Chapter 1 About Technical Communications and Technical-Writing Courses

Technical-writing courses introduce you to some of the most important aspects of writing in the world of science, technology, and business—in other words, the kind of writing that scientists, nurses, doctors, computer specialists, government officials, engineers, and other such people do as a part of their regular work. To learn how to write effectively for the world of work, you'll study common types of reports, special format items such as lists and headings, simple techniques for putting graphics into reports, and some techniques for producing professional-looking final copy. Technical-writing courses build on what you've learned in other writing courses. But there's lots that is new to learn! If you currently have a job in which you do some writing, you'll discover that you can put what you learn in your technical-writing course to immediate use.

About Technical Writing
You're probably wondering what this "technical writing thing" is. Someone may even have told you, "it's this course where they make you write about rocket science and brain surgery." Well, not really . . . . Actually, the field of technical communications is a fully professional field with degree programs, certifications, and—yes!—even theory. It's a good field with a lot of growth and income potential; and an introductory technical-writing course for which this book has been developed is a good way to start if you are interested in a career in this field. However, the focus for technical-writing courses is not necessarily career as a technical writer but an introduction to the kinds of writing skills you need in practically any technically oriented professional job. No matter what sort of professional work you do, you're likely to do lots of writing—and much of it technical in nature. The more you know about some basic technical-writing skills, which are covered in this guide and in technicalwriting courses, the better job of writing you're likely to do. And that will be good for the projects you work on, for the organizations you work in, and—most of all—good for you and your career. Technical communications—or technical writing, as the course is often called—is not writing about a specific technical topic such as computers, but about any technical topic. The term "technical" refers to knowledge that is not widespread, that is more the territory of experts and specialists. Whatever your major is, you are developing an expertise—you are becoming a specialist in a particular technical area. And whenever you try to write or say anything about your field, you are engaged in technical communications. Another key part of the definition of technical communications is the receiver of the information—the audience. Technical communications is the delivery of technical information to readers (or listeners or viewers) in a manner that is adapted to their needs, level of understanding, and background. In fact, this audience element is so important that it is one of the cornerstones of this course: you are challenged to write about highly technical subjects but in a way that a beginner—a nonspecialist—could understand. This ability to "translate" technical information to nonspecialists is a key skill to any technical

Technical Writing and Communications


communicator. In a world of rapid technological development, people are constantly falling behind and becoming technological illiterates. Technology companies are constantly struggling to find effective ways to help customers or potential customers understand the advantages or the operation of their new products. So relax! You don't have to write about computers or rocket science—write about the area of technical specialization you know or are learning about. And plan to write about it in such a way that even Grand Dad can understand!

Technical Writing and Communications


Chapter 2 Common Grammar, Usage, and Spelling Problems
Punctuation: Commas Punctuation is a good example of this effort to use clearly defined rules in technical writing. In journalistic punctuation style, you punctuate according to what you feel are the needs for clarity. But this is likely to be viewed differently by different people. Therefore, punctuation style in technical writing is based on the structure of the sentence. Use a comma after all introductory elements. Any element, regardless of the length, coming before the main clause should be punctuated with a comma. (The main clause is that core part of a sentence that makes it a complete sentence; that is, it expresses a complete thought.) Here are some examples: When an atom acquires enough energy to leave its orbit, the atom is positively charged. As for the energy required to produce plastic automobile parts, the auto makers view the additional cost as justified by the savings in petroleum by a lighter car during its lifetime. Because the high-pressure turbopumps rotate at speeds of 30,000 rpm, the weight distribution on the turbine blades must be balanced with great accuracy. Because there is no belt of doldrums in the Atlantic south of the equator, hurricanes do not usually occur there. Between 40 and 50 degrees west and just south of 10 degrees north in the western end of the doldrums belt, calms do occur with frequency, and hurricanes originate there with great frequency. In 1831, Michael Faraday discovered that if a magnet was moved in the vicinity of a coil, a current could be induced in the coil. (Punctuate even short introductory phrases like this and the next two sentences.) Using this concept, Faraday arrived at a relation between the changing flux and the induced electromagnetic field. Today, the computer consortium of IBM, Mototrola, and Apple is announcing its new PowerPC chip. Doublecheck commas between the parts of a sentence. A single comma should never break the flow of the main subject, verb, and object or complement of a sentence. Instead, commas should occur in pairs. Here are some examples (the bracketed commas indicated where commas are typically but mistakenly placed): The discovery that moving a magnet within a coil could produce

) Decreasing the radar operating frequency [. "That European refuse incineration costs are substantially lower than U. (These are two imperative sentences—this qualifies as a compound sentence. for. nor.S. But check out the next example. By the mid-1970s.] is particularly evident when income from by-product recovery and salvage operations is included. That European refuse incineration costs are substantially lower than U. and NASA now had to grapple with large technical challenges on a limited budget. the free-spending ways of the Apollo Program were gone. Type your name. Gamma rays produce few pairs.] precipitation particles move with the air in their environment and are therefore good tracers for air motion. costs. (Don't know why people would put a comma here—does it feel like a pause?) The separator between black mix and the zinc electrode [. it's a long way from the subject "discovery" to the verb "was" but there should be no comma. Here are some examples (conjunctions are italicized): The tank is made of aluminum.S.) . Whenever you have a compound sentence (those are the ones joined by and. but to keep life as simple as possible we punctuate them. (These next three examples are short. but a looping path took her around the tip of Florida and into the Gulf instead.Technical Writing and Communications 4 current[. but the outer surface is protected by a spray-on foam.S.] increases the effective velocity coverage for the same sampling rate. or. put a comma before the conjunction (the words I just listed in italics).") It can be assumed that [. whereas). and then press the Enter key. (The whole phrase "Decreasing the radar operating frequency" is the subject of the verb "increases. but. but they travel farther. Length of the compound sentence does not matter. (The whole clause. It first appeared that Hurricane Betsy would reach the eastern U. (Yes.] was a major breakthrough in the history of electronics..") Use a comma between all independent clauses." is the subject for the verb "is. costs [.] consists of a paper barrier coated with cereal or methyl cellulose. but the others turn at 15 mph.) One grate turns at 50 mph.

not a compound sentence: "Offspring" is subject for both verbs. These last three sentences probably seem incredibly long to you and needy of commas at and and but. However. Pulse Doppler radar effectively samples the backscattered signal at the radar repetition rate and therefore can provide unambiguous Doppler frequency observations only in the frequency range allowed by the sampling rate. it's creating more and more exceptions that will drive us all crazy). Compare the following examples (subjects are italicized. (In this case "you" is the subject for the compound verb—it's the subject for both "should type" and "press. verb. A complete sentence has to be on both sides of the conjunction (that means subject. why not split these into two sentences each? The observation and measurement of such small frequency shifts require excellent radar frequency-stability characteristics that are not usually found in conventional radar.Technical Writing and Communications 5 You should type your name and then press the Enter key. The manganese dioxide used in batteries is usually obtained from natural ore (mainly from Gabon. (This is a compound verb phrase. or complement—the works).") Do not use a comma between two compound verb phrase. Pulse Doppler radar effectively samples the backscattered signal at the radar repetition rate. this same observation and measurement can be added without a drastic increase in equipment costs." This is not a compound sentence. Greece.) Plastic parts are not weldable and must be repaired by other methods. This type of radar therefore can . and Mexico) but can be a synthetic product prepared by chemical precipitation or by electrolytic methods. object. and therefore there is no comma before "and. Watch out about what you think are compound sentences. Rather than break our rule (and remember it's not breaking the rule that matters. and verbs are bold): Offspring exposed to significant amounts of alcohol in utero are much more active than controls and sometimes seem to fly around the room. The observation and measurement of such small frequency shifts require excellent radar frequency-stability characteristics that are not usually found in conventional radar but can be added without a drastic increase in equipment costs.

but the sentence could live without it. (Nonessential stuff—put commas around it!) Molecules may also have some degree of ordered as well as disordered . These elements can be taken out of the sentence without hurting its basic message. caused by the rotation of the earth. not essential to the sense of the sentence. making the fabric water-repellent. (Nonessential stuff—put commas around it. (Nonessential stuff—put commas around it!) When waterproofing material is added to a fabric. Use commas around these nonrestrictive elements. a type of atmospheric vortex. or in this case dashes. (Nonessential stuff—put commas around it!) The formation of hurricane. involves the combined effect of pressure and circular wind. and Mexico). The manganese dioxide used in batteries is usually obtained from natural ore (mainly from Gabon. Here are some examples: Eighty percent of the work done by the heart is carried out by the left ventricle.) The bulky equipment.Technical Writing and Communications 6 provide unambiguous Doppler frequency observations only in the frequency range allowed by the sampling rate. it would still make sense. It can also be a synthetic product prepared by chemical precipitation or by electrolytic methods. Nonrestrictive elements are phrases and clauses that a sentence literally does not need to say what it wants to say. although placed on a rolling cart. Use commas around all nonrestrictive elements. (This is additional detail.6 ounces of absolute alcohol during pregnancy — have infants averaging 59 grams less than the infants of lighter drinkers. it increases the contact angle. must always remain within 6 feet of the heart transplant patient.) The Coriolis force. (This is a helpful definition but again is not essential to the sentence. thereby decreasing the wettability. which is 19 percent of design speed. Researchers also found that heavy drinkers — women drinking at least 1.) The test produced a speed in the high-pressure hydrogen turbopump of 7000 rom.) When added to liquids. Greece. (Nice of the writer to remind us what the left ventricle does. always acts at right angles to the pressure gradient in the northern hemisphere. which are commas by another name. detergent materials decrease the contact angle. which pumps blood into the arteries serving the organs and the tissues.

Imagine this sentence ending at "essentially a pump. (The way this sentence is punctuated implies that you can use the system any old time! The comma indicates that the clause beginning with "when" can be lifted from the sentence. 11 percent of the offspring whose mothers consumed 2 to 4 drinks per day showed partial features of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). (Imagine this sentence without "when it is placed on a glass plate. (The clause beginning with "when" is restrictive— it can't be omitted from the sentence and therefore should not be punctuated.") Eighty percent of the work done by the heart is carried out by the left ventricle. (Imagine this sentence without "done by the heart. in which case the total energy is the sum of the mechanical and thermal energies. Now the sentence means that you can use the system only when the prompt appears. when the login prompt appears.Technical Writing and Communications 7 motion.) Here are some additional examples of this rather tricky rule: A turbopump is a pump that is turned by the action of a turbine that shares a common shaft with the pump. If you take restrictive elements out of a sentence. to say what it means to say. (Nonessential stuff—put commas around it!) Do not use comma around restrictive elements. No commas!) .) Revision: You can use the system when the login prompt appears. Restrictive elements are phrases and clauses that a sentence desperately needs to make sense. No commas here!) A drop of water almost flattens out when it is placed on a glass plate. (It's not any old pump. you wreck the sentence! Problem: You can use the system. No commas need apply!) In one study." which is the restrictive element here. (Imagine this sentence without "whose mothers consumed 2 to 4 drinks per day" or without "whose mothers consumed 4 or more drinks per day." which is the restrictive element in this sentence. it's one that does what the latter part of this sentence says it does." The sentence simply wouldn't make any sense. while 19 percent of those whose mothers consumed 4 or more drinks per day showed FAS features.

but notice that "bread. (You probably could switch "adjustable" and "spring-loaded"—use a comma here.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor all contain approximately the same amount of alcohol. We brought bread and cheese and read poetry. Now he wants a new red sports car.) He's having his third mid-life crisis. bumper components. and retesting the redesigned components. It gets tricky knowing how to punctuate when two or more adjectives pile up in front of a noun.Technical Writing and Communications 8 Use a comma before the "and" in a series of three or more. Watch out also for those situations where it looks like you have a series of three elements but it is actually a series of two noun phrases and a compound verb phrase (if this is meaningless—see the example). seat covers. Be careful not to apply the seriesand comma rule to a series of only two elements. the period of rapid brain development begins at mid-pregnancy. testing the original designs. peaks in the third trimester. The development years involved designing the components for the Space Shuttle's engines. In series of three or more words or phrases. (Sorry for the Dick-and-Jane sentence. a 5-ounce glass of wine." "cheese." and "poetry" are not really in a series. One fairly reliable technique is this: if you can switch the order of the adjectives or if you can insert and between them without making the phrase sound weird. A 12-ounce can of beer. go ahead and put the comma before the and that occurs before the final element. Here are some examples: Instrument panels. spring-loaded door latch. (Remember that in no case is there a comma between the final series adjective and the noun it modifies. Do not use a comma between a series of only two. there are situations where the lack of the series-and comma can cause confusion. and grille panels are the most common parts produced directly by automakers.) Punctuate series adjectives carefully. (You couldn't say "mid-life third crisis" nor could you say "sports red new car"—so no commas in or amongst these adjectives. it makes sense to use it in all cases. In humans.) Each door is held shut with an adjustable. You may have heard that this series-and comma rule is optional. and ends by the postnatal year.) . No commas for either "and" here. and a mixed drink with 1. And when you consider that using the series-and comma cannot hurt the sense of the sentence. However. then you should use commas. door liners.

