Saundra Adams of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. chalked up a gem for the record when she said that her goal in my writing seminar was to improve in her ability to distinguish fact from friction in her writing. At first, one might consider her statement a malapropism of the cliché, “distinguish fact from fiction.”
But think again. In technical writing, straying from the facts may lead to friction, so choose words carefully. For example, suppose Joe, your manager, said at a staff meeting, “I think we could reduce operating expenses by subcontracting our printing services.” In the meeting minutes, you should not write :
Joe thinks we could reduce operating expenses by subcontracting our printing services.
That sort of writing seems like you’re reading the boss’s mind. In this situation, you have three better choices:
1. Do not write about his comment at all.
2. Write precisely what he said by directly quoting him: Joe said, “I think we could reduce operating expenses by subcontracting our printing services.”
3. Ask Joe for clarification before writing the comment.
In any case, remember that Joe is the boss, so get his approval before writing. Why? It’s not always the facts that count, but the facts that management wants to discuss. That mindset will help you in distinguishing fact from friction.
To purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by Philip Vassallo, click here: http://firstbooks.com/shop/shopexd.asp?id=144