Writing Prompt 124
Do you think smear campaigns in politics are effective?
Today’s prompt is inspired by Hilary Clinton’s recent comments in which she discussed the 2011 raid on Obama Bin Laden’s compound. Over the course of 25 minutes, Clinton described how she was in favor of the raid, which led to the eventual killing of Bin Laden. She also mentioned that Joe Biden was not in favor of the raid.
The way that I just described the facts is neutral. I merely rephrased what I read and stripped out any emotion or judgement. However, if you read those facts in news stories, you’ll see that they are expressed differently, although the news should be reported objectively.
Would you believe that several news sources reported Clinton’s comments as a smear campaign? Incredulously, Clinton is said by some to have “put it to Joe Biden.” Huh? Did I miss something? Perhaps it’s the naïve me or the indifferent me who tries to avoid political issues altogether. Clearly, I don’t understand why Clinton’s comments are construed negatively.
Though I don’t grasp this issue as a smear campaign, one thing that is crystal clear in my mind are the political television commercials and radio spots I see from time to time. Whether promoting federal politicians or local officials in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the media advertisements all paint ugly pictures of the opposition. Ever notice that?
The commercials all start off with scary, dark music and feature negative comments about the people who oppose the candidate. Towards the end of the commercial, the sun shines, the puppies are playfully wagging their tails, and the real candidate somehow has the solutions to all of life’s ills. Political advertisements on t.v. and radio are the real smear campaigns. They seek to promote the goodness of one candidate by totally decimating the opposition.
What do you think of this strategy in politics? Does it affect your vote? Does it shape your opinion? Does it bring real issues to the table and encourage a peaceful, analytical discussion about the merits of all candidates?
Nonfiction Writing: Instructive
In my last post, we talked about a delicious and tasty way of writing instructive materials—by creating recipes based on cooking “from scratch” and writing tutorials by doing activities beforehand. Today’s instructive writing types focus on all things technology.
Those who like and follow technology are probably familiar with technical writing, which often includes things such as software requirements and end-user guides and manuals. Technical writing is a form of writing that requires the nonfiction writer to know and understand technological systems, processes, and software.
Generally, technical writing is contract work that is paid and given to others. The most common examples of people who do technical writing are freelancers, who often win contracts to write technical documents for state or federal entities.
Let’s take, for example, a contract that I had in place with the United States Patent and Trademark Office a few years ago. I worked for a federal contractor who had a multi-year contract to support the USPTO in the patents division. One of the things my employer had to do was support the many subdivisions or branches of the Search and Information Resources Administration (SIRA) with its efforts to automate the electronic processing of patent applications. The USPTO was slowly changing the way its examiners processed applications. It was abolishing the review process in paper, choosing to scan everything, save as PDFs, and review applications electronically.
It was a long, arduous process that required the collaboration of many software engineers, software developers, quality control specialists, project managers, and technical writers, like me. Some of the things I had to do was understand the system, test it, write requirements for it, and send them off for others to review and approve.
Technical writing is a difficult type of nonfiction writing, but one that pays handsomely and is always in top demand. If you have any interest in technology, it would be worth your time to get certified in project management and learn as much as possible about the jargon or specialized language used most frequently. Before doing the actual technical writing, however, it is best to study it or at least learn it on the job while working for others.
A less challenging form of technical writing that doesn’t require certification or contracts in place is the guidebook or the how-to book. Unless you are a software developer, engineer, or one of those cool folks who invents smartphone applications, most likely, you’ll be writing guidebooks on simpler technological items, such as how to edit photos or best practices for Microsoft Word. As long as you’re referencing a tool and explaining how to use that tool, that counts as technical writing.
Next time, we’ll dive into analytical writing.
It’s almost time for National Nonfiction Writing Month. Are you ready to take the WNFIN challenge?
Amanda M. Socci is the creator of the 10-month training program for Write Nonfiction in November called “I Know I Can” WNFIN. The first two blog posts of the series explain more about this program and its benefits.
Amanda refers to herself as the Creative Idea Gal because she comes up with original ideas for herself and others. Based in Alexandria, VA, she is a devoted mother of two and a hopeless fanatic of all things creative. Connect with Amanda on Google+ or Twitter.