Notice the words before the colon make a complete statement—at least grammatically. glue. and the nozzle. Hurricane size is expressed in three ways: the strength of the maximum winds. both for semester and overall grade point average. the dishes get a thorough soil-stripping wash and a final.Technical Writing and Communications 9 As each rack passes through the wash chamber. Here are some examples of this possibility: The grades of the students in the caffeine research project told a dramatic story: the higher the caffeine intake. reader! Here it comes!" For example: To make a kite. shelf-life increases as the cell size of the battery becomes smaller: with well-constructed cells. 6 telephone cell and ten years with a penlight cell are possible. the low-pressure turbopump. (2) the texture must be stamped into the metal. In fact. . you need the following items: string. thin sticks. the preburners. Here are some additional examples: The main engines of the Space Shuttle consist of six main components: the external tank.) These last two examples may have felt a bit "iffy" to you—the technique is only "fairly" reliable. the high-pressure turbopumps. In general. and the overall size the cyclone circulation. (Incidentally. and scissors.) Punctuation: Colons Although the colon has other uses in writing. paper. the diameter of the hurricane-force winds. the combustion chamber. the diameter of the gale-force winds. its most important function is to act as a signal to the reader—it says something like "Okay. you can use the colon to connect two complete sentences—as long as the first sentence introduces or prepares for the second. see a standard handbook like one of the ones mentioned at the beginning of this appendix for the full set. Notice in the last example that the first sentence introduces a series of complete sentences. shelf-lives of three years with a No. (You probably could switch "final" and "automatic"—use a comma here. the lower the grades. three steps are required: (1) the metal must be stamped. To make a metal dashboard. and (3) the part must be painted. Note: This doesn't cover all commas rules. you'll notice a lot more flexibility in the rules in those standard reference books—they weren't written for the technical-documentation context. automatic hot-water rinse.

fossil-fuel-electric. Look at this last example closely: the grammatical core of the sentence is "You will need the following items . an antenna.) Often. Revision: You will need the following items—string. glue. and eighth rests in punctuation. and nuclear-electric. glue. fossil-fuel-electric. and scissors—to make a kite. (It's almost like music. paper. Semicolons The semicolon could be called a strong comma. . to make a kite. Revision: The typical Doppler velocity sensor consists of a transistor. half. Problem: You will need the following items: string. Revision: Three significant types of generating plants are hydroelectric. These two "comma faults" usually result from the writer's sense that the sentences involved in the problem are very closely related—the full stop signaled by the period seems like too full of a stop. and a receiver. . don't use a colon inside a complete sentence. You may have had some unhappy encounters with run-ons and comma splices (discussed beginning on page D-12) in the past. However. to make a kite. and a receiver. these run-on sentences and comma splices can be fixed by substituting a semicolon for the offending comma. thin sticks. and scissors." And don't forget the important role of the colon in introducing a vertical list. Problem: The typical Doppler velocity sensor consists of: a transistor. Problem: Three significant types of generating plants are: hydroelectric. Many of the new applications of microcomputers are "interactive": there is frequent interaction between the computer and one or more users. Its two main uses are to connect two (or more) sentences that seem very closely related and to clarify the punctuation of a series of items that have their own internal commas. paper. and nuclear-electric. . an antenna. A colon should punctuate the lead-in that sets up the list items. It should connect only complete sentences to complete sentences or complete sentences to lists.Technical Writing and Communications 10 The line-of-sight in a communication satellite can be a problem: communication satellites can see the earth's surface only between about 83 degrees north latitude and 83 degrees south latitude. makes you wonder why we don't have the equivalent of whole. thin sticks. quarter.

when blood enters the ventricles. The heart undergoes two cardiac cycle periods: diastole. is also included. transformation of power from one voltage level to another. it leads to an intra-intimal thrombus containing not just red cells but mainly fibrin and platelets. because it occurs across a membrane that is only about 10 nanometers thick. selling. with production managers for each product category and brand managers for each individual brand in addition to functional categories. every sentence in a document is related to every other—they ought to be! But they need to be reeeaaally closely related. distribution. production-oriented. and remote communication. transmission or distribution lines. air pollutants. injury symptoms from adverse temperature or moisture relations may resemble. with responsibility assigned on the basis of buying. or market-oriented. In 1940. Well. philanthropy accounted for 24 per cent of the total operating budget of nonprofit hospitals in New York City. its growth causes serious production losses and adversely affects wine quality. when the ventricles contract and blood is pumped out. and can be incorrectly attributed to. and systole. The other use of the semicolon worth noting here is how it can clarify items in a series that have commas within them already: Injury caused by pollutants can easily be mistaken for injury caused by other stresses. it represents an enormous voltage gradient of about 10 million volts per meter. An organization may be functional.Technical Writing and Communications 11 But not always. A typical membrane potential of about one-tenth of a volt sounds relatively small. and other tasks. . Some writers go way overboard in sensing close relations between sentences. or. and detection of faults. Here are some examples: "Plaque-fissuring" refers to the formation of an opening from the lumen to the intima. just the opposite. but. Electric power substations are used for some or all of the following purposes: connection of generators. Gray mold is one of the most important fungal diseases in Italian viticulture. interconnection of alternate sources of power. fermentation microbiology. promotion. but environmental biotechnology. yes. it had dropped to 17 per cent. monitoring and recording of information. power measurement. in 1948. and immobilized biocatalysts. Possible research areas announced recently have included genetics. and loads to each other. such as metal recovery and waste recycling. with managers assigned on the basis of geographical markets and customer types in addition to functional categories.

everybody's personal favorite—the one that English teachers and copyeditors can spot from outer space—the rules for its and it's. And. but this is a safe choice): Do you know how many c's and s's are in the word ne-e-ry? On a computer. This CRT is theirs. minimally. it does prevent confusion. okay's. add 's: Earth's shadow the fish's ear the Moon's orbit India's population this company's profits the family's car To show possession for singular words ending in s. people didn't even use apostrophes (yes—a world without apostrophes!). A scant two to three hundred years ago. The problem with the apostrophe is that it has some conflicting tasks: it is used primarily to show possession and. it's is the contraction for it is (exactly oposite.) Apostrophes Pity the poor apostrophe—it's practically an endangered species. But the thing does add precision to writing. add 's (again usage varies on this. Revision: The slide rule was an important device for scientists and engineers for many years. His speech was filled with annoying uh's. and you know's. it can't stand on its own. For example. add 's: women's rights men's rights children's education geese's honking To show the plural of numbers or letters when they are discussed as such. O's are represented by O's and 0's with 0's. To show possession for possessive pronouns. the likes of "John love's Mary" is becoming pretty common in telephone booths. I realize): The SGO density gauge is missing one of its adjusting knobs. here they are: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • To show possession for singular words not ending in s. Its is the possessive form of it. don't use the apostrophe (don't ask me why): This book is yours. but this is a safe choice): Mars's (or Mars') shadow Venus's (Venus') orbit James's (or James') calculator tennis's (or tennis') popularity To show possession for plural words ending in s. . although its use has all but vanished since the advent of the pocket calculator. But people have gotten it all mixed up. not ours.(The "although" clause is not complete. add ' to the plural form of the word (but don't add another s): these companies' employees planets' orbits these species' niches these countries' population southern states' capitals these computers' capabilities To show possession for plural words not ending in s. to show plurals. now. The rules are stupidly simple. add 's (usage varies on this. although its use has all but vanished since the advent of the pocket calculator.Technical Writing and Communications 12 A common misuse of the semicolon is to plunk it down between what appear to be two complete sentences: Problem: The slide rule was an important device for scientists and engineers for many years.

Technical Writing and Communications 13 • • • • (possessive here) It's unfortunate that our language has so many exceptions to its rules—or is it? (contraction for "it is" here) Now. but we'll leave those for the reference books to handle. this previous sentence has a pronoun-reference problem. and so on (unless it spells some other word or just looks hopelessly weird)." They weren't lying! (By the way. cup 4-gallon tub Hyphenate an elliptical form of a longer phrase that is acting as a unit modifier: below-average rainfall warm-up period built-in scale on-board timer start-up costs pay-off period in-service accuracy written-out number Hyphenate a verb and a non-verb element acting as a unit: drought-producing system water-repellent fabric coffee-flavored ice cream nutrient-rich waters government-sponsored programs corrosion-resistent metal pressure-induced melting water-soluble reactants spring-balanced doors salt-free diet health-related costs caffeine-containing substances . These sentences verge on having a problem called "noun stacks. do not hyphenate the common prefixes such as pre. Professional editors end up keeping long lists of exactly which word pairs they will hyphenate in a specific document (so that they don't end up in therapy). "Take hyphens seriously and you will surely go mad. The common types of unit modifiers—which are two or more words acting as a unit—are discussed in the following (but it's by no means exhaustive): • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Although styles vary on this. The problem is that the rules for hyphens simply cannot be applied absolutely consistently—you end up hyphenating everything including the kitchen sink. self-lubricating hinges nonprescription drugs multistep reaction precooked foods antibotulism agent mid-1970s nonmalarial areas micro-universe reusable subnuclear re-sent anti-icing Hyphenate a unit modifier ("5-year" in the first example) made up of a number followed by a unit of measurement: 5-year grant 10-month period 20-megabyte memory 3. However.) Hyphens are supposed to keep us from misreading things and show us how words in complex phrases relate to each other. Hyphens Someone once said. do hyphenate prefix words such as self-. But to read this kind of stuff. multi. however (save the hyphen!). there are others rules involving apostrophes such as for contractions or for quotes within quotes. Our language culture seems to be very "into" piling up ambitious noun phrases. Hyphens do matter. Hyphens show that a pair of words is acting as a unit and must be read that way. we need hyphens— they show us what goes with what." as described in Appendix E.5-inch diskette 8-oz. anti.

but. A fused sentence is two complete sentence just jammed together without any punctuation and without any conjunction. then maybe you can give your hyphen key a break. two sentences are joined by a comma without an intervening coordinating conjunction (and. Problem: Some people were highly educated professionals. as a variant is called) are all examples of the problem in which two or more sentences are improperly joined. Everything will seem like it needs a hyphen! When that happens. or. even if they were just being mean? If it positively cannot be misread. Comma Splices and Run-ons The comma-splice and run-on sentence (and the fused sentence. Revision: The opposite is true of stronger types of stainless steel: they tend to be more susceptible to rust. However. Actually. . In the typical comma-splice sentence. Problem: Most of the hours I've earned toward my associate's degree do not transfer. watch out! You might start acting like Lucy in that show where she has been on the assembly line too long and starts going after everything and everybody with her wrenches. Here are some examples of this type of problem and their revisions: Problem: Sometimes. the run-on sentence is a sentence that goes on and on and needs to be broken up. yet). Revision: Most of the hours I've earned toward my associate's degree do not transfer. Problem: The opposite is true of stronger types of stainless steel. I do have at least some hours the University will accept. We write comma-splice and run-on sentences because we sense that the sentences involved are closely related—a full-stop period just doesn't seem right. others were from small villages in underdeveloped countries.Technical Writing and Communications 14 • • Don't hyphenate units in which the first word ends in -ly: highly developed country fully equipped computer Once you get a partial feel for hyphens. books do not have the most complete information. nor. it is a good idea then to look for articles in specialized periodicals. they tend to be more susceptible to rust. back off. it is a good idea then to look for articles in specialized periodicals. and ask yourself—could someone misread this sentence without a hyphen. Revision: Sometimes. Technically. however. the semicolon is the right choice in these situations (although it's easy to go semicolon crazy when you first start using them). I do have at least some hours the University will accept. it's likely to be a comma splice as well. books do not have the most complete information.

Problem: The committee considered her ideas for a new marketing strategy quite powerful. The best ideas that they had heard in years. Also. in conversation. Here are some examples and their revisions: Problem: Mary appeared at the committee meeting last week. . Fragments Fragments are simply incomplete sentences—grammatically incomplete. included among them is Memorial East in Luckenbach.Technical Writing and Communications 15 Revision: Some people were highly educated professionals. the best ideas that they had heard in years. we typically speak in fragments. For example. included among which is Memorial East in Luckenbach. Revision: The committee considered her ideas for a new marketing strategy quite powerful. your expectations concerning the schedule of the project. while others were from small villages in underdeveloped countries. See comma splices to get some additional practice recognizing and correcting comma splices. Problem: In a proposal. Problem: Most of this firm's contracts have been with major metropolitan hospitals. then it presents comparative data from other similar projects. and a cost breakdown. Problem: This report presents the data we found concerning the cost of the water treatment project. you must include a number of sections. They usually come about because the sentence may already seem too long. And made a convincing presentation of her ideas about the new product. Revision: This report first presents the data we found concerning the cost of the water treatment project and then comparative data from other similar projects. a discussion of your personnel and their qualifications. Revision: Most of this firm's contracts have been with major metropolitan hospitals. Revision: Mary appeared at the committee meeting last week and made a convincing presentation of her ideas about the new product.

