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Meta S. Brown

Better Writing for Data Analysts

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Meta S. Brown
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Re: it's not all about the data
Meta S. Brown   1/29/2013 4:21:43 PM
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You can certainly read online or in books and learn about writing. I've learned a lot that way, and of course, there would have been no point in writing the article if you couldn't learn from it.

Sooner or later, we all must write something, let people read it and give us some feedback. Some of that feedback should come from real, live professional teachers. I'd like to think we could all get that as part of our regular schooling, but often we don't. I don't believe online classes can make up the slack unless they are accompanied by an army of live teachers to read and criticize papers and presentations. For learning communication skills, I suggest conventional adult ed, corporate training, speaker's club and other time-tested methods. And practice - lots and lots of practice.

Pierre DeBois
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Re: it's not all about the data
Pierre DeBois   1/29/2013 3:47:21 PM
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Meta, I agree. I've learned more from professional in media about communication than in a dedicated technical coure. I think an analytics professional would beenfit not only from learning style, but also seeing how other professionals and , frankly, people communicate. I've met people that really do not want a dashboard, just the end story with bullet points on what is needed.  In some cases it is more important to learn how to listen to people's communciation style than to do a graduate course.  

I also wonder if many communication concerns are now being addressed with online courses such as Udemy rather than an outright course.

Meta S. Brown
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Re: it's not all about the data
Meta S. Brown   1/28/2013 7:56:42 PM
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I'm reluctant to suggest a graduate course in editing for technical fields. For one thing, who's going to teach it, college professors in technical fields? Have you read what they write?


My feeling is that it would be more productive for technical people to invest time and effort in taking conventional training in English composition, non-fiction writing, business writing and public speaking.

magneticnorth
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Re: Writing & reading
magneticnorth   1/28/2013 7:39:29 PM
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Beth - I agree with your comment title. Writing and reading do go together. The people I know who read a lot of good stuff end up writing well, while the ones who read crap (or hardly read anything at all) produce those horrendous LinkedIn profiles you mentioned.

magneticnorth
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Data Doctor
Re: it's not all about the data
magneticnorth   1/28/2013 7:34:59 PM
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In that case, Meta, do you think there's room for a diploma/graduate course on editing for those in technical fields? It seems that a person with those credentials can fetch a good salary given the skills shortage.

BethSchultz
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Re: Writing & reading
BethSchultz   1/28/2013 5:06:43 PM
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Or, more to the point, we could look at LinkedIn profiles, meant to be professional. Some of those are truly frightening. 

Meta S. Brown
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Re: Writing & reading
Meta S. Brown   1/28/2013 5:03:07 PM
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Have a look at some YouTube comments and let me know if you think that will help improve the standard of writing skills.

BethSchultz
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Re: Writing & reading
BethSchultz   1/28/2013 4:55:31 PM
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Do you think the problem will get worse or better as people rely more and more on digital communications for everyday conversation? Will we become better or worse at the written word with the practice we get out on the social web, for example? Hmmm.

Meta S. Brown
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Re: Writing & reading
Meta S. Brown   1/28/2013 1:31:48 PM
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Beth,


It's an evil cycle - our professors and our bosses are lousy writers, and they demand that we write just like them. So technical people are trained into writing dense techno-babble and never recover. Then they train the next generation to write more of the same crummy stuff.

Meta S. Brown
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Re: it's not all about the data
Meta S. Brown   1/28/2013 1:28:02 PM
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Noreen, you are so write about the value of a good editor! But not many writers have access to a good editor.

I'm in the midst of a major consulting project for a firm of very sophisticated analysts who need to improve the quality of their reports. Working on a tight time frame, they don't have time to familiarize an outsider on their business - so only someone who knows their highly specialized trade can offer meaningful help. That's a common problem, one that many organizations face.

The rarety of editors with technical knowledge makes it particularly important for technical people to develop good writing skills.

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