Today I examine that same theme through a related but different lens: the difference between written English and spoken English. Long time readers of this blog will recognize the importance of understanding the difference between written English and spoken English as one of my persistent themes. That’s because understanding that difference can help technical writers to produce more effective writing.
Consider the example sentence in the graphic above. Most would say, “The sentence appears fine.” And that’s the problem right there.
Fine as commonly used is simply colloquial, and colloquial writing is less formal writing. More effective technical writing demands a more formal tone. What is it about fine that creates the informality? It’s the vague nature of its true meaning.
When used in speech, fine generally conveys a sense of positiveness or acceptability. This relates to meanings such as high quality but differs from other actual denotations, such as refined, thin, or delicate. In speech, many nonverbal cues can fill in those gaps. The written word, however, has no such cues.
Employing precision of language helps to convey the formality more effective technical writing requires by avoiding ambiguity. Compare the difference made to the example sentence in the cropped graphic above with the changed sentence below.
It’s very common in speech to employ informal constructs. But more effective technical writing demands that writers avoid informality. So it’s fine to avoid fine. If you must use it, make sure you intend to convey the denotation of refined, thin, or delicate. Your readers will have a better presentation or your message, and that will improve their impression of you and your brands in their minds.