Although the more conservative executives of the firm are skeptical. or when the modifier is located in the wrong place within the sentence. Problem: She spent a full month evaluating his computer-based instructional materials. See fragments to get some additional practice recognizing and correcting fragments. Problem: The corporation wants to begin a new marketing push in educational software. Revision: Although the more conservative executives of the firm are skeptical. phrase. Modifier problems are usually divided into two groups: misplaced modifiers and dangling modifiers: Misplaced modifiers They found out that the walkways had collapsed on the late evening news. she sent the evaluation to her supervisor with the strongest of recommendations. (Was that before or after the sports news?) The committee nearly spent a hundred hours investigating the . or clause--that adds information to a noun or pronoun in a sentence. A modifier is any element—a word. and a cost breakdown. Eventually. Problem: The research team has completely reorganized the workload. Problem Modifiers Modifier problems occur when the word or phrase that a modifier is supposed to modify is unclear or absent. Revision: The research team has completely reorganized the workload. a discussion of your personnel and their qualifications. Which she eventually sent to her supervisor with the strongest of recommendations. Making sure that members work in areas of their own expertise and that no member is assigned proportionately too much work. you must include a number of sections: for example. They made sure that members work in areas of their own expertise and that no member is assigned proportionately too much work. Revision: She spent a full month evaluating his computer-based instructional materials. the corporation wants to begin a new marketing push in educational software. your expectations concerning the schedule of the project.Technical Writing and Communications 16 Revision: In a proposal.

(Who received the dumb waiter?) Using a grant from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. aerobic fitness programs may become much more common in American industry. When the Urban Mass Transportation Administration granted funds to the city. After we received the dumb waiter. according to the spokeswoman. a contraflow lane was designed for I-45 North. The committee spent nearly a hundred hours investigating the accident. (Who pointed that out?) To correct misplaced modifier problems. Because the previous fuse had been damaged. (Did they spend even a minute?) The superviser said after the initial planning the in-depth study would begin. city planners designed a contraflow lane for I-45 North. To correct dangling modifiers. (Just when did she say that. household chores became so much easier in the old mansion. planners began designing a contraflow lane for I-45 North. a new one had to be installed. it was immediately installed. Revisions On the late evening news.Technical Writing and Communications 17 accident. you can usually relocate the misplaced modifier (the word or phrase). a new fuse was installed in the car. I had to install a new fuse in my car. we immediately installed it. Using a grant from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. we heard that the walkways had collapsed. (Who used that money?) Pointing out the productivity and health problems plaguing US workers. and when will the study begin?) Dangling modifiers Having damaged the previous one. . Having damaged the previous one. or rephrase the rest of the sentence that it modifies. The superviser said that the in-depth study would begin after the initial planning. (Who damaged that fuse?) After receiving the new dumb waiter. After receiving the dumb waiter. you can rephrase the dangling modifier.

according to the spokeswoman. You want to use the same style of wording in a series of items--it makes it easier on the reader. and how to begin your . and accessories are available. the spokeswoman said that aerobic fitness programs may become much more common in American industry. galaxies. what types available.) Revision: The report discusses how telescopes work. Parallelism Parallelism refers to the way that items in a series are worded. mounts. our own included. a noun or pronoun summarizing what was just said followed by an adjective clause: Dangling modifier problems Summary appositive revisions Stars that were formed relatively Stars that were formed relatively recently should have higher recently should have higher concentrations of heavy elements concentrations of heavy elements than do the older stars. with revisions and some comments: Problem: are The report discusses how telescopes work. Most astronomers now believe that Most astronomers now believe that the energy of quasars comes from the energy of quasars comes from giant black holes in the cores of giant black holes in the holes of the quasars. One particularly effective way to correct dangling modifiers is to create a summary appositive. which fits the quasars." and "techniques" phrases. Widely varied wording is distracting and potentially confusing to readers. aerobic fitness programs may become much more common in American industry. mounts. accessories. which is than do the older stars.Technical Writing and Communications 18 Because of the productivity and health problems plaguing US workers. and techniques for beginning star gazers." "accessories. that is. a theory that fits the growing belief that black holes growing belief that black holes are present in the cores of many are present in the cores of many galaxies. our own included. a confirmed by observation. what types of telescopes. Pointing out the productivity and health problems plaguing US workers. (The "how" and the "why" clauses are not parallel to the "mounts. prediction that is confirmed by observation. Here are some examples.

Parallelism problems have to do when same types of phrasing are not used in the same areas of a document: such as for list items in a specific list. (The "what items are available" clause does not go with the two phrases beginning with "to. in many instances. and to place orders. the dialysis is achieved. and place orders. Shown below are those different styles: Questions Noun Phrasing . Problem: While the dialysis solution remains in the peritoneal cavity.Technical Writing and Communications 19 hobby as a star gazer. a process that includes the removal of nitrogenous wastes and the correction of electrolyte imbalances and fluid overloads. parallel phrasing can give readers important cues as to how to interpret information.") Revision: Customers often call the showroom to inquire about prices. At times. Problem: Customers often call the showroom to inquire about pricing. Problem: electronics This report is intended for people with some background but have little or no knowledge of geophysical prospecting. working on parallelism of phrasing is trivial. (The "removal" phrase and the "correcting" phrase are not parallel to each other. the dialysis is achieved.) Revision: While the dialysis solution remains in the peritoneal cavity. However. check on the availability of certain items.) Revision: This report is intended for people with some electronics background but with little or no knowledge of geophysical prospecting. what items are available. A jumble of dissimilar styles of phrasing for similar elements can be confusing. a process that includes the removal of nitrogenous wastes and correcting electrolyte imbalances and fluid overloads. or for all headings at a certain level within a specific part of a document. (The "with" phrase is not parallel with the "have little" clause--this one is not even grammatical.

Soil samples must be handled using the specified method. The purpose of the monorails has changed from one of carrying food to one of carrying people to work in crowded urban areas. Handle soil samples properly. Use monitor wells in groundwater collection for laboratory analysis. particularly in these cases: • Agreement problems The communications between the programmer and the rest of the company tends to be rather informal.Technical Writing and Communications 20 How are groundwater samples collected? How should soil samples be handled? Must monitor wells be used to collect groundwater for laboratory analysis? What should the samples be analyzed for? Gerund Phrasing Collecting groundwater samples Handling soil samples Using monitor wells in groundwater collection for laboratory analysis Analyzing samples Method of groundwater sample collection Soil sample handling Purpose of monitor wells in groundwater collection for laboratory analysis Purpose of soil sample analysis Sentences Groundwater samples must be collected properly. Monitor wells must be used to collect groundwater for laboratory analysis. Imperatives Collect groundwater samples.) Sometimes it's hard to spot the true subject. or vice versa. Analyze samples. Samples must be analyzed for specific elements. The purpose of the monorails have changed from one of carrying food to one of carrying people to work in crowded urban areas. Infinitives To collect groundwater samples To handle soil samples To use monitor wells in groundwater collection for laboratory analysis To analyze samples See parallelism problems for some additional practice. either a singular subject is matched with a plural verb. Subject-Verb Agreement With subject-verb agreement problems. When several words come between the subject and verb: Revisions The communications between the programmer and the rest of the company tend to be rather informal. (Remember that some singular verbs end in -s. .

Through the center of the core runs several sense wires. The magnetic-ink characterrecognition device and the optical character-recognition device are two important advances in the preparation of batch input. When the normal subject-verb order is inverted: Revisions In the computer's memory are stored the program and the data to be manipulated by that program. Either BASIC or Pascal is the high-level computer language you should take first. When there are two or more subjects joined by and or or: Revisions In the computer's memory are stored the program and the data to be manipulated by that program. the need to keep pace with rapidly increasing amounts of data. • Agreement problems In the computer's memory is stored the program and the data to be manipulated by that program.Technical Writing and Communications 21 The shortage of available infants and the availability of children with special needs has changed the focus of adoption for many parents. first introduced in 1972. and requirements for fast system response has led to a search for more efficient input devices. Either BASIC or Pascal are the highlevel computer language you should take first. • Agreement problems In the computer's memory is stored the program and the data to be manipulated by that program. Introduced in 1968 by the Computer Machine Corporation were the concept of key-to-disk processing and the concept of shared processing. Skyrocketing charges for data preparation. The magnetic-ink characterrecognition device and the optical character-recognition device is two important advances in the preparation of batch input. Equivalent to more than 3000 punched cards is the single diskette. Introduced in 1968 by the Computer Machine Corporation was the concept of key-to-disk processing and the concept of shared processing. . first introduced in 1972. Equivalent to more than 3000 punched cards are the single diskette. the need to keep pace with rapidly increasing amounts of data. Skyrocketing charges for data preparation. The shortage of available infants and the availability of children with special needs have changed the focus of adoption for many parents. and requirements for fast system response have led to a search for more efficient input devices. Through the center of the core run several sense wires.

• Agreement problems Printing 54.Technical Writing and Communications 22 • When the subject is a word like each. It plays an important role in the chemistry of the Revisions Each of the steps in the process is treated in a separate chapter of this report." "they. neither. Problems arise when you can't figure out what the pronoun is pointing to (its "reference") and when it doesn't "agree" in number or gender with what it is pointing to. per 60 seconds was considered a high speed for printers at one time. Reversing the direction of currents through the wires changes the magnetic state of the core." You look back up at the sea of words you have just been laboriously reading through--you say "this what?!" You have just experienced one form of the pronoun-reference problem." "this. What is truly amazing about bits cells in integrated circuits is that 30 cells lined up side by side are about as wide as a human hair. Pronoun Reference Pronoun reference is an area that has caused international conflict and created major rifts in the women's movement--so don't expect this little section to explain it all." "which. either." "each. It's like a variable in programming--it points to some other word that holds its meaning. no one.000 chars. especially when followed by a plural object of a preposition: Agreement problems Each of the steps in the process are treated in a separate chapter of this report.000 chars." "them. every." and so on. ." "everyone. What is truly amazing about bits cells in integrated circuits are that 30 cells lined up side by side are about as wide as a human hair. and it up and refers to something as "this. Neither of the two high-level languages offers a facility for designing your own variables. and nobody. Neither of the two high-level languages offer a facility for designing your own variables. When the subject is a phrase or clause acting as a unit: Revisions Printing 54." "him. Here's another example: Problem: Lasers have also been used to study the reaction by which nitric oxide and ozone make nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and molecular oxygen. per 60 seconds were considered a high speed for printers at one time. Reversing the direction of currents through the wires change the magnetic state of the core. You may have experienced the first type of problem: you're reading along in some incredibly technical thing. A pronoun. is a word like "he. as you may know. none.

These days. there sometimes is no good way to fix the problem. try converting the singular noun to a plural--the plural pronoun will then be okay (but don't forget to change the verb to plural). students need to own their own Revision 2: These days." As you can see from the revisions. The problem in this example is that "student" does not agree with "their": one is singular.) Whenever it works.. Revision 1: computers. given the right situation. plural. maybe any dummy knows what's being said here. now we see. Here is one common example: Problem: Motorola has just announced their new PowerPC chip.Technical Writing and Communications 23 ozone layer that surrounds the earth and protects us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. but this is imprecise writing. every student needs to own his or her own computer.. we might look elsewhere in the context for the plural noun we think is being referred to by "their. (How politically correct. The problem here is that "Motorola" is a singular thing. Maybe not in this example. the other.) Revision 3: These days. it is imprecise--and we care greatly about precision in technical writing.. ("It" what?) Revision: Lasers have also been used to study the reaction by which nitric oxide and ozone make nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and molecular oxygen. Here is a second example: Problem: computer. (Things like "h/she" have pretty much been booed off the stage. but in other situations.. However. Revision: Motorola has just announced its new PowerPC chip. every student needs to own their own These days. every student needs to own a computer. while "their" is a plural thing--they don't agree in number! Now.) The second kind of pronoun-reference problem arises over lack of agreement between the pronoun and what it refers to. . (Okay. This process plays an important role in the chemistry of the ozone layer that surrounds the earth and protects us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. and it can lead to serious problems. Some self-proclaimed authorities have tried to call this usage acceptable.

