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A Few Thoughts on Technical Writing





It was an unexpected surprise to learn that I had received the Bill Orr, W6SAI Technical Writing Award, for my December, 2010 QST article “Gimme and X, Gimme an O, What's that Spell? Radio.” Well, I suppose most surprises are unexpected, but considering the controversial nature of the article, it was indeed an unforeseen vindication of my thirty something years of writing such things.

My job as a technical writer is to bring a sense of order to a small part of the universe. So much of our world is entirely chaotic that it's nice to be able to report on something that follows some rules. Human nature and politics are pretty much random occurrences, whereas in the hard sciences, pressing button A generally results in action B.

It's crucially important that our young people realize this, perhaps more so now than at any time in history. Science has always been a great source of comfort and stability for me, and it can be the same for just about anyone.

Occasionally, I come up with something new in the electronics shop, but for the most part, I'm merely a chronicler of physical reality. I report on things the way they are. And I encourage people to discover these truths for themselves. I have enough faith in the scientific method that I don't have to worry too much about some new discovery disrupting my world.

This doesn't mean that having a few facts at one's disposal in any way detracts from the mystery and romance of science. There's a lot we don't know, but we forge ahead knowing that eventually we can know. There is a body of truth out there that is not subject to the whims of Wall Street or Washington, D.C. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go, but Ohm's Law is forever. At least in this universe.

My next major literary work, already in progress, is a book entitled, “Radio Science for the Radio Amateur.” This book will be both a how-to book for any new scientist, but also a book of philosophy...a manifesto of why we MUST do science. And by “we” I don't mean just big government science, but individual science. We dare not leave our future in the hands of professionals and experts. We need to becoume our own experts when it comes to making scientific decistions, which affect all other decisions.

In closing, I wish to thank ARRL and Bill Orr, who was a mentor's moentor, or in radio palance, an Elmer's Elmer, for having the vision to create this award before his passing