Grammaticus is designed primarily to help software engineers improve their written communications skills. Having said that, any non-engineer can use the advice offered in this space to improve as a writer. All of us have to do some writing during our work days. All of us have to show proficiency in our written communications skills.
Why not strive to be the best writer you can possibly be?
If you are willing to learn and you are prepared to take the time to thoroughly explore the subject categories here, you cannot help but become a better writer. And a more confident writer!
The content contained in Grammaticus started with a writing blog I began in 2014. This Grammaticus website is a reorganization of the chronological blog into these subject areas:
- Acronyms (3 examples)
- Active vs. Passive Voice (23)
- Agreement (15)
- Bad Shortcuts (3)
- Bullet Lists (11)
- Can Do Something (6)
- Capitalization (9)
- Deconstructing a Long Sentence (4)
- Direct Speech (12)
- Fog Index (5)
- Future vs. Present Tense (10)
- Legal (1)
- Parallelism (7)
- Parenthetical Expressions (6)
- Past vs. Present Tense (7)
- Procedures (11)
- Pronoun References (11)
- Punctuation (20)
- Readability (5)
- Simple Sentences (27)
- Usage (18)
- Which vs. That (4)
- Wordiness (21)
- Word Order (15)
Grammaticus contains 24 subject categories. There are 254 examples in these categories. Each example shows a piece of writing that needs improvement. A detailed discussion why the writing needs improvement follows. We make changes to the writing that needs improvement, but—this is very important—we explain why we make the changes.
Typically, an engineer writes documentation and a technical writer or editor follows by making lots of changes. The technical writer usually does not explain why changes were made. Also, the engineer might be too busy (or uninterested!) to ask about the changes. The writer and the engineer pass like ships in the night. This happens all the time in the industry. If the engineer and writer don’t communicate, what does the engineer learn about better writing from this experience? It is safe to say that most of the time the engineer learns nothing. Is that not true?
Writing is a Life Skill
Grammaticus is designed to help engineers become better writers. I ask again: Do you want to be a better writer? If so, you have come to the right place!
If you go through all the examples—and truly understand all the examples—I guarantee your writing will improve. Will it be easy? No. It won’t be easy because going through all the examples is going to force you to think—and thinking is hard. On the other hand, you won’t be forced to study a dry and lifeless style guide or memorize a lot of English rules. You won’t have some humorless English teacher bleeding red ink all over your exam paper. If you have a learning style that benefits from intelligent discussion, rather than rote memory or reward-and-punishment academic exercises, you cannot help but learn.
I encourage you to take issue with my comments. We all have opinions. In Grammaticus, I give you my opinions. If you disagree with me, that’s great! It shows you are thinking critically.
Grammaticus is like a college course. That is the best way to look at it. I am your professor and you are the ambitious student. Grammaticus is like a college semester of a challenging subject. Yes, you will have to work hard, but the end result is you are enhancing your professional skill set.
Consider the big picture. A semester is a small amount of time when it means you are polishing a life skill.
Audience for Grammaticus
There are four groups of people who should find Grammaticus especially useful. Do you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions?
- Do you want to be a manager?
- Do you want to be a subject matter expert (SME)?
- Do you want to be a technical writer?
- Is English your second language?
Do you want to be a manager?
Managers do a lot of writing. Managers must be competent with both the technology and with people. However, aspiring mangers with poor writing skills will have a difficult time moving up the ladder.
One of the evaluation factors for performance reviews is good oral and written communications skills. This is especially important for a large, world-wide organization where managers constantly use email, messaging, and other written communications tools to interact with the men and women in their units and with their bosses higher on the food chain. Furthermore, managers write technical reports, white papers, proposals, and other think pieces. Crucially, many of the folks who read your communication efforts are business decision-makers. That is, they are not engineers. Often they have a business or finance background. They may find your poor writing and engineering jargon off-putting.
Do you want to be an SME?
Most of the content written for the software industry is written by SMEs, not technical writers. There is a reason for this. The technical content must be accurate. Therefore, engineers write the first draft. Engineers are the experts. Many technical writers do not have an engineering background or, if they do, their engineering expertise may not be relevant to the task at hand. The primary mission of technical writers is to clean up the language, make it more readable, and apply the necessary formatting.
The SMEs who are effective writers will advance in the organization. Those who don’t write well and refuse to learn, may find themselves at a disadvantage. They stay in place or move on to other opportunities.
Do you want to be a technical writer?
If you are an engineer who enjoys writing, Grammaticus can help you in two ways:
- Enable you to cross train as a technical writer, thus enhancing your skills as a career engineer.
- Enable you to transition from engineering into a new career as a technical writer.
Let’s look at the second bullet point.
Engineers with above-average writing skills are in great demand in the documentation business. The pay is good, the work is interesting most of the time, and often there are not enough skilled writers to fill all the open positions. If you find this prospect appealing, study the writing examples here and see if this kind of work is something you might like to try.
Is English your second language?
The Grammaticus blog maintained from September 2014 to September 2015 was designed for engineers in my company, but the blog was followed by dozens of engineers on the outside. It had a large following in Silicon Valley in California. Most of the Silicon Valley engineers following the blog were from China or were ethnic Chinese from other parts of the world. These young men and women were trying to improve their English skills. Instead of studying an English grammar book and memorizing a lot of stuff, the analysis of bad writing vs. good writing proved to be an effective way for them to get better at English composition.
By extension, the conversational approach to writing found in Grammaticus should help any person from any culture who is struggling with the English language. If you are trying to master the English language, let Grammaticus help you get to where you want to go.
I have been in this business for over 40 years. I plan to retire in a few months. In many ways, what you see here is a knowledge transfer for the next generation. I hope you find it useful. Good luck!
All the contents of this website are contained in my Grammaticus eBook. To download the eBook, click this (PDF required). Then bookmark the page.
The Grammaticus website will not be up forever. If you want your own free copy of the Grammaticus eBook for your digital files, write to me and I’ll send you the PDF file.
Senior Technical Writer, Disney Technology Solutions & Services