It was the NBS engineers [who. her. electrical vehicles could become as popular as their conventional counterpart. contacted on July 17. and we are used. Problem: American industry should implement aerobic fitness programs for the betterment of their employees even if there is some opposition to it at first. by using production tooling rather than by making each tool individually. Imagine that you start out with sentences like these (admittedly not an eloquent crew but they'll do): 2. Houston has $328.2 million in its 1984-1985 budget to help fund a new form of mass transportation.2 million in their 1984-1985 budget to help fund a new form of mass transportation. Problem: Currently. Revision: Currently. you can figure out which to use. 5. It was the NBS engineers [who. she.) Who is used in the same slots that words like he.Technical Writing and Communications 24 Here are some additional examples (the reference word is underlined and the pronouns are italicized): Problem: NASA hoped that. Houston has $328. muscular. Problem: Aerobic fitness programs help to improve an employee's physical condition by strengthening their circulatory. them. they could save time and money. you too can learn the proper usage of who and whom. Revision: NASA hoped that. they. electrical vehicles could become as popular as its conventional counterpart. Pronoun Case (Who. Here's the test: 1. and respiratory systems. Revision: Aerobic fitness programs help to improve an employee's physical condition by strengthening his circulatory. (This will soon be an exciting new self-help seminar offered `round the country. and us are used. Whom) Yes. Eagleton's office 3. by using production tooling rather than by making each tool individually. So if you can run a little replacement test. muscular. Problem: If an energy efficient system can be developed. and respiratory systems. it could save time and money. whom?] performed the tests on . whom?] Sen. look for it advertised late at night on a cable channel. whom is used in the same slots that him. (A double dose of pronoun-reference grief!) Revision: American industry should implement aerobic fitness programs for the betterment of its employees even if there is some opposition to it at first. Revision: If an energy-efficient system can be developed. 4.

we. he. The NBS engineers performed the tests on the walkways. She will be the next mayor? => (who) 46. whom?] Sen. Sen. 9. Eagleton's office 16. whomever?] wants one. If it sounds right to substitute I. 20. whom?] Sen. her. Eagleton's office made the request for the technical 37. Sen. No one is sure [who. us. 47. => (whom) 40. 24. 30. the walkways. Eagleton's office contacted them. 12. them. 36. office made the request for technical assistance. walkways. Sen. Send a copy of the report to whoever wants one. use who. whomever?] wants one. 25. 53. Here are the results: 50. assistance to the NBS engineers. => (whom) 49. He wants one? => (who) 44. => (who) 42. 14. 22. juggle the remaining words so that they make a complete sentence: 28. . 10. 7. 38. It was the NBS engineers to [who. They performed the tests on the walkways. 11. whom?] will be the next mayor. It was the NBS engineers [who. 31. Now. Eagleton's office made the request for technical assistance. 32. Sen. 45. 17. Eagleton's office contacted 51. the walkways. 43. It was the NBS engineers whom Sen.Technical Writing and Communications 25 6. Eagleton's 26. whom?] Sen. whom?] will be the next mayor. on July 17. 18. she. 27. assistance to them. 56. Next. they. 13. It was the NBS engineers [who. strike out all the words up to the who or whom including prepositions: 15. him. 41. 52. No one is sure [who. 21. If it sounds right to substitute me. It was the NBS engineers to [who. Eagleton's office made the request for the technical 48. use whom: 39. [Who. It was the NBS engineers who performed the tests on the 54. 8. whom] will be the next mayor? 35. whom] wants one? 33. 23. whom?] performed the tests on 19. contacted on July 17. 29. Send a copy of the report to [whoever. [Who. Send a copy of the report to [whoever. 55. 34. Eagleton's office contacted the NBS engineers.

the modem. none of it should be capitalized. Eagleton's office made 61. This may not be the next Hoola-Hoop or Veg-a-Matic. It was the NBS engineers to whom Sen. or for really important things. the monitor. if we were discussing the disk drive. the CPU unit. the Microsoft Mouse. and editing believe that excessive capitalization is distracting and confusing for readers. In technical writing. You know that whenever you use an acronym in your text. there are some exceptions. races. When you turn your computer on. and other such proper names: . 60. For example. WordPerfect is a proper name. (Incidentally. Most professionals in publishing. official names of things and people. the impulse is often to use caps for the components of a thing—fight it off! For example. No one is sure who will be the next mayor. However. the third example. but it works. developers. counties. a loose reference to the "development area" at IBM does not need caps. and other nonprofessional writers tend to use capital letters for everything that feels important—particularly the stuff that they've worked on. 58. you want to reproduce the capitalization style shown on buttons. states. then certainly caps are in order. or the IBM 6091 Display. or the printer of a computing system. makes it harder to read. A common misuse of capitalization involves acronyms. nations. cities. knobs.Technical Writing and Communications 26 57. if we were talking about the the Dell NL40 Notebook computer. However. which contains "whoever wants one. Of course. The rule about always using whom when it comes after a preposition does not work! It's like those 10-day miracle diets. in instructions. Similarly. writing. whichever way it is shown on the machine. And it works without having to toss around terms like nominative case and objective case.. Writers often want to put the spelled-out version in initial caps. Capitalization should not be used for emphasis (use underscores or italics for that. languages. For example. I'd write it as Service or SERVICE. you would do so only if the spelled-out version were a proper name in its own right: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed just after Word War II. If I have a Service button on my computer.) Capitalization One of the big problems in technical writing involves capitalization. but not its grammar-checking feature. Capital letters should be used for proper names--formal. the mouse. Try it on your friends." is typically missed by people who pride themselves on their grammar. you should spell it out first then show its acronym in parentheses. and other physical features of products as well as on the display screens of computer programs just as they are shown on the hardware. it normally goes through a process called initial program load (IPL). Mosaic is a proper name of a software product. more importantly. the request for technical assistance. Tandem Corporation is a proper name. use special notices. Problem is that this practice breaks all our standard capitalization rules and. Technical people. it's not the official name of that area. 59. Here are the standard rules for caps: • Use capital letters for names of people.. regions.

Among Muslims. the major population and economic growth regions of the United States have been the South and Southwest. some styles require this title to use a capital letter. Drive ten miles north from Baldwin City. This rule is often ignored within organizations that need to use capitalize titles of positions." • Use capital letters for points of the compass only when they refer to well-established regions. Minnesota. astronomy. Samuel Morse invented the coding system called the Morse code. Missouri.. even when it occurs alone. and you'll be in Lawrence. . Michigan.Technical Writing and Communications 27 The Early Bird satellite was launched by Intelst. Ramadan commemorates the first revelation of the Koran and is celebrated by fasting. and Nebraska. Wisconsin. refers to those lands in that part of the world that are predominantly Islamic in culture. Oil imports from South America have been decreasing recently. The Midwest includes Ohio. A professor and a student assembled the world's first electronic computer in the years between the wars. a student. the United Kingdom. culturally speaking.S. The Middle East. geology and a special course called "Key Concepts in Western Science. The population of Quebec is largely French speaking. The first electronic computer was assembled in the years 1940 to 1942 by Professor John V. • Use capital letters for titles of offices when the title precedes the name of an officeholder but not when the title occurs alone. in her sophomore semester Gilda took English. and Germany. The dam is located to the west of the city. Another exception to this rule involves the president of the U. a consortium of Western countries including the United States. biology. Indiana. French. Kansas. Kansas. Illinois. Atanasoff and Clifford Berry. but not when they simply refer to a direction of travel: In the 1970s and 1980s. France. Iowa. at Iowa State University.

country.. the president holds the power of veto over any legislation passed by the Congress. mayors from several cities in the region met to discuss an integrated system of health care. By standard capitalization rules. Last week.S. in Mexico. the Allies agreed to continue the war until the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. that's not correct. periods of history. Typically. and job titles get initial caps. but the usage is so strong in these two types of documents that it has become acceptable. it's called Cinco de Mayo. names of occupations and fields. The term Protestantism is used to distinguish this faith from the other major Christian faiths: Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. and historical documents: The telegraph played an important role in the Civil War. historical events. • Use capital letters for academic subjects only when they are part of a specific course title or when they are derived from the name of a person. special days. They consider Chemistry 301 a difficult course even though they are all chemistry majors. 1944. and holidays—but not for the names of the seasons: On Monday. • Use capital letters for religions. • Use capital letters for the days of the week. and physics. This semester Majorie plans to take French.Technical Writing and Communications 28 In the U.) She took a course in world history called "The Shaping of Western Thought" at Baker University in Kansas. The Allies landed on Normandy Beach on July 6. or language. At the Casablanca Conference. religious groups. they celebrated her birthday at a local restaurant. months. In the United States. finance. (This capitalization rule often get bent a little in resumes and application letters. the national independence day is July the Fourth. Last fall they spent Thanksgiving in Denmark. a day known as D- . 1978. July 24.

• Use capital letters for references to most numbered or lettered items (figures. buildings. King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. tables. which finally resulted in the Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program (IDCSP). three domestic carriers initiated operations during 1974: American Satellite Corporation. In this book. The Great Depression in the United States was supposedly precipitated by the stock-market crash of 1929. volumes. 1980.S. the U. such as Project Courier. Under compulsion by English barons and the church. Recently. Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh asked the Union of Concerned Scientists to make an independent evaluation of the krypton problem at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. Inc. After the FCC's 1971 adoption of a "limited skies" policy. Chapter 6 discusses how to convert instructions written by engineers into instructions that can be read and understood by ordinary nonspecialists.. Saudia Arabia has its own air force and its own integrated defense system. governmental. Apple Corporation introduced its Macintosh to compete with IBM's Personal Computer. Department of Defense initiated a number of projects. • Use capital letters for objects that have individualized names: . and non-profit) as well as their products and services: In the late 1950s. this small amount of krypton is uniformly mixed with the roughly 2 million cubic feet of air in the sealed Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor containment building. parts. the basic patterns of technical writing and compared to those of traditional English composition. chapters. Air Force in 1966. Unfortunately.Technical Writing and Communications 29 Day. Americom of RCA. • Use capital letters for organization names (commercial.): In Figure 3 a simple telegraph arrangement is shown. etc. On March 24. a subsidiary of Fairchild industries. The IDCSP satellites were launched by the U. In Part I of this book.S. and Western Union. rooms.

not words. Four. • Use capital letters for the earth. not a numeral. it was pointed out that worrying too much about hyphens will drive you crazy--so will numbers. was launched in 1965. who cares? However." A word. For example. but it's just no big deal. or both. In other words.Technical Writing and Communications 30 The first operational communications satellite. Also in "This recipe calls for 4 cups of unbleached flour. check your dictionary. When in doubt. The main hurdle to overcome is to learn that in technical contexts. sun. The theory that the Universe is constantly expanding is based on the observation of red-shifts. although a few such as ac and dc are not. NASA launched the first two High-Energy Astronomy Observation (HEAO) satellites to study black holes. To summarize the rules that we normally apply: . and universe when they are discussed with other celestial bodies or systems: The Sun is 1. is preferable here because-well. in the sentence "Our computer backup system uses 4 mm tape" the numeral is in order. Smith has her offices in the Woods Building. In 1969. Early Bird. an exact measurement value. when the number is a key value. disgusting cake. if I use 5 cups of flour. That's because in the technical and scientific context. moon. The "brain" of the computer is the central processing unit (CPU). Alpha-Centaur. and Titan were used for launching space communications satellites. The difficulty is in defining the rules. how to explain it? The number of elements is exact all right. five. You should use numerals. The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937 and it is one of the most extraordinary bridges in the world. Dr. Use capital letters for the spelled-out version of acronyms only if the spelled-out versions are proper nouns in their own right. In 1977 and 1978. statistical data. even ones below 10. an experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) shattered protons with electrons. Words In the preceding section on hyphens. Until the Challenger space shuttle. we break the rules that are taught in regular writing courses and that are used in normal publishing and copyediting practice." But consider this one: "There are four key elements that define a desktop publishing system. expendable launch vehicles such as the Thor Delta. I'll have a miserable.4 km from Earth. we are vitally interested in numbers. • Use capital letters for most acronyms. even if it's a 2 or 5 or--yes--even a 0. we use numerals in text. Numbers vs.

The US Army's standard airborne Doppler navigator weighs 28 lb (12. • For large amounts. if more than 14 . even when those values are below 10. better yet. exact values and stick with it. "19. • Make a firm decision on how to handle 0 and 1 when they refer to key. For example. avoid the symbols that may be available in the character set used by your software or typewriter." • When you must use fractions. for some reason.325-GHz frequency.08 should be 0. but such is not the case when you have things like 1/8 floating around.7 kg). exact values. requires 89 W of power. . Stay consistent with either decimals or fractions in these situations.) It was not until after December 1952. Be sensitive to what the standard practices are in the context in which you are writing. All vitrain of the European classification. and operates at 13. • Use words for numerical values that are unimportant. add a 0 before the decimal point: for example.08.000" might make some readers think it was an exact amount. • It would be nice if all fractions could be reset as decimals. Here are some examples where these rules are applied: Some 19 million tons of sulphur dioxide are discharged from US sources alone each year. you can write things like 36 million or 45 billion. • Apply these rules in specifically technical. (Style varies wildly in technical writing on these two villains.Technical Writing and Communications 31 • Don't start sentences with numerals--write the number out or. Construct the fraction like this: 5-1/4. and another 14 million tons from Canada. when 4000 people died in London from air pollution in just a few days. • For decimal values less than 1.00" to a dollar amount if the the amount is rounded or estimated. rephrase the sentence so that it doesn't begin the sentence. such as in the sentence "There are six data types in the C programming language. they resign themselves to the slight inconsistency but better readability. that real gains in pollutioncontrol legislation were made. • Use numerals for important. (Using the number "19" and the word "million" indicates an approximate amount.000. not 23 thousand. Be sure and put the hyphen between the whole number and the fraction. scientific contexts only. don't add ".) Some technical styles choose to use words for these. • Don't make numerical values look more exact than they are. but.

