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The Power of One, Seemingly Unimportant, Word 

5th July 2014 Posted in Blog, Documentation 0 Comments

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Words are powerful. Headlines, tweets, you name it. The addition or omission of a single word can give your audience an entirely different perspective on the topic at hand.

We subscribe to Sarah Maddox’ excellent technical writing and fiction blog, FFeathers, and get an email notification when a new post is published. Recently, we received such a notification in our inbox with the subject line:

[New post] Documentation developers need to do their jobs

Our first thought? Maybe this was a critique of documentation developers who aren’t doing their jobs properly, who needed to buck up and get with the program. Seemed interesting enough. Previewing the post in email displayed the same title. But reading beyond the title revealed this wasn’t a critical piece at all. Instead, it was a post about the types of documentation that developers need to do their jobs properly.

Clicking through to the post on her blog revealed a slightly different title for the post:

Documentation that developers need to do their jobs

Well, yes. Exactly. Great, useful post. And really, even the email subject line and post title could have been interpreted either way. We are in no way criticizing Sarah, just making an observation on the power of words. We continue to highly recommend her blog, and we are long-term happy subscribers. In fact, we tweeted it to our followers. Read the article.

All of that got us to thinking about the difference one word can make in interpreting the context of a sentence or a title. In this example, a seemingly unimportant word that carried so much weight – that. A word that some grammarians/instructors even suggest you try to omit. What are your thoughts?

What examples have you seen where one word can convey an entirely different meaning? Do you now feel any differently about “that”? Is it more of an issue with today’s nanosecond-short-attention-span audiences? Please leave a comment.

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