You are gathering notes at a meeting for a group of documents that need to be produced. Are you listening to the individuals as they speak? Are you really hearing what they are saying? Not only that, are you writing down what they are saying? What is the meaning behind what they are saying? Are they being specific or general?
You will be the author of many documents and have to handle many different scenarios and have to be able to transcribe what you hear.
- If someone is speaking on subjects that are scientific, technical, or analytical in nature, then describing what is being verbalized, is probably straight forward to follow. (That is, if you are familiar with the subject and are able to ask questions later on functionality, expertise, and quality of what is being shared.)
- If someone is speaking about businesses and what they want developed, can you read between the lines and understand them even when they cannot verbalize what they truly want? If you cannot, then you will have to try to find answers from an assistant, a subject matter expert, from researching online, or from someone else that is familiar with that person or business.
- If there is a conflict and you have more than one person yelling about a process or topic, then it’s more about who is being the loudest in the room. At this point, they just want everyone to focus on them; to be the main speaker. Then what do you write?
As a writer, you have to listen to what is spoken, and most importantly, what they are not saying and then translate that onto paper for verification.
This brings me to semantics. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as ‘the study of the meanings of words and phrases in language and the meanings of words and phrases in a particular context’.
You’ve heard the saying ’it’s all semantics’. The phrase usually means its words referring to the same meaning. But do people really mean what the words portray?
How you phrase words or use terminology is very important when it comes to technical writing and communicating. Defining technical terms is like defining mathematical values. If I say I am displaying ‘2’ icons on a screen, then I mean, I am only displaying ‘2’ icons on the screen, and not ‘1’ nor more than ‘2’. There is only one number and one way to state it.
When you are told (or instructions have been written) to cancel a script, do they want you to stop it and dismiss it for now or terminate it permanently? If the verbal (or written) instructions say to cancel and delete, the operator would know to stop and remove it.
Instructions are not like semantics. Instructions must have very distinct meanings. So be careful when you are communicating. Be as precise as possible, and if need be, use pictures to help describe what you mean.
Once the context is fully written, described, communicated, and confirmed then it will be complete and accurate.
If you have ever run into situations describing terms with double meanings, please leave a comment. Also how did you rectify the situation? Thank you.