burying the lede in technical writing

“Burying the lede” is a common stylistic error in journalism. To bury a lede (rhymes with “bead”) is to hide the most important information within a news story instead of putting it up front where readers can find it immediately.

Technical writers can bury the lede too, and with the same results — the audience leaves, never to return, without ever reading the crucial message you wanted to convey.

Learn how to spot these four common style errors before they cost you your audience — and their business.

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where does the writer fit?

Remember that famous Sidney Harris cartoon with the two mathematicians standing in front of a blackboard, working on a complex equation that features as a crucial step the words, “and then a miracle happens?” That’s often how managers view what writers do. Too often, the second-to-last step in the document development process reads, “and then the writer wordsmiths it.”

But that’s not when you want the writer to start getting involved. A successful collaboratively-written product — a user manual, a proposal, a textbook, an online help file, an annual report — needs to have the writer involved from the beginning, as an integral part of the team.

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