" is used. 8-. technical writing uses the number. as in this example. Mined coals commonly contain between 5 and 15 percent mineral matter. but only 4 are of commercial importance.Technical Writing and Communications 32 micrometers thick. The water-cement ratio will generally range from 4 gal of water per sack of cement to about 9 gal per sack. Use Code 3 if a system shutdown occurs. Combustion turbines total about 8% of the total installed capability of US utility systems and supply less than 3% of the total energy generated.) The signal occurs in 6-second intervals. But notice that no "#" or "No. The above illustration shows a 20-unit coaxial cable with 9 working coaxial pairs and 2 standby coaxials. use the numeral even if it is below 10. Internal combustion engines in small power plants account for about 1% of the total power-system generating capability of the US. There are 59 different species of the coffee shrub.) The problem is located in piston number 6. 11 countries accounted for about 91 percent of world production of coal. and 12-foot two-by-fours. In 1971. in technical writing. The Department of the Interior has just published a report that reviews 65 different coal gasification processes. (When there are enumerated items or parts. has been regarded as anthraxylon. Most grinds of coffee contain particles ranging in size from . (These are exact values here. The order is for 6-. which automatically switch in if the electronics of the regular circuits fail.

we use numerals. Transmission rates on ETHERNET range from 1 to 10 megabits per second (0.023 to 0. the visible spectrum. the satellite carriers' revenues were about $88 million. Most communications satellites are in geostationary orbit: at an altitude of 22.300 miles over the surface of the earth and at a distance of 26. (These are exact values. 1 to 5 million counts per second.260 miles from the center of the earth (the earth's radius being 3960 miles). in the technical-writing context.055 inches in diameter. therefore.535 MHz and 1. In 1978.Technical Writing and Communications 33 0. Notice how fractional values are handled: put a hyphen between the whole number and the fraction to prevent misreading. 2-1/2 to 3 gal of water are needed for each sack of cement for complete hydration and maximum strength.) The order for twelve 30-foot beams was placed yesterday. . and by 1986. The microprocessors of the 70s and 80s operated under the control of clocks running at 1 to 5 MHz. that is. Aggregates constitute about 70 percent of a concrete mix. The order was for 30 fifteen-gallon tubs.25 million bytes per second). They used six 8-pound sacks of nails. AM broadcasting stations sprang up all over the country beginning in the 1910s. Uniform compaction of 95% or better of standard AASHO densities is recommended. As a base from which to work. they are expected to reach $800 million. Using carrier frequencies between 0.125 to 1.605 MHz in the US. Your eye has a bandwidth of 370 trillion Hz.

Dr. use a RAM for memory page zero.) The typical stand-alone microcomputer system consists of seven physical components. Tens of millions of them will bought them by the end of the century. (Even in technical-writing contexts. Just pick a style and stay with it.) . it is not a key value. even though it seems like an exact amount. There are two telephones in service today for every three people in the US. a zinc-carbon battery must have a working voltage not less than one volt. Chapter 7 discusses the different audiences of technical prose and translation techniques for communicating effectively with the less specialized ones. this vehicle has less traction. (Use the word "seven" here because.Technical Writing and Communications 34 In this book. but because of the weight distribution over four wheels rather than over two wheels or tracks. Primary fuel cells are those through which reactants are passed only one time. Hundreds of thousands of people will have purchased microcomputers by the end of 1980. (Use the word "ten" here because it is not an exact amount. Using the word "one" is the standard in this example. It doesn't have the same significance as the "7"would have in "7 quarts of oil. Gordon Moore announced his "law" that the complexity of a chip would double every year for ten years. In 1965.") If you are using page-zero addressing. Before recharging. The wheels of the four-wheel tractor give it increased speed over the Crawler. rules for one and zero vary.

The speed of light is roughly 300 million meters per second. you'd still write "5-1/2 inches. there are plenty of cases where the . some rewriting might be a wise idea to get the numerical out of the beginning of the sentence.) Data from the frequency counter take the form of 16 sevenbit ASCII words. (Never start a sentence with a numeral in any writing context. (When you have two separate numerical values side by side. With this example.) At the meeting. Contrast with the next example. Styles vary here. Sales of batteries have increased from $510 million on the average during 1957-1959 to $867 million in 1966 and are projected to exceed $1. (In running text." or "in. "half" by itself in running text is always a word. always write out fraction like this.8 billion in 1980." "in. as in the following rewrite. and the other a numeral. they are different from the normal flow of words. However.) A nanosecond is one-billionth of a second. Inside the UP are three 16-bit registers. but make the numeral the higher number." First of all. you may often have to decide whether to use " or ' for "inches" or "feet" or whether to use "inches.Technical Writing and Communications 35 Japan has roughly one-third of the US production of dry batteries. Fifty-three representatives of different software development companies showed up at the meeting. (And just to be sure.") The radial fractures are so extensive that they are the dominant structural element over half of Mars's surface. Symbols and Abbreviations In technical-writing contexts. However. remember that symbols and abbreviations are distracting to readers. one has to be a word. and hyphenate them. 53 representatives of different software development companies showed up.

Also. In this case. Don't make them up yourself (for example. But which? Imagine the amount of foot and inch references there would be in a carpentry project (for example. There is no reason to use symbols or abbreviations here--just write the thing out. What about obscure abbreviations and symbols? If you are concerned that readers might not recognize the abbreviation or symbol. up to 30 MHz or more. otherwise. check a dictionary. a dog house).Technical Writing and Communications 36 written-out version is more distracting than the symbol or abbreviation. For the few that you think might take the s. Inc. " and ' would be greatly preferable. Most touch-sensitive displays use a matrix of either LED/photodiodes or transparent capacitor arrays to detect a physical touch. means 5 inches.. The voice was compressed from the usual 64-kb/s pulse code . technical or nontechnical) has a lot to do with which to use. But imagine a technical document with numerous feet and inch references: using symbols or abbreviations in this case is better. the context (specifically. was an early participant in commercial satellites. Here are some examples of abbreviations or symbols in text: High resolution displays use larger video bandwidths. "mtrs" for meters)! What about plurals? Very few abbreviations take an s to indicate plural: for example 5 in. Which are the standard symbols and abbreviations to use? Go with the standards in the field in which you are writing. A satellite in geostationary orbit looks at the earth with a cone angle of 17. this would be an extreme case. the symbols. Imagine a technical document which has only one or two references to numerical measurements in inches. or with those found in a standard reference book such as a dictionary. use the abbreviations.080 km along the equator. write its full name in regular text and then put the abbreviation and symbol in parentheses just after the the first occurrence of that full name. more efficient for both reader and writer. more readable. Fairchild Industries.3ø corresponding to an arc of 18. However. The part of the memory that is easily alterable by the operator consists of RAM chips. The arc from 53ø W to 139ø W will cover 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) and is said to provide conus coverage.

Over a period of several days the spacecraft is tracked from the ground and positioned on station (i. A velocity increment of approximately 155 ft/s per year is required to correct drift problems in satellites. Such batteries contain 4400 cc of water in which NaOH is dissolved..Technical Writing and Communications 37 modulation (PCM) to 32 kb/s per channel by nearinstantaneous companding (a modified PCM technique).125 cm long and 2. Water pressure in the heat recovery loop can be as much as 25 psig.1 normal (N) calomel electrodes in which the system is Hg|KCl solution saturated with HgCl. The standard electrodes are the normal and the 0.e. Terrestrial microwave radio communications require repeaters spaced every 20 to 40 mi from each other. The ancient battery-like objects made by the Parthians in 250 BC were thin sheets of copper soldered into a cylinder 1. . in the preassigned orbital spot) in order to commence operations.6 cm in diameter.

the subject line replaces the salutation or is included with it." "Dear Director of Financial Aid. address the salutation to a department name." "Dear Friends. Also. If you don't know whether the recipient is a man or woman." "Dear Chairperson. the salutation line is eliminated altogether. anonymous phone call to the organization and ask for a name. The best solution is to make a quick." You can design your own. the traditional practice has been to write "Dear Sir" or "Dear Sirs" — but that's sexist! To avoid this problem. The writer's name is not included and only a date is needed in headings on letterhead stationery. committee name. The actual message of course is contained in the body of the letter. The inside address shows the name and address of the recipient of the letter. the paragraphs between the salutation and the complimentary close." or "Respectfully yours." "Dear Ladies and Gentlemen. include the appropriate title of respect of the recipient.. If you are not sure what is correct for an individual." "Dear Recruitment Committee. Dr. This information helps prevent confusion. Subject or reference line." "Respectfully..Technical Writing and Communications 38 Chapter 3 Business Correspondence and Resumes In this chapter focus on business correspondence-general format and style for business letters as well as specific types of business letters. Inside address. The "Sincerely yours" element of the business letter is called the complimentary close. is not ordinarily a good solution either — it's impersonal. The subject line announces the main business of the letter. salutations such as "Dear Sir or Madame." for example." "Cordially.. if the recipient has moved. When you do have the names of individuals. Other common ones are "Sincerely yours. and so on. Complimentary close. familiar. The salutation directly addresses the recipient of the letter and is followed by a colon (except when a friendly. in which case a comma is used). but be careful not to . Strategies for writing the body of the letter are discussed in the section on business-correspondence style. Ms. Salutation. or a position name: "Dear Personnel Department.. Notice that in the simplified letter format. try to find out how that individual signs letters or consult the forms-ofaddress section in a dictionary. Body of the letter. sociable tone is intended. The heading contains the writer's address and the date of the letter. As shown in the order letter. Or. The following is concerned with the mechanical and physical details of business Heading. Specifically: • Overview of business correspondence: format and style • Inquiry letters • Complaint and adjustment letters • Application letters • Resumes Common Components letters. remember to address them appropriately: Mrs." or "Dear People" have been tried — but without much general acceptance. and copy the name of the company exactly as that company writes it. Mr. Deleting the salutation line altogether or inserting "To Whom It May Concern" in its place. the inside address helps to determine what to do with the letter. In the inside address.

. If your letter is longer than one page. use such indications as "Enclosure. the alternative block letter. If.. To make sure that the recipient knows that items accompany the letter in the same envelope. If you send copies of a letter to others. the heading at the top of subsequent pages can be handled in one of the following ways: Examples of following-page header format. • Copies. write something like this: "cc: Mr. Attorney. for example. Signature block. For example. and the ones in lower case letters just after the colon are those of the typist. the recipient will know. select one of the common formats as shown in the example letters listed below. the semi-block letter. indicate this fact among the end notations also. Whenever possible." or "Tarrant County Community College Student" are perfectly acceptable. Just below the signature block are often several abbreviations or phrases that have important functions." "Encl.Technical Writing and Communications 39 create florid or wordy ones. However. If you are a woman and want to make your marital status clear. and sign your name in between. • Initials. in parentheses before the typed version of your first name. and it is always followed by a comma." "Enclosures (2)." "Sophomore data processing major. you were upset by a local merchant's handling of your repair problems and were sending a copy of your letter to the Better Business Bureau.: Resume and Writing Sample. Notice that only the first letter is capitalized. you'd write this: "cc: Better Business Bureau." For example. These include the block letter. • Enclosures. and the simplified letter. Raymond Mason. you type your name four lines below the complimentary close. include your title or the name of the position you hold just below your name. Business Letter Formats If you are writing a business letter. letterhead stationery comes with matching blank paper). you'd do this: "Encl." Following pages. you must use blank paper of the same quality." If you plan to send a copy to your lawyer. or Mrs. End notations. if you send a resume and writing sample with your application letter. remember not to use it for subsequent pages. Ms. The initials in all capital letters in Figure 1-1 are those of the writer of the letter. If you use letterhead stationery." If the enclosure is lost. Usually.. "Technical writing student. and texture as the letterhead paper (usually. weight. use Miss.

