Researching Tech Comm Best Practice

Abbreviated language is a bug-bear of mine at the moment. It’s not necessarily that I deplore it, but more that I’m having difficulty locating research into its actual effect on clarity. Does it matter if we cut some of the little words out of sentences? For example, here’s an instruction for general practitioners:

Request [a] specialist assessment if [the patient’s] headache episodes [are] not controlled by [the] above treatments

Has anyone tested whether abbreviated language helps or hinders the reader? This question got me thinking about research into matters central to our daily work. Earnsy Liu, in her quarterly What’s the Evidence? column in TechCommWire, often has a hard time finding research that answers the questions we pose. What if technical communicators, as a global network, were to crowd-fund some research? Would you give a little? Please complete my mini-survey and tell me whether you think this would fly:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/crowdfundresearch

You can also read Earnsy’s February literature review, which is about Metaphors in tech comm.
Did you know you can look up past articles on our Best Practice Round-Up page?

2 thoughts on “Researching Tech Comm Best Practice

  1. Evidence shows that omitting words decreases readability. Read ‘The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market’ by Kohl. (ISBN 978-1-59994-657-3, http://support.sas.com/publishing/authors/kohl.html.) Refer to Appendix D about ‘syntactic cues’.

  2. Hi Mike

    Thanks for that – it’s extremely helpful. I had never thought to search on ‘syntactic clues’. I note that most of the research he quotes is 20+ years old, and I have no idea whether that matters or not.

    Cheers Em

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