[Wikimedia-l] making tech journalism easier to read

Florence Devouard anthere9 at yahoo.com
Wed May 22 15:39:31 UTC 2013


My main suggestion (valid for all posts, technical or not) would be to 
start with a clearly identified cap as summary. And put an extra effort 
so that this cap is written in simple and straightforward message.

In that regards, this post is pretty good generally

It gives a nice summary of the content of the post. It can be translated 
easily. It provides information. The cap summary at the top could be 
even better identified though.

On the other hand, this one 
is quite "technical" in nature as well, but though very interesting, it 
fails to pass the "summary" state.
The little paragraph at the top is not a summary of the post, but a text 
putting the post in context.
I think this post would benefit from a two lines summary of the content 
of the post itself.
Its design is 1) context, 2) development 3) conclusion.

One of the problems non English speakers face is that they are slower to 
identify the "important" points. Stumbling over difficult words and 
jargon is obviously not helping. A hard text will need to be read more 
than one time to just "get the idea"

In this situation, it is very helpful to rather write in the following way
1) summary of the entire post with context, arguments and quick conclusion
2) expanded context
3) expanding on argument a
4) expanding on argument b
5) expanding on argument c
6) full conclusion

1) should be short sentences, simple sentences and as little jargon as 
2-6 can be more complex and detailed and links should be added to 
provided additional context and explanation of jargon.

The only drawback of this solution is that the author will feel 
frustrated if he wants to develop a story and use surprise/discovery 
effects. But there are many benefits to counter balance this loss.


PS: who will point out though that the tech posts on the wikimedia blog 
are actually quite good generally.

On 5/22/13 11:44 AM, Federico Leva (Nemo) wrote:
> Quim Gil, 21/05/2013 23:15:
>> [...] Good journalism is mostly about a lead paragraph for the masses
>> followed
>> by an increasingly dense body text (aka the 5 Ws and the inverted
>> pyramid). You can adapt and change these rules at will, as long as you
>> are aware of them.
>> Paying more editorial attention to the title and the lead will allow
>> more room for complex terminology down in the body text. And this
>> applies to technical posts just as much as to other posts about other
>> expert fields for librarians, translators, lawyers, educators...
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Ws
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_pyramid
> I agree that this is more useful, with the caveats by Lodewijk.
>      As for our English texts, aside from jargon, their main deficiency
> is IMHO usually in not considering language diversity. The issue is very
> apparent in our requests for translations: often, you have very "simple"
> and short sentences which are translated in a way that reverses their
> meaning upside down. An article or pronoun implicit in English, if
> misunderstood by a native speaker of a language where the article or
> pronoun matters, is enough to spoil an entire text. What to do?
> 1) Some time ago I added some short leaflets here, but more and better
> resources are needed:
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Writing_clearly#Advice_from_the_experts
> 2) An automatical service we'd benefit from is one which takes a text
> and highlights all idiomatic expressions (which may be obvious in USA
> English but mean the opposite in UK English or just nothing for most
> people), formal/literary expressions (which may mean nothing for most
> native speakers and at the same time be obvious for speakers of another
> language more closely related to them) etc.
>      Let me also add that – personally – I have no problems reading and
> understanding sentences spanning multiple pages, if they were written by
> Proust (who always has a reason), but I have big problems understanding
> texts which lack coherency and focus. English texts composed by many
> scattered short sentences, without conjunctions and other sentence
> connectors, are for me very painful to read. However, it seems most
> people prefer to have many small concepts and to connect the dots
> themselves to get the figure as they can.
> Nemo
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