. If you are writing to apply for a job. Dear Ms. The revised version at least establishes the purpose of the letter (and then starts flailing). I regret that you've suffered this inconvenience and expense and. . Keep the following advice in mind when you write and especially when you revise your business letters or memos. their first concern is to know what the letter is about." If you have bad news for someone.. purpose. avoid round-about beginnings. State the main business.. Here is an example of how to avoid negative phrasing: "I am writing in response to your letter of July 24. Figure 1-2. Style in Business Correspondence Writing business letters and memos differs in certain important ways from writing reports. Let the reader know from the very first sentence what your letter is about. identify that letter by its subject and date in the first paragraph or sentence." Figure 1-2 shows an additional example. Use the simplified letter if you lack the name of an individual or department to write to.Technical Writing and Communications 40 Which of these formats to use depends on the ones commonly used in your organization or the situation in which you are writing. The problem version just starts flailing away from the very outset. you need not spill all of it in the first sentence.. Busy recipients who write many letters themselves may not remember their letters to you. begin with something like this: "I am writing to apply for the position you currently have open.. To avoid problems. identify the date and subject of the letter to which you respond: Dear Mr.. what its purpose is. 19XX letter in which you describe problems that you've had with one of our chainsaws.. If you are responding to a letter. or subject matter right away. 1997 in which you discuss problems you have had with an electronic spreadsheet purchased from our company. 19XX letter in which you list names and other sources from which I can get additional information on the manufacture and use of plastic bottles in the soft-drink industry. Stout: I am writing in reponse to your September 1. State the main purpose or business of the letter right away. Cohen: I have just received your August 4. Remember that when business people open a letter.. Therefore.. and why they must spend their time reading it.

work the word "problems" or the phrase "problems with my personal computer" into the first sentence. The paragraphs of business letters tend to be short. you might have these paragraphs: • • • A description of the problems you've had with it The ineffective repair jobs you've had The compensation you think you deserve and why Study each paragraph of your letters for its purpose. may not be read carefully — or read at all. In business letters. Analyze some of the letters you see in this section in terms of the contents or purpose of their individual paragraphs. or books. I have worked as an electrician in the Decatur. consider joining them into one. they are read rapidly.Technical Writing and Communications 41 Keep the paragraphs of most business letters short. Since 1980 I have been licensed by the city of Decatur as an electrical contractor qualified to undertake commercial and industrial work as well as residential work. dense paragraphs over ten lines. If you were writing a complaint letter concerning problems with the system unit of your personal computer. When you "compartmentalize" the contents of a business letter. Revision: As for my work experience. or function. Illinois. consider splitting it into two paragraphs. Usually. If you discover two short separate paragraphs that do the same thing. area for about six years. Here is an excerpt before and after topic indicators have been incorporated: Problem: I have worked as an electrician in the Decatur. Provide topic indicators at the beginning of paragraphs. create relatively short paragraphs of between three and eight lines long. you'll see examples of the shorter paragraphs commonly used by business letters. area for about six years. When you locate a paragraph that does more than one thing. Doing this gives recipients a clear sense of the content and purpose of each paragraph. which require much concentration. reports. some only a sentence long. thick. Big. Illinois. In the first sentence of any body paragraph of a business letter. content. try to locate a word or phrase that indicates the topic of that paragraph. Since 1980 I have been licensed by the city of Decatur as an . Throughout this section. paragraphs that are made up of only a single sentence are common and perfectly acceptable. To enable the recipient to read your letters more rapidly and to comprehend and remember the important facts or ideas. you place each different segment of the discussion — each different topic of the letter — in its own paragraph. "Compartmentalize" the contents of your letter. Business letters are not read the same way as articles. If a paragraph discusses your problems with a personal computer.

Information in the first and last lines of paragraphs tends to be read and remembered better. I have worked as a lab assistant for Dr. place important information in high-visibility points. Alison Laszlo and have been active in two related organizations. (Italics not in the original. Information buried in the middle of long paragraphs is easily overlooked or forgotten. a good (and honest) strategy is to de-emphasize by placing them in areas of less emphasis. I have had substantial experience writing technical reports and scientific papers. the Student Dietetic Association and the American Home Economics Association. making it easier to pick up the important points rapidly. In my nutritional biochemistry and food science labs. Over the past four years in which I have pursued this degree. locate information on appealing qualities at the beginning or end of paragraphs for greater emphasis. and as a diet aide as St.Technical Writing and Communications 42 electrical contractor qualified to undertake commercial and industrial work as well as residential work. it just won't emphasize weak points unnecessarily. Place less positive or detrimental information in less highly visible points in your business letters.) List or itemize whenever possible in a business letter. Here are some examples of these ideas: Problem: In July I will graduate from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. If you have some difficult things to say. I have also been serving as a diet aide at St. Therefore. in application letters which must convince potential employers that you are right for a job. the Student Dietetic Association and the American Home Economics Association. Lists can be handled in several ways. The resulting letter will be honest and complete. then mention the rest!) Revision: In my education at the University of Kansas. Listing spreads out the text of the letter. . (The job calls for a technical writer. Most of these reports and papers have been in the field of nutrition and dietetics in which I will be receiving my Bachelor of Science degree this July. During my four years at the University I have also handled plenty of paperwork as a lab assistant for Dr. Alison Laszlo. For example. let's emphasize that first. If a job requires three years of experience and you only have one. as a member of two related organizations. as explained in the section on lists. I have written many technical reports and scientific papers. David's Hospital in Lawrence in the past year and a half. David's Hospital in Lawrence the past year and a half. bury this fact in the middle or the lower half of a body paragraph of the application letter. Place important information strategically in business letters.

simply cannot help you without seriously disrupting my work schedule." "fail. The first versions of the example sentences below are phrased in a rather cold and unfriendly negative manner... It was Mr. I have also done some refurbishing of older houses on a contract basis and have some experience in industrial construction as a welder and as a clerk in a nuclear construction site." "restrict.Technical Writing and Communications 43 Problem: To date." "impossible. who encouraged me to apply for this position. Packwood. the second versions are much more positive.. I have done numerous building walk-throughs and property inspections under the supervision of Mr. Packwood who encouraged me to apply for this position. however. Robert Packwood over the past two years. (Let's not lie about our lack of experience. but let's not put it on a billboard either!) Revision: As for my work experience." "refuse. Problem: If you do not complete and return this advertisement contract by July 1. has often given me primary responsibility for many inspection jobs. Robert Packwood who has often given me primary responsibility for walk-throughs and property inspections. Such bad news can be conveyed in a tactful way. Because of my work commitments. cordial and tactful: Problem: Because of the amount of information you request in your letter. Doing so reduces the chances that business relations with the recipient of the bad news will end." and "deny" as much as possible. I have done no independent building inspection on my own. Find positive ways to express bad news in your business letters. you will not receive your . avoid such words as "cannot. 19XX. or an individual cannot be hired. Mr. To convey bad news positively. I have been working the past two years under the supervision of Mr. Often. business letters must convey bad news: a broken computer keyboard cannot be replaced." "prohibit. I am going to be able to answer only a few of the questions." "forbid. I have also done some refurbishing of older houses on a contract basis and have some experience in industrial construction as a welder and as a clerk in a nuclear construction site. Revision: In your letter you ask for a good amount of information which I would like to help you locate.

it costs us a great amount of labor time (and thus expense) to scrape and rinse our used tableware when it comes back from large parties. turn-around time is critical. In an operation like ours in which we supply for parties of up to 500. I am not prepared to change the basic theme of the article: the usability of the Victor microcomputer system. Revision: I am writing to inform you of a new policy that we are beginning. that will enable us to serve your large party needs more often and without delay. purposes. or interests instead of your own. we will begin selling any unrenewed advertisement space in this year's Capitol Lines. In an operation like ours. Revision: I am certainly open to suggestions and comments about specific aspects of this article. Also. If we have not heard from you by this deadline. so I hope we hear from you before then. I do want." which does not mean using more you's but making the recipient the main focus of the letter. Revision: Please complete the enclosed contract and return it to us by July 1.Technical Writing and Communications 44 advertising space in this year's Capitol Lines. effective September 1. Problem: While I am willing to discuss changes in specific aspects of this article or ideas on additional areas to cover. to retain the basic theme of the article: the usability of the Victor microcomputer system. After this deadline. Even if you must talk about yourself in a business letter a great deal. or any of your thoughts on additional areas that you think I should cover. however. . do so in a way that relates your concerns to those of the recipient. Avoid a self-centered focusing on your own concerns rather than those of the recipient. Focus on the recipient's needs. 19XX. we have incurred great expense on replacement of linens that have been ruined by stains that could have been soaked promptly after the party and saved. This recipient-oriented style is often called the "youattitude. we will sell you your advertisement space to some other client. Problem: I am writing you about a change in our pricing policy that will save our company time and money. 19XX.

we will begin charging 15% on all unrinsed tableware and 75% of the wholesale value of stained linens that have not been soaked. subtlely try to set up a date and time for an interview. officious-sounding writing. If. I'll begin contacting sales representatives at once to arrange for purchase and delivery of the microcomputers. inflated. Avoid pompous. for example. ask the editor politely to let you know of his decision if at all possible in a month. Here are some examples: As soon as you approve this plan. An "actionending" makes clear what the writer of the letter expects the recipient to do and when. noncommittal statements such as "Hope to hear from you soon" or "Let me know if I can be of any further assistance. our new policy. Figure 1-3. specify the action the recipient should take and the schedule for that action. Avoid pompous. 19XX. will be to charge an additional 15% on unrinsed tableware and 75% of the wholesale value of stained linens that have not been soaked. picture yourself as a plain-talking. but why use it in other writing situations? When you write a business letter. less frequent and prompt service to you the customer. Revision: Therefore.Technical Writing and Communications 45 less unscraped and unrinsed tableware causes us delays in clean-up time and. Of course. linens ruined by stains that could have been avoided by immediate soaking after the party cause you to have to pay more in rental fees. If you are writing an application letter. Ineffective conclusions to business letters often end with rather limp. effective September 1. common-sense. it is nearly twice as long as the revised version! Give your business letter an "action ending" whenever appropriate. in order to enable us to supply your large party needs promptly and whenever you require. This policy we hope will encourage our customers' kitchen help to do the quick and simple rinsing and/or soaking at the end of large parties that will ensure faster and more frequent service. Not only is the tone of the problem version offensive. such phrasing is apparently necessary in legal documents. May I expect to hear from you within the week? . Watch out for puffed-up. it's actually ridiculous. Also. down-to-earth person (but avoid slang). important-sounding language. This kind of language may seem business-like at first. you are writing a query letter. more importantly. legal-sounding phrasing." Instead. Problem: For these reasons. or in addition.

service. tactfully suggest to the recipient will benefit by helping you (for example. Inquiry Letters: Types and Contexts There are two types of inquiry letters: solicited and unsolicited. If you cannot find any information on a technical subject. Early in the letter. if you read an article by an expert. While many complaints can be made in person." In an unsolicited letter. 5. but do not thank the recipient "in advance. In an unsolicited letter. As the steps and guidelines for both types of inquiry letters show. through future purchases from the recipient's company). You seek help from these people in a slightly different form of inquiry letter. for example. self-addressed envelope. you may have further questions or want more information.m. Complaint Letters A complaint letter requests some sort of compensation for defective or damaged merchandise or for inadequate or delayed services. write a solicited letter to that manufacturer asking specific questions. For example. and how you found out about the individual. some circumstances require formal business letters. by offering to pay copying and mailing costs. consider making a questionnaire and including a stamped. because recipients of unsolicited letters of inquiry are not ordinarily prepared to handle such inquiries. Your letter of inquiry is unsolicited if the recipient has done nothing to prompt your inquiry. In an unsolicited letter. identify who you are. information about an advertised product. on most days. In the letter. specific. In closing an unsolicited letter. The complaint may be so . or to send him or her a copy of your report. 3. For example. suggest that the recipient send brochures or catalogs. acknowledge the inconvenience of your request. or program). that company may supply much more help than you had expected (provided of course that you write a good inquiry letter). In a solicited letter. to acknowledge the recipient in your report. identify the purpose — to obtain help or information (if it's a solicited letter. try to find some way to compensate the recipient for the trouble. 2. you must construct the unsolicited type more carefully. list questions or information needed in a clear. if a software manufacturer advertises some new package it has developed and you can't inspect it locally. to accept a collect call. and easy-toread format. also identify the source that prompted your inquiry. 4. a magazine advertisement. You write a solicited letter of inquiry when a business or agency advertises its products or services.Technical Writing and Communications 46 I am free after 2:00 p. In fact. Inquiry Letters: Contents and Organization 1. If you have quite a number of questions. an inquiry letter to a company involved in that subject may put you on the right track. In an unsolicited letter. what you are working on. express gratitude for any help that the recipient can provide you. for example. Can we set up an appointment to discuss my background and this position further? I'll look forward to hearing from you. and why you need the requested information.

