How to not sound like an idiot when writing about tech

Photo by Whitney Gibbs

Moderately-known fact: The Bean in Chicago is also known as “Cloud Gate.” Get it? Clouds?

Among tech writers and editors, there’s a secret code. A handshake that lets us know who’s in-the-know, and who shouldn’t be on our field. If you know it, you’re immediately entitled to at least a modicum of respect. If you don’t, you’re going to be dismissed as a pretender and a fraud. Here’s the low-down on the code and how you can get by with writing tech–even when you may not know what you’re doing.

“The Cloud”

That’s right. The cloud. If you feel the need to capitalize it, put it in quotes or italicize it, I will make fun of you. And–I’m a nice person. Imagine what happens when your resident troll sees it. The cloud isn’t new! Everyone and their great-grandmother has heard of it! You can stop pretending like it’s some new-fangled term that isn’t acceptable enough for regular punctuation. It is. You can treat it like a regular piece of technology. If anyone questions you on its legitimacy, I promise I’ll have your back as you try to explain that it’s really real.

The cloud as the Internet

The Internet is not the cloud. Take a moment, let that sink in. Many of the websites that you visit daily (especially corporate ones) are hosted on local servers. That means the definition of “cloud” isn’t that you can access it from anywhere. The cloud specifically refers to how data is stored on non-local servers and how those servers are set up. It’s typically safe to refer to something as being “on the cloud” if it’s stored off-site, but there is a chance that it’s simply stored on a private off-site server.

Smart Phones

No. Just…no. It’s “smartphone,” and the quotes are only there to set it off. That’s it! It’s that easy! And for heaven’s sake, please, please don’t talk about how smartphones are new unless you’re referring to a specific model. Smartphones have been around since 2000, and the iPhone itself came out in 2007. That was five years ago. Let’s just all accept that they’re a part of our lives, mmkay?

IaaS, PaaS, SaaS

These are a bit different. Unlike the others, they’re most often used in the most technically correct manner possible. They’re also used excessively to pad cloud articles when the writer has nothing else to say. Padders–we see through you. We know what you’re doing, and you’re driving potential readers away. Only go into the details of the differences when it makes sense to do so in the article. This dips a bit into simply good writing ethics–don’t waste your readers’ time.

Proper grammar

To a degree, people expect IT pros to not be that great at grammar. They do expect them to have the good sense to spell check and possibly even ask someone to read it before you post it. Just run a spell check program and be sure you’ve been properly caffeinated before you start writing and you’ll be fine!

The moral

When you write about technology, you need to sound like you know what you’re talking about, but not so much that you sound like you’re just bragging for the hell of it. Take some time to learn about your subject, even if it’s not what you typically cover. A little digging can protect your reputation as a writer or as an editor.

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