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Technical Writing

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Jennie Vaughn

on 8 September 2013

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Transcript of Technical Writing

If You're Going to Get Technical About It
Writing is a (messy) Process
1. Good writing takes time. Begin right away.
2. Good writing includes planning, pre-writing, drafting, revising, and editing.
3. The writing process is recursive. You may have to visit/revisit each step multiple times in any order.
Other Common Issues
Commas (so many rules!)
Use a comma between two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction.
Coordinating conjunctions = FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)
Use a comma to separate an independent clause from a dependent clause. (No coordinating conjunction.)

These two steps include activities like: outlining, brainstorming, list-making, and scheduling research and working time.
Assignment sheets, CFPs, and publication guidelines can aid in this stage.
Work to understand your rhetorical situation for the project.
Avoid seeking perfection at this stage.

Just get the ideas and information from your head to the screen/paper.

Many novice writers think they should spend most time on this stage.

You should have multiple drafts.
Writing is Communicating
To be effective, all forms of communication must include three components: Author, Audience, Message.
Which is most important?
Each component is equally important
Trick Question!
Rhetorical Situation
Effective communicators work to understand and address the rhetorical situation of their own communications.
Critical readers/researchers take time to examine the rhetorical situation of source materials.
Like the other stages of writing, revision can (should) occur throughout.

Get someone else to read your work. Our eyes literally see our work differently.

Revise for ideas. Edit for errors.
Technical Writing for Engineers
Jennie Vaughn, MSEd, PhD candidate
Editor, UA Writing Center

AEM 495: Aerospace Engineering Seminar

Engineers write to "show"
Writers in each academic and professional genre employ specific strategies and conventions in their writing.
Avoid "weak" words
Weak verbs = do not demonstrate much action (says, went, is)

Strong verbs = verbs that indicate action (report, examine, demonstrate, explore, predict, contend, argue)

Note: Scientific writing prefers passive constructions in order to place importance on what was done, not who did it.

Ex. The experiment
was conducted
in the PI's lab at the University of Alabama.
Avoid vague words and phrases such as: a lot, very, many.

Write to indicate precise/specific/measurable amounts.

Ex. "development rate
was fastest
in the higher temperature treatment"

"development rate in the 30°C temperature treatment was
ten percent faster
than development rate in the 20°C temperature treatment"
Be Clear and Concise
Move from old (known) information to new (unknown) information.

Avoid figurative language (metaphors, cliches, hyperbole).

Parallel construction

Eliminate unnecessary words/phrases.

Combine sentences.
Use "that" with a restrictive clause. This means the information is vital to the meaning of the sentence.
Cars that shine are more likely to be noticed by police officers.

Use "which" with a non-restrictive clause. This means the information is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. It is extra.
My research was successful, which is really great news.
Non-restrictive clause are set off or preceded by a comma.
Do not capitalize the words of an acronym unless the acronym represents a proper name.

NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration

ADV = average daily volume
"The" is used to refer to specific or particular nouns.
The investigator wrote her report.

"A" and "An" are used to reference non-specific or non-particular nouns. Use "an" when the noun begins with a vowel.
A researcher should remain objective.
Failure is not an option.
When in doubt, look it up!

Purdue OWL --

UA Writing Center --

Rules of Thumb for Writing Research Articles --
Avoid first person
Formal scientific writing avoids using "I" and "we."
Ex. We examined the specimen from multiple angles.
Revised: The specimen was examined from all angles.

Again, remember the focus of scientific writing is what was done, not who did it.
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