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Technical Writing Style

Updated on April 29, 2013

technical writing style, writing styles, online writing styles, online writing

technical writing style, writing styles, online writing styles, online writing

Introduction:

A well written technical document is one which is easily understood even by the layman. Whenever you buy any new gadget, be it a camera, juicer, tape recorder, or for that matter, even a pack of medicine from a pharmacy, you first read the literature that is kept along with the product. Now, if it contains all jargons and is written in a complicated language, it would be difficult for you to understand and use the product. hence, it is essential for you to develop a simple and lucid style of writing if you want to become a technical writer.


Concise communication:

While writing a technical writing document it is essential that it be concise and direct. The longer the document, the more difficult it is to use, for the obvious reason that it takes more of the reader's time. But you should write it in such a way that it gives justice to conciseness, clarity and comprehensiveness. We will now discuss the key points that would direct you towards concise writing.

1. Direct Writing: Avoid old fashioned, stuffy phrases and long winded sentences associated with classic formal writing. In the present times, people are very busy and will be easily irritated to read unnecessarily lengthy documents. So you should focus directly on the matter to be told. Express your idea in straightforward, conversational style, Practice using the shorter words to make your writing better.

Complex: Before filling the gas tank, it is necessary to turn off the propane line to the refrigerator. Failure to do so significantly increases the risk of explosion.

Simplified: Before you fill gasoline into the gas tank, turn off the propane line to the refrigerator. If you do not turn off the propane tank, it could explode.

2. Sentence Construction: Careful crafting of sentences is perhaps the most vital aspect that you need to practice and master in order to be an effective technical writer. We will discuss the important points that would make your writing 'reader friendly.'

Word order: It is always common that any book on improving writing skills would emphasize on the usage of correct words at the right place. However, it is equally important that you place the words in the right order. The easiest rule that you need to follow is to place the word or phrase as close as possible to other word or phrase related to it in meaning or grammar.

wrong: Now that you have read the manual of target practice, try shooting yourself.

Right: Practice shooting, now that you have read the manual of target practice.

Wrong: Write down the procedure of electroplating on a postcard.

Right: Write down on a postcard the procedure of electroplating.

Ambiguity: The word may be placed in such a position that it can give meaning to a varying range of elements within the sentence.

Doubtful: He was hardly happy and eager to get rid of me. (This sentence could mean that he was not happy or eager to get rid of me. It could also mean that he was not happy to see me and hence was eager to get rid of me.).

Right: He was hardly happy, and eager to get rid of me.

Brevity: The words may be omitted to make the sentence short. At the same time you assume that you have tried to cram too much meaning in the short sentence. This results in ambiguity.

Wrong: He likes me more than you. (This sentence could mean that he like me more than he likes you. Or, it could also mean he likes me more than you like me)

Right: He likes me more than you do. / He likes me more than he likes you.

Use lists: Lists are useful tools to shorten the length of your sentences in technical writing. By converting the sentences into lists, information can be given in small chunks. They are easier to understand and remember. Lists can be made using bullets or numbers.

1. List with bullets -- The list can be bullet-ed when;

  • You don't need to follow any specific order
  • You want to highlight special features
  • You want to list options

2. List with numbers -- The list can be numbered when;

  • You have to follow a strict order
  • You have list alternatives
  • You have to make recommendations

While making the list to avoid lengthy sentence, you should also be careful about the length of the list. Avoid including more than ten items in your list. If your list exceeds ten items, subdivide the list. Given below is an example of a list, which gives directions to open a Marker File in TUKACAD programme. Since the list was long, it is divided into two subdivisions:

I. To Open a Marker File From the Current Directory:

  • Go to the FILE Menu.
  • Select OPEN MARKER FILE.(*Ctrl+O)
  • The Open marker Dialog Box will be displayed.
  • In FILE NAME - select the desired DSP file.
  • The Selected file will display in FILE NAME>
  • Select OPEN.(Double-click on the file)
  • The selected file is now opened.

II. To Open a Marker File From Another Directory:

  • Go to the File menu.
  • Select OPEN MARKER FILE.(*Ctrl+O)
  • The Open marker Dialog Box will be displayed.
  • In LOOK IN - Double click the first option. (Usually C:\)
  • A list of your directories will be displayed.
  • Select the desired directory.
  • A list of DSP files will be displayed in the FILE NAME.
  • Select the desired file.
  • Select OPEN. (*Double-click on the file)
  • The selected file is now opened.

Focus on action words: Let the focal point of your action be in the action words or verbs. Don't express it in other words(nouns - important words that ends in suffixes like -sion, -tion, -ment, -ing, -ion, -ance)

Wrong: You should reach the conclusion that on clicking 'delete' button, the text you typed gets erased.

Right: You should conclude that on clicking 'delete' button, the text you typed gets erased.

Common Errors while Constructing Sentences:

  • Shift in tense and Person: This is a common problem faced by many writers. It refers to beginning a sentence or a paragraph in one tense and ending it in another.

1. Each participant will bring their inputs to the presentation.

2. He did not have to apologized for being late at the meeting.

The correct form should be,

1. Each participant will bring his/ her inputs to the presentation.

2. He did not have to apologize for being late at the meeting.

This problem of shift in tense and person is easily solved if you make small sentences where you can concentrate on the subject and the tense of the verb.

  • Subject verb agreement: This is one of the most common mistakes committed while writing English. This problem arises when you put a plural verb for a single subject or vice versa. Subject and verb must agree both in number and person. If the subject is singular then so is the verb. plural subjects take plural verbs.

Unfortunately. there are subjects that confuses us because they don't fit into the simple rule of subject - verb agreement.

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    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you for the information, this hub was very helpful. Voted Up.