'd make for a great way to get to the top of my favorite hills anyway!

  5. Hi Brian,

    I get all your stuff from the Liftport newsletter by email, but it was actually Brad Edwards that admitted to a blogger who interviewed him that NASA while funding parts of the SE project was not really prompting it while European private enterprises were.

    Was Brad wrong on that? I know there was a big falling out between him and Liftport some time back. It may be Brad is just natually pessimistic, ha.


  6. Wow, Terri! I wish I had some warm grits and a space elevator. I guess I could come up with the former, but the latter is still in the works, yes?

    Great post!

  7. Hi Marsha,

    Thanks. And yes the SE is going to happen, in my lifetime is debatable but it will happen. What's interesting is will it be a private enterprise in Europe, private enterprise in the U.S. or will NASA finally jump in the fray.


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