Zazz Your Prose

We're going to be 'in problems' if technical writing doesn't hightail it out of snooze-city. Consider the microwave oven you have in your home. It is essentially a weapon we use to torture our food and drive it mad, and yet the instruction manual makes it sound about as dangerous as a wristwatch. Here are some totally optional, judgment-free comments on making the prose just a little bit tighter and more polished:

Rather Than...


(a) Do not attempt to operate this oven with the door open since open-door operation can result in harmful exposure to microwave energy. It is important not to defeat or tamper with the safety interlocks.

(b) Do not place any object between the oven front face and the door or allow soil or cleaner residue to accumulate on sealing surfaces.

(c) Do not operate the oven if it is damaged. It is particularly important that the oven door close properly and that there is no damage to the:

  1. door (bent),
  2. hinges and latches (broken or loosened),
  3. door seals and sealing surfaces.

(d) The oven should not be adjusted or repaired by anyone except properly qualified service personnel.



(a) Microwaves look like flashlight beam as they pour out of oven's open door and into your body. You got what you wanted and feel things bursting inside of you. Rats have earned the right to eat all your cooked fingers.

(b) Your fingers burned like candles; vaporized cleaning solution cobblestoned your lungs. You thought for a moment that a knobby tree was growing in your chest.

(c) The pork you were cooking squeals like the pig it died in. All your life you were happy that the pigs whose meat you ate were dead, and sad that you were going to die one day too.

  1. The door swings as from wind.
  2. A storm cracks the window where you watched the pork you deserve to eat spinning slowly.
  3. Your throat seals up and the knobby tree begins to grow.

(d) You're reminded of the smiler who 'repaired' your microwave as Baudelaire, from the flames, weeps to you the very first of the five thousand poems he's so far composed in Hell:

The Swine

were driven through a year ago
but still remain and fatter grow
and up and chew the meadows down
beneath a man I do not know.

In throes his voice, a porcine whine,
at night, through forests oak and pine,
awakens me and makes me drown
the pigs with hands that are not mine.

When in the morning there are more
of them than on the day before,
I milk a swollen living one
Whose touch I make myself adore.

The milk the swineherd and I drink
in frothy white from bristly pink
young sows whose sorrows from their frowning
snouts and farrows pour.

A thousand times I've drunk this draft.
A thousand sows, a thousand boars
Shall sweetly on this meadow craft
Shrill, heavy piglet flesh galore.