The Murder of the English Language

A man wearing a black suite with a black bowtie and a brown and black fedora sits in a black wingback chair. He has a serious look on his face, looking at the camera. He's smoking a cigar.The Case: What happened?

Process owners have been waiting almost three weeks to find out what happened to their document. Imagine waiting weeks not knowing what happened to your brainchild, your newly documented process. Not knowing if it is complete or up to the high standards you require it to be at. Not knowing if all knowledge gaps have been addressed or if another Subject Matter Expert meeting is required. It is that crippling uncertainty that document loved ones (process owners) face on a daily basis. But for one process owner, the endless wondering and waiting would finally be over.

On a Wednesday morning, the process owner finally gets a phone call from the technical writing department. The writer on the phone asks, “Are you sitting down?” The process owner replies in an anxiety-laced voice, “Do I need to be?” The technical writer says “brace yourself, we found your document.”

After weeks of waiting, the team will finally know the truth. Now it is up to technical writers (aka grammar detectives) to find out how this document wound up dead.

For technical writers, the clock starts ticking the moment they are called. On a day, just like any other day an email was sent. This email contained a document that was mangled beyond repair. It is a terrible thing to see a document end up grammatically abused and trashed before it really had a chance to live (or be useful). What could have happened to turn an ordinary, everyday, technical process into an incomprehensible mess?

When you’ve got a weeks-old (grammatical) homicide to investigate, where do you start? We had no witnesses. Very little evidence, and a document that needed justice (and major revisions). Let us set the stage.

Suspects: Who done it?

Who failed to use their automatic spell-check mechanism so miserably? Were people aiding and abetting stylistic mistakes due to a time crunch on the horizon or a personal fondness for the subject matter?

It could have been anyone. The subject matter expert who wrote the first draft of the process. The team members who reviewed it. The writer or designer who breathed life into the document and made it a finished product. The editor who supposedly reviewed the document. The project manager who signed off on it. There were very few digital footprints to track. Each suspect seemed as likely as the next one.

Evidence: How was the document destroyed?

The modus operandi, or methods employed by the criminals to execute the crime, prevent detection, and facilitate the escape were many. Weapons of choice used on the John Doe Document included:

Serial Spelling Errors

Confusion of homophones, like “their” versus “there,” ignorance of the “i before e” rule, and subject-verb agreement mistakes.

Illogical Narrative

The document was not organized in a way that made sense and improved clarity, there was no table of contents to guide users to the information they needed.

Counterfeit Facts

Statistics were not backed up with credible citations, and misleading or incorrect information was provided.

Overly Technical Jargon

A key vocabulary word section was missing, technical terms were not defined, and assumptions were made about the audience’s level of knowledge and familiarity with the subject.

Suspected Unaddressed Knowledge Gaps

Parts of the process were missing, key steps were glazed over, and images that add value were not captured or included.

Warped Use of Punctuation

Misuse of commas, periods, colons, semicolons, and exclamation points.

Crimes of Style

Formatting is inconsistent, color choices are not accessible for color-blind users, and point of view and tense use are all over the place.

Crimes of Passion: Why did they do it?

What would possess someone to abuse a document so? What did they gain by failing to review the document for spelling errors and user-friendliness? We believe the perpetrator was motivated by a fast-approaching deadline and other high-priority projects. They did not premeditate the crime. It was a crime of opportunity.

Solving the Case

Technical writers? We are the good guys. We are the task force for hire that will investigate your documents for negligent and offensive mistakes. The prevention of the murder of the English language starts with controlling the chain of custody on who is working directly on the document. It starts with having the right people. It starts with us.

Our writers are accountable and communicative. When we are on the case, you never have to worry about going weeks without a status update, we provide weekly and daily updates. Worrying about the unknown fate of your document is a thing of the past. We guarantee a high-quality product, every time. Reach out to us today to learn how you can prevent your technical writing documents and processes from becoming victims of egregious grammar and stylistic errors.


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