Non-technical Writing

Misused words and phrases are everywhere, and sometimes it doesn't really make any difference because I'm there for the entertainment, or maybe some kind of information that doesn't hinge on accurate expression. But when I'm looking for expert opinion or advice, especially in technical matters, there's nothing like buggered-up terminology to scare me away. Reading an article on flat-panel displays recently, I ran into a phrase that abruptly reduced my confidence in the author's knowledge of the subject.

Plasma displays are superior to LCD displays, but cost far more.

Am I overreacting? Some would call this a minor oversight that doesn't necessarily diminish the writer's competence. Maybe, but I've dodged a lot of unnecessary stress over the years by moving on to the next expert in situations like this, and I've avoided wasting a lot of money, too. The way I see it, if this guy doesn’t understand—or doesn't care—that LCD already stands for liquid crystal display and tacks on that redundant displays word, I'm not going to hang around to find out what else he doesn't know.

Obviously, it doesn't matter how well a sentence is constructed if the writer is ignorant of the subject, but I've always noted a definite connection between expertise and its expression. In this case, the error has more to do with a grasp of technology than with the mechanics of language; it’s often the other way around when an engineer is doing the writing. I suppose that's where technical writers come in, but alas, they don't always have the engineer's technical understanding. It's a problem.


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