31 December 2012

Opinion, fact and fiction

My career as an author is quite wide ranging. I get to write opinion, fact and fiction in different situations.

Writing opinion is something that happens through this blog, I also had an article published in the recent Communicator. This takes my traditionally-published life to three pieces. I’ve written for a local newspaper (although they have heavily edited and not attributed authorship in the online rendition), conference proceedings on the subject of textbooks (the proceedings themselves will be published in the new year) and now an article for the professional journal. I identify strongly with this genre of writing, and find myself leaning towards it in my other written work (hence the vocabulary and reference choices in my personal blog).

Article, blog and journal writing is actually quite an unusual way for me to write. As a technical author I tend to document procedures grounded in fact. This means that I tend to write with the voice of the company, or the machine. I often imagine that software would explain itself in the voice Commander Data would use if he were coaching an inexperienced pilot over the phone. The linguistic precision necessary in technical authoring and factual writing is in many ways more demanding than that required by any other type of writing (Issac Asimov’s short story Risk sums up why).

Finally, there’s fiction writing. I’ve taken the instincts for detail and control of my writer’s voice from technical authoring and am well on my way to my first novel which should be with us late in 2013. It features confidence trickery and well researched real world locations that will hopefully have some people scratching their heads.

I’d very much like to hear from anyone of my readers who write via the comments section.


19 December 2012

Hear no evil, see no evil...?

I’ve been watching my language lately. No, I don’t mean that I’m worried about the odd 4-letter word slipping out... I mean that I’ve been considering my use of language in relation to my ‘input preferences’. Depending on your background, you may have come across some of these before – whether you are a ‘visual’, ‘auditory’ or ‘kinaesthetic’ person. And so the rest of your 5 senses don’t feel left out, whether you are a ‘gustatory’ (taste) or ‘olfactory’ (smell) person! It follows from my recent training – see Wearing a Different Hat...

The theory is that we all have a preference, sometimes quite a strong one. According to the various tests you can take, my preference is fairly balanced, with ‘visual’ taking a (very slight) lead – but in terms of ‘how I learn’ I’ve known that for a long time.

I used to think I learnt from listening. Why did I think that? Well, I always wanted to sit at the front in class – I thought so I could listen more carefully to the teacher. What changed my mind? I learnt a little BSL (British Sign Language) – and of course, very little was audible. It slowly dawned on me that what I was doing was not listening to the teacher, it was watching. Auditory (listening and speaking) is probably my least favourite: my attention wanders if I can’t see the person talking to me... I start to look at the floor, my neighbour, read the emergency telephone number on the poster by the door, fiddle with something on my desk. You get the picture – and I really have to make an effort to concentrate on a phone call, or I find someone is asking me a question and I’ve been reading at a leaflet on my desk!

Apparently, you tend to use language associated with your preference, so theoretically I would say, “I see what you mean”, whereas someone with an auditory preference would say, “I hear what you’re saying” and a person with a kinaesthetic preference would say, “I’ve got a feel for that”. I’m a little sceptical myself – and feel my language varies more depending on what I’m talking about.

I was trying very hard to listen to myself during a recent training course I was delivering – and also trying very hard not to let the fact that I was listening change what I was saying! So, what did I find?

Well, when discussing punctuation (for example), I said that you can “hear the difference”, even though we were looking at words on a flipchart (so definitely auditory). A bit later on I said I would “guide them through the minefield” (kinaesthetic), and at the end of the day I suggested they “take a look at all of them and see which best fits” (visual).

I really need to record myself as I am sure I missed a lot of instances (I was aware of far more than the three examples above), and although I am fairly confident that my language varies, I didn’t identify a strong preference for one form over the other.