" must be handled carefully when the requested compensation cannot be granted. and seriousness of a business letter. If you deny the request. but don't threaten. 3. identify early the reason you are writing — to register a complaint and to ask for some kind of compensation. decide which type of application letter you need. express confidence that the recipient will grant your request. Presenting the evidence is not enough: state the reasons why this evidence indicates your requested should be granted. This decision is in part based on requirements that employers may have. Don't imply that the recipient deliberately committed the error or that the company has no concern for the customer. Toward the end of the letter. try to offer some partial or substitute compensation or offer some friendly advice (to take the sting out of the denial). Refusal of compensation tests your diplomacy and tact as a writer. such as dates and times when you are available to come in . Avoid leaping into the details of the problem in the first sentence. This is the "evidence. The essential rule in writing a complaint letter is to maintain your poise and diplomacy. Here are some suggestions that may help you write either type of adjustment letter: 1. Avoid making the recipient an adversary. In many ways. no matter how justified your gripe is. indicates an interest in having an interview. Suggest why it is in the recipient's best interest to grant your request: appeal to the recipient's sense of fairness. If you deny the request. 5. perhaps expressing confidence that you and the writer will continue doing business. It also mentions any other special matters that are not included on the resume. and calls attention to the fact that the resume is attached. 2. types of application letters are like the types of resumes." 4. Explain why your request should be granted. 2. Common Types of Application Letters To begin planning your letter. If you grant the request. If you deny the request. 3. or the writer may prefer the permanence. Find some way to view the problem as an honest mistake. (It may be more tactful and less antagonizing to delay this statement in some cases). Begin with a reference to the date of the original letter of complaint and to the purpose of your letter. don't state the refusal right away unless you can do so tactfully. don't sound as if you are doing so in a begrudging way. either before or after the discussion of the problem or the reasons for granting the compensation. 5. Express your concern over the writer's troubles and your appreciation that he has written you. State exactly what compensation you desire. In the letter. explain the reasons why the request cannot be granted in as cordial and noncombative manner as possible. 1. formality. often called letters of "adjustment. Provide a fully detailed narrative or description of the problem. The types of application letters can be defined according to amount and kind of information: • Objective letters — One type of letter says very little: it identifies the position being sought. Conclude the letter cordially.Technical Writing and Communications 47 complex that a phone call may not effectively resolve the problem. 4. desire for continued business. Adjustment Letters Replies to complaint letters. and in part based on what your background and employment needs are.

• If you read the section on functional and thematic organization of resumes. Bad idea! A better idea is to do something like the following: • • • State the purpose of the letter — to inquire about an employment opportunity. (And certainly. as well as your most important qualification. study the job advertisement for clues. education. State one eye-catching. in "real-life" situations. If there were military experience. please don't think of these as the "right" or the "only" things to put in the introduction to an application letter. Thematic approach — This one divides experience and education into groups such as "management. Try calling the prospective employer. it selects the best information from the resume and summarizes it in the letter — this type of letter is especially designed to make the connection with the specific job. Common Sections in Application Letters As for the actual content and organization of the paragraphs within the application letter (specifically the highlight type of application letter). How do you know which to write? For most technical-writing courses. write the highlight letter. training — whatever makes that connection between you and the job you are seeking. after the introduction. consider the following comon approaches. a personal contact. Remember that this is the most important job you have to do in this letter — to enable the reader see the match between your qualifications and the requirements for the job.) Highlight letters — Another type of application letter. Of course.Technical Writing and Communications 48 • for an interview." "technical. Introductory paragraph. (It may represent the true meaning of "cover" letter. attention-getting thing about yourself in relation to the job or to the employer that will cause the reader to want to continue. just about everything said there applies here." and so on and then discusses your work and education related to them in separate paragraphs. the letter is not exhaustive or complete about . In the main parts of the application letter. Indicate the source of your information about the job — newspaper advertisement. it sets everything up — the tone. it's anybody's guess." "financial. There are two common ways to present this information: • Functional approach — This one presents education in one section. you present your work experience. And you try to do all things like these in the space of very short paragraph — no more than 4 to 5 lines of the standard business letter. the type you do for most technical writing courses. the key information that will emphasize that you are a good candidate for the job. That first paragraph of the application letter is the most important. that might go in another section.) Main body paragraphs. However. focus. tries to summarize the key information from the resume. A typical problem in the introductory paragraph involves diving directly into work and educational experience. and work experience in the other. Whichever of these section contains your "best stuff" should come first. In other words. This letter does no salesmanship and is very brief. or other.

Technical Writing and Communications 49 your background — it highlights just those aspects of your background that make the connection with the job you are seeking. and well-fed. objectives — the focus of your career — what you are doing. when there is not much to put in the letter. be careful about loading a paragraph like this with "sweet nothings. Common sections of application letters. or want to do professionally." For example. well-paid. "I am seeking a challenging. Of course. Another section worth considering for the main body of the application letter is one in which you discuss your goals. "I want to be happy. rewarding career with an dynamic upscale company where I will have ample room for professional and personal growth" — come on! give us a break! Might as well say. You can organize the letter thematically or functionally the same way that you can the resume. A paragraph like this is particularly good for people just starting their careers." .

In the last paragraph of the application letter. Currently. professional-looking quality — Is the letter on good quality paper. you can indicate how the prospective employer can get in touch with you and when are the best times for an interview.Technical Writing and Communications 50 Closing paragraph. David's Hospital [doing what?] to continue my education in aiding persons with developmental disabilities. makes it memorable. David's Hospital assisting with physical therapy to persons with developmental disabilities in the aquatics department. Currently. In the application letter. I have received training [where? certificates?] in supervising patients and assisting with physical and social therapy. you work in selective detail that makes your letter stand out. I am volunteering at St. I have received CPR. and Crisis Intervention certificates from Cypress Creek Hospital. First Aid. a letter that is overly general and vague might generate so little interest that the reader might not even care to turn to the resume. specifics about related aspects of your educational and employment background. which is rather lacking in specifics: As for my experience working with persons with developmental disabilities. and is the copy clean and free of smudges and erasures? Proper use of the business-letter format — Have you set up the letter in one of the standard business-letter formats? (See the references earlier in this chapter. I am volunteering at St. examples. Now take a look at the revision: As for my experience working with persons with developmental disabilities. This is the place to urge that prospective employer to contact you to arrange an interview. I have worked and volunteered at various rehabilitation hospitals and agencies in Austin and Houston [say which ones to inject more detail into this letter]. However. and substantiates the claims you make about your skills and experience.5-inch margins all the way around the letter? Is there adequate spacing between paragraph and between the components of the letter? Page fill — Is the letter placed on the page nicely: not crammed at the top one-half of the page. Take a look at this example. Checklist of Common Problems in Application Letters • • • • Readability and white space — Are there any dense paragraphs over 8 lines? Are there comfortable 1-inch to 1. readers can see all that details there. not spilling over to a second page by only three or four lines? General neatness. I have worked and volunteered at Cypress Creek Hospital in Houston and Capital Area Easter Seals/ Rehabilitation Center and Health South Rehabilitation Hospital in Austin. Background Details in the Application Letter One of the best ways to make an application letter great is to work in details.) . Yes. if the resume is attached.

dates. For example. numbers. brash. and spelling? Writing Your Own Resume A resume is a selective record of your background — your educational. However. You probably also know about resume-writing services that will create your resume for you for a hundred dollars or so.Technical Writing and Communications 51 • • • • • • • Overt. abilities. The problem is that these agencies simply . but the organization. over-confident (unless that is really the tone you want)? Does your letter avoid the opposite problem of sounding stiff. effective design. spelling. people sometimes rewrite their resumes for every new job they go after. blase. and emphases would be quite different. and so on. You send it. and adaptation to audience expectations. overly reserved. that's okay. For example. format. If you are in a time bind or if you are extremely insecure about your writing or resume-designing skills. proper names) that make you stand out as an individual? A minimum of information that is simply your opinion of yourself — Do you avoid over-reliance on information that is simply your opinions about yourself. etc. usage. They often use the same resume-writing software just mentioned. positive tone — Is the tone of your letter bright and positive? Does it avoid sounding overly aggressive. Developing a decent-looking resume based on what you are now is a challenge that you have to deal with at some point — so why not now? Resume Design — An Overview Before personal computers. a person who seeks employment both with a community college and with a software-development company would use two different resumes. If you make up a few details in your resume. if you're just starting your college education and have little work experience. to potential employers when you are seeking job interviews. usage — And of course. your certifications. But often they take your information and put it into a computer database that then force it into a prefab structure. direct indication of the connection between your background and the requirements of the job — Do you emphasize this connection? A good upbeat.) — Does your letter present plenty of specific detail but without making the letter too densely detailed? Do you present hard factual detail (numbers. people used one resume for varied kinds of employment searches. and work experience. You are probably aware of resume-writing software: you feed your data into them and they churn out a prefab resume. try using the techniques and suggestions here to create a resume that represents your current skills. abilities. instead of saying that you "work well with others. stand-offish. indifferent? A good introduction — Does your introduction establish the purpose of the letter? Does it avoid diving directly into the details of your work and educational experience? Do you present one little compelling detail about yourself that will cause the reader to want to keep reading? A good balance between brevity and details — Does your letter avoid becoming too detailed (making readers less inclined to read thoroughly)? Does your letter avoid the opposite extreme of being so general that it could refer to practically anybody? Lots of specifics (dates. does your letter use correct grammar. these services might help. military. with less expensive desktop publishing and high-quality printing. However." do you cite work experience that proves that fact but without actually stating it? Grammar. and background. The focus of the resume assignment is readability. sometimes accompanied by an application letter. names. The contents of the two might be roughly the same. they charge you about what the software costs.

Every detail. use this chapter to design your own resume. and career objectives are different. every aspect of your resume must start with who you are. the information generally divides up as shown here. . Why not learn the skills and techniques of writing your own resume here. Nor are you likely to want to pay for their services every month or so when you are in the thick of a job search. what your background is. play around with them until you find one that works for you. Whichever format you use. employment needs. what the potential employer is looking for. save the money. browse through the various formats. thus necessitating unique resume designs. and what your employment goals are — not with from some prefab design. Every person's background. Basic sections of a resume. Therefore. and write better resumes anyway? There is no one right way to write a resume.Technical Writing and Communications 52 cannot be that sensitive or perceptive about your background or your employment search.

Type of organization. it can come in handy — it personalizes you to potential employers and gives you something to chat while you're waiting for the coffee machine or the elevator. People with military experience either work the detail in to the education and work- . • Functional design: Illustrated schematically below. you also include your accomplishments. for example. and the conclusion. and in part based on what your background and employment needs are. In some examples. professional associations. This decision is in part based on requirements that prospective employers may have. publications. you present the details of your work. phone numbers. memberships. you can present other related information on your background. For example. the body is the middle portion. There are many ways to present this information: • • You can divide it functionally — into separate sections for work experience and education. Resumes can be defined according to how information on work and educational experience is handled. address. equipment you are familiar with. The top third of the resume is the heading. people often put "REFERENCES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST" and the date of preparation of the resume. For example. then presents either education or work experience. and so on. Resumes — Types and Design To begin planning your resume. In the final third or quarter of the resume. whichever is stronger or more relevant. education. commonly used plans or designs you can consider using. you'll see writers putting things like "CERTIFIED PHYSICAL THERAPIST" very prominently in the heading. and so on. or field. You can divide it thematically — into separate sections for the different areas of your experience and education. It contains your name. At the bottom of the resume. and other details such as your occupation. and interests. occupation. and military experience. Actually. Students who have not yet begun their careers often find this design the best for their purposes. In a one-page resume. then ends with a section on skills and certifications and one on personal information. titles. This information is arranged in reverse chronological order. decide which type of resume you need. hobbies. then presents the other of these two sections. you can list activities. Conclusion. These two special subsections are described later in "Special Sections in Resumes. the body. Headings can also contain a goals and objectives subsection and a highlights subsection. In this section. At first." Body. taking up a half or more of the total space of the resume. Each of these sections has fairly common contents. certifications. Heading. you might think that listing nonwork and personal information would be totally irrelevant and inappropriate. that gives the interviewer something to chat with you about during those moments of otherwise uncomfortable silence. if you mention in your resume that you raise goats. the functional design starts with a heading. There are several basic. In the body section. Some resume writers include the name of their profession.Technical Writing and Communications 53 Sections in Resumes Resumes can be divided into three sections: the heading.

