Tip 1: Word order matters
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Tip 1. Word order matters (below)
Tip 2. Practice good comma
Words fascinate me. And challenge me. Just when I'm feeling smug for knowing the correct spelling of "pique," as in "My curiosity was piqued" (not peeked or peaked), I learn that "contumely" is a noun. What?! Not an adjective? (Thanks, A.Word.A.Day! I would've felt pretty silly using "contumely" in a sentence, if I knew what it meant, which I do now.)Spelling and usage aside, words can be confounding in other ways. For example, I've always avoided saying "banal" for fear of mispronouncing it. I didn't need to worry--a quick check of The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations tells me that practically any imaginable pronunciation is acceptable. Such latitude is rare. Feeling confident, I attempted "hirsute" just now and mangled it. It sounds like "her suit," by the way.Because I enjoy working with words, because I obviously haven't learned everything yet, and because, as luck would have it, my job revolves around communication (I've been a Web editor at developerWorks since its inception 11 years ago), I'm immersed in words and a perpetual student and determined modeler of their proper use.Let's get started. Here's the first tip.Tip 1: Word order matters.In a series of items, word order is often fixed. For example, the order might be fixed chronologically (think "ready, aim, fire" and "breakfast, lunch, and dinner"), spatially ("Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn" are not likely to change position), or contextually (a user interface often dictates the sequence of items). But in other cases, word order in a series is flexible. For those cases, let's look at two reasons for manipulating the order for a desired effect.Reason 1: A certain order "sounds" better. Even the written word produces an effect on the ear. Readers "hear" words as they read, and when you optimize that sound, the effect is more pleasant, and memorable, for the reader. Assuming word order is not fixed, consider these series:
A. The manatees returned to Boca Raton, Tampa, and Miami.
B. The manatees returned to Tampa, Miami, and Boca Raton.Which do you prefer -- which "hits" your ear more favorably? Try this:
C. developerWorks hosts wikis, discussion forums, and blogs.
D. developerWorks hosts blogs, wikis, and discussion forums.This has a familiar ring:
E. "...among these are Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and Life."
F. "...among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."Do you "hear" a difference in each pair? Most readers would prefer the second of each, or B, D, and F. Why? The number of syllables increases with each item, producing a more lyrical, almost poetic, effect that builds over the course of the series. It's not only more euphonic, it's often more memorable; the pleasant cadence sticks.Try it...and let me know if it works for you.Reason 2: You want to manage emphasis and flow. Again, when word order is not fixed in time, space, or context, try using the end of the sentence for emphasis. Put the most important item last. This advice may sound counterintuitive, but the last item is the most memorable. (William Strunk, Jr., talks about this in his classic, The Elements of Style.)You may recognize this "emphasis position" if you're a parent or have a parent. When giving choices, if you have a preference for which one is picked, place that choice last. "Do you want to clean up your room with my help or all by yourself?" Back to writing. You can also use this technique to anchor a thought in your reader's mind and bridge to the next thought. The process of anchoring and bridging creates a natural channel that pulls the reader's interest and attention forward.I'll illustrate with a few examples (my thanks and apologies to the authors whose clean text I've muddied to produce these examples):
A. You can write map and reduce applications in languages other than the Java language, even though Hadoop is a Java-based framework. Within Hadoop, the streaming utility implements a type of data flow glue that makes this possible. You can define your own map and reduce executables with each taking input from standard input and providing output through standard output, and the streaming utility reads and writes data appropriately, invoking your applications as needed.Understandable enough, but let's try moving important words to the emphasis position, shown in bold:
B. Although Hadoop is a Java-based framework, you can write map and reduce applications in other languages by using streaming. The streaming utility within Hadoop implements a type of data flow glue. This glue lets you define your own map and reduce executables. Each executable takes input from standard input and provides output through standard output. The streaming utility reads and writes data appropriately, invoking your applications as needed.See how the emphasis words at the end, or anchors, can also bridge to the next sentence? Try this pair:
C. A migration does not have to mean zero downtime, necessarily. It's much easier if you can take the service offline for a period of time to perform final data synchronizations and allow for any network changes to stabilize. The window should not be used to do the initial deploy to the new environment-—that is, the new environment should be in an operational state before the application migration starts. With this in mind, the key points are synchronization of data between the environments and network changes.Okay, not bad, but let's play with anchors and bridges. Here the anchors, in bold, and corresponding bridges at the start of the next sentence are more subtle:
D. Migrating your applications from one environment to another does not have to mean zero downtime. On the contrary, taking the service offline for a period of time during application migration can be beneficial. You get a chance to perform final data synchronizations between environments and allow for any network changes to stabilize during this outage window. But don't use the outage window for the initial deploy; the new environment should be operational before you migrate the applications.Which version is easier to follow? Consider one last pair:
E. You're likely looking for ways to increase the satisfaction of your online users if you're using the web to interact with customers. Some common ways to increase user satisfaction are: increasing page responsiveness, producing intuitive and expressive interfaces, and creating a cohesive site layout. These are important to user satisfaction, but there are other things, such as communication and collaboration, that are worth considering. You can increase user satisfaction by enabling a more collaborative experience on your website. Your users will be able to do collaborative activities such as....Anchoring and bridging can help pull the reader along while cementing key points:
F. If you're using the web to interact with customers, you're likely looking for ways to increase online user satisfaction. Satisfaction typically improves when you increase page responsiveness, provide intuitive and expressive interfaces, and create a cohesive site layout. Besides these common ways, other ways to increase user satisfaction are enabling communication and collaboration. A collaborative experience can also increase user satisfaction with your website by....SummaryPut word order to work! A little rearranging can make a big difference in how your words resonate with readers.Thanks for reading this tip! Now tell me, is your interest peaked, peeked, or piqued?