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© Ugur Akinci
Watch your adjectives like a hawk when you’re writing a list or a procedure in a technical document.
Here is an example from the “Workout & Nutrition Guide” that came with the exercise equipment I’ve bought the other day.
“Continue your workout until you feel you are no longer using good form.”
What is “good” and what makes a form “good form”? Since it’s not explained anywhere, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of consumers wondering if their “forms” are “bad” or “good.” It’s careless writing.
One way to save the copy would be to publish two PHOTOS, showing a user in good and bad form. Then we would be very clear in our minds and understand what the description is talking about. But the way it stands, it’s anybody’s guess.
“Do not overexert yourself.”
Again, what level of exertion is “normal” and what level is “over”?
What are the signs and implication? Since the writer thought that this was important enough to caution us against it, it’s also his or her duty to define for us what “overexertion” constitutes in this case. Without that, much head-scratching follows. It’s sloppy writing.
Same goes for the following suggestion:
“Start out slowly and work yourself up to a more vigorous workout.”
What is “vigorous” and how do I get there? It’s the writer’s job to eliminate all such questions in the reader’s mind.
If you cannot define an adjective clearly, stay away from it when writing your technical document. You’ll have less to regret.
Write tight. Be bright. Serve right.