For example." you might list the accounting and bookkeeping courses you took in college. and the jobs where you actually used these skills. these categories are based directly on typical or specific employment advertisements. troubleshooting. customer sales. then it might be a smart move to design thematic headings around those three requirements. or they create separate section at the same level as education and work experience. take a look at your employment and educational experience — what are the common threads? Project management. the seminars on Lotus 123 or EXCEL you took. Two basic organizational approaches to resume design. supervision. under a heading like "FINANCIAL RECORDS. It divides your experience and education into categories such as project management.) • Thematic design: Another approach to resumes is the thematic design. These themes become the headings in the body of the resume. Types of resumes can be defined according to the amount and kind of information they present: . program development. customer service. Under these headings you list the employment or educational experience that applies.Technical Writing and Communications 54 experience sections as appropriate. budgetary planning. financial tracking. If the job advertisement says that Company ABC wants a person with experience in training. technical support. Type of information. maintenance. (The "hanging-head" format is used in the functional-design version. personnel management. inventory control? Take a look at the job announcement you're responding to — what are the three. Functional and thematic. If you want to use the thematic approach in your resume. and sales. publications — whichever areas describe your experience. or five key requirements it mentions? Use these themes to design the body section of your resume. four. Often. illustrated schematically in the preceding.

the shape of the text (the paragraphs) in the resumes. job title Company or organization name Time period you were there Key details about your accomplishments and responsibilities while there. the headings for the individual sections. you can see that the thematic approach is unclear about the actual history of employment. . These are very lean. Detailed resumes: This type provides not only dates. Some resumes have the headings centered. In this case. General layout has to do with the design and location of the heading. In technical-writing courses. and names. This format makes the heading stand out more and the text more scannable. terse resumes. Full-length lines are not considered as readable or scannable as the shorter ones you see illustrated in the examples in this book. You have to make a fundamental decision about how you present the details of your work and education experience. what she was doing. others are on the left margin. names. Notice that many resumes use a "hanging-head" format. General Layout and Detail Formats in Resumes At some point in your resume planning. and the orientation of the detailed text in relation to those headings. special typography is used to highlight the name of the organization or the job title. Several examples of typical presentational techniques are shown below. year by year. The rest of the details in this section of this chapter focus on writing the detailed resume. the heading starts on the far left margin while the text is indented another inch or so. and the orientation of these two elements with each other. but also details about your responsibilities and statements about the quality and effectiveness of your work. Look at resumes in this book and in other sources strictly in terms of the style and placement of the headings.Technical Writing and Communications 55 • • Objective resumes: This type just gives dates. position. It's harder to tell where the person was. This is the type most people write. you'll want to think schematically about the layout and design of the thing. no qualitative salesmanship information. General layout. Detail formats are the way you choose to arrange and present the details of your education and work experience. you are typically asked not to write this type. titles. Notice that the actual text — the paragraphs — of resumes typically does not extend to the far left and the far right margins. The objective-resume style is useful in resumes that use the thematic approach or that emphasize the summary/highlights section. By its very nature. Notice also that in some of the text paragraphs of resumes. and the type that is the focus of most technical-writing courses. The elements you work with include: • • • • Occupation. titles. Detail formats.

their key work experience in that space on the page. Actually. Special Sections in Resumes Here are some ideas for special resume sections. phone number. sections that emphasize your goals or qualifications. Therefore.Technical Writing and Communications 56 Examples of detail formats. In the illustration below. their key skills. then it makes sense to put your very "best stuff" at that point. you'll notice the "Highlights" section that occurs just below the heading (the section for name. some people list their most important qualifications. organization name. It all depends on what you want to emphasize and how much or how little information you have (whether you are struggling to fit it all on one page or struggling to make it fill one page). that it limits their possibilities. Several different detail formats are shown above.) and just above the main experience and education sections. these key details about yourself are scattered across your various employment and educational experience — in fact. italics. Also found on some resumes is a section just under the heading in which you describe what your key goals or objectives are or what your key qualifications are. . There are many different ways to format this information. address. A key-qualifications section is similar to a highlights section. this section is useful more for people who have been in their careers for a while. Some resume writers shy away from including a section like this because they fear it may cause certain employers to stop reading. It's a good way to create one common spot on the resume to list those key qualifications about yourself that may be spread throughout the resume. Objectives. summary section. Use combinations of list or paragraph format. all caps on the four main elements: date. This is an increasingly popular section in resumes. in other words. Resume specialists believe that the eye makes first contact with a page somewhere one-fourth to one-third of the way down the page — not at the very top. bold. goals. If you believe that. but shorter and in paragraph rather than list form. Highlights. etc. buried in them. job title. and details. Otherwise.

For example. The standard formats for resume design just do not accommodate this sort of detail. and software applications. Amplifications page. . Some people have a lot of detail that they want to convey about their qualifications but that does not fit well in any of the typical resume designs.Technical Writing and Communications 57 special sections in resumes. the computer specialist can categorize and list all that extensive experience in many different operating systems. and this is where the amplifications page can be useful. hardware configurations. There. Summary or highlights of qualifications. To keep the main part of the resume from becoming unbalanced and less readable. and goals and objectives section. they shift all of this detail to an amplications page. some resume writers want to show lots more detail about the responsibilities and duties they have managed in past employment. certain computer specialists can list dozens of hardware and software products they have experience with — and they feel they must list all this in the resume. Similarly.

or review your resume. and only a small amount of space between parts of the resume. using only half-inch margins all the way around. dates. a small type size. Picture a resume crammed with detail. the writer divides the presentation into experience and education sections and takes a chronological approach to each. On the first page. If you have lots of detail about what you know. White space. On the first page of this resume. The "hanging-head" design helps here.Technical Writing and Communications 58 Amplifications page in a resume. and discussion of duties. this approach on page 2 of the resume may work. keep these points in mind: • Readability: are there any dense paragraphs over 6 lines? Imagine your prospective employer sitting down to a two-inch stack of resumes. write. Resume Design and Format As you plan. Our prospective employer might be less inclined to pore through that • . Probably not. Do you think she's going to slow down to read through big thick paragraphs. Try to keep paragraphs under 6 lines long. job titles. he only provides company names.

This is the time to use nice paper and a good printer and generally take every step you know of to produce a professional-looking resume. past tense verbs for all work descriptions. paragraphs in a resume use an internal margin.. Remember to list your education and work-experience items starting with the current or most recent and working backwards in time.. whatever special typography you use. As you move into your career. Grammar. or green. Translations for "inside" information. periods. For similar sections of information use the same kind of punctuation — for example. Terse writing style." However. or nothing. Don't go crazy with it! Too much fancy typography can be distracting (plus make people think you are hyperactive). you don't leave out normal words such as articles. spelling. acronyms. Special typography. Consistency of bold. make them all italics.Technical Writing and Communications 59 • • • • • • • • • • • • also. Special format. If some job titles are italics. different fonts. terse writing style in resumes — up to a point. it gets hard keeping it to one page. or symbols mean — yes. see that the second page is full or nearly full.. italics. caps. Watch out for these problems on a resume — they stand out like a sore thumb! Watch out particularly for the incorrect use of its and it's. italics." you write "Supervised a team of five technicians. Producing the Final Draft of the Resume When you've done everything you can think of to finetune your resume. and different type sizes. left margin and at least one internal left margin. Consistency of punctuation style. commas. not the far-left margin. Typically. Resumes are great places to use all of your fancy word-processing features such as bold. design your resume so that the individual segements of work experience or education are distinct and separate from each other. colons. even to the extent of "GPA" or the construction "3.00. Use well-defined headings and white space to achieve this. If you need a two-page resume. Proceed with caution in these areas! . Reverse chronological order. Make sure to align all appropriate text to these margins as well.2/4. The challenge in most resumes is to get it all on one page (or two if you have a lot of information to present). other typographical special effects. Use the same style of phrasing for similar information in a resume — for example. it's tough filling up a full page of a resume. Similarly.. if you use a hanging-head style for the work-experience section. Don't assume readers will know what certain abbreviations. Also. You'll notice that resumes often use a heavier stock of paper and often an off-white or non-white color of paper. Clarity of boundary lines between major sections. blue. Some even go so far as to use drastically different colors such as red. Do everything you can to make your resume fill out one full page and to keep it from spilling over by 4 or 5 lines to a second page. For example. Consistent margins. usage. be consistent with it throughout the resume. Again. the "hanging-head" design is also useful. they are very noticeable. Avoid all-caps text — it's less readable. Most resumes have several margins: the outermost. hoping to catch prospective employers' attention better. At the beginning of your career. It's okay to use a rather clipped. use it in the education section as well. Make sure that you use special format consistently throughout the resume. Consistency of phrasing." Take time to describe special organizations you may be a member of. Use special typography. but keep it under control. Page fill. Instead of writing "I supervised a team of five technicians. Design and format your resume so that whatever the main sections are. it's time to produce the final copy — the one that goes to the prospective employer. "Air it out!" Find ways to incorporate more white space in the margins and between sections of the resume. different type size.

You might be tempted to use the introduction to discuss the background of compact disc development or its theoretical side. That's a bit of a gamble. and what are its main contents. A better approach is to indicate the topic early—such that you could circle the topic words somewhere in the first three to four lines of the introduction. Common Elements of Introductions The following is a discussion of the common contents of introductions. as the examples in this part of the chapter illustrate (a bulleted vertical list is a bit overdoing it). write the introduction that seems right to you. if any. Somewhere early in the introduction." Also. Topic. Purpose and situation. why was it written. then come back and search for these elements in it. purpose. and for what purpose. On that one page. Rather than mechanically applying these elements. to introducing the subject matter. Often this is done with an in-sentence list. You might also consider indicating something of the scope of the report—what it is not intended to accomplish. But the other two paragraphs must do the job of introducing the report and orienting the reader to the report. Each of these elements is not required in all introductions. say that also. and contents of a report—in other words. Audience. The introduction also needs to indicate who are the appropriate or intended readers of the report—for example. For most . or at least not in much detail or length. One of those paragraphs could be devoted to background information. indicate the main contents of the report. If the report provides recommendations on whether to implement a program. The introduction to a report should. Overview of contents. or only minimally. for that matter. if nothing else. an introduction should indicate what level of experience or knowledge readers need to understand the report. If none is needed. If the report was prepared for council members of the City of Utopia. Imagine that you were writing a recommendation report about CD-ROM computer devices. the introduction needs to express that. for whom it written. situation. introductions might average 1 page. an introduction. to the subject matter. any document—but introductions are often poorly written. Readers have an understandable need to know some basic things about a report before they begin reading it: such as what is it about. averaging 6 to 8 lines each. Readers need a basic orientation to the topic. "experienced technicians trained on the HAL/6000.Technical Writing and Communications 60 Chapter 4 Writing Introductions and Conclusions The introduction is one of the most important sections of a report—or. That might be good stuff to include in the report. for whom. the introduction needs to indicate that somehow. you might have three paragraphs. the report needs to indicate why it was written. you need to indicate the specific topic of the report. Some introductions seem to want to hold readers in suspense for a while before they indicate the true topic. what's it for. An introduction introduces readers to the report and not necessarily. Somewhere. and some elements combine into the same sentence. Texas. and it probably belongs in the report—but not in the introduction. For 10-page. doublespaced reports. One reason may be that people misunderstand the purpose of introductions.

This is everybody's favorite! Some minimal background is usually in order for an introduction—for example. some theory. if there were a lot of conflicting data about some new technology or some problem. Background on the situation. some historical background." Of course. Information like this gets readers interested. just make sure that phrase occurs at some appropriate place early in the introduction—you don't need to drone something like "The topic of this report is grammar-checking software. some sort of scope indication is also needed in the introduction: some statement about what topics the report does not cover.. Another kind of background is also a good candidate for introductions—the situation that brought about the need for the report." or "This report has been written for. Notice in the discussion of these elements the word "indicate" keeps getting used. this background could be summarized in the introduction.. For example. Move it in to the body of the report. For example. For example. if this direct approach is the only or the best way to express it. Background on the topic. if your report is about grammar-checking software. If it does." Often there are nicer ways to express these things. grounded in some fundamental concepts. which brought about the need for the research. something on the importance of the subject. or into an appendix. That's because you'd like to avoid heavy-handed language such as "The topic of this report is... Watch out. all is not lost. . if a company needed new equipment of some kind or if the company had some problem or need and some requirements in relation to that equipment—discussion of these matters should go in the introduction. though—this discussion can get away from you and fill up more than page.Technical Writing and Communications 61 reports. motivated to read. then do it! Notice in the example introductions that this kind of phrasing does occur. that's okay. some key definitions... That just shows the information is important and should be in the report—just not in the introduction.

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Example introduction with contract elements included.

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Example introduction with most of the key elements present.

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Section Introductions We don't normally think that there is more than one introduction in a report. However, in reports over 8 to 10 or more pages, the individual sections also need some sort of introduction. These can be called section introductions because they prepare you to read a section of a report—they orient you to its contents and purpose. Of course, a section introduction has nothing like the elements of the report introduction. However, it does have several that, if handled well, can make a lot of difference in the clarity and flow of a report.

Example section introduction. Notice that this section introduction not only mentions the preceding and upcoming topics but shows how they are related. Topic indication. As with the report introduction, indicate the topic of the upcoming section. But remember—it doesn't have to be the stodgy, heavy-handed "The topic of this next section of the report is..." Contents overview. Just as in the report introduction, it is a good idea to list the main contents. The in-sentence list serves this purpose well.

" There seem to be at least four ways to end a report: a summary. freezing methods of desalination appear to have the greatest potential for the future.Technical Writing and Communications 65 Transition. While a number of different methods are in competition with each other. Revision Checklist for Introductions As you revise your introductions. a summary is in order. Make sure there is an overview of the report contents. Actually. In reports of any length and complexity. Yes. However. showing them how the parts of the report all fit together. what situation brought about the need for the report. VIII. and the writer is viewing the subject from higher ground. If we were going to be fussy about it. Summaries One common way to wrap up a report is to review and summarize the high points. complex. this section should be called "Final Sections. For short reports. avoid allowing background information to overshadow the key elements of the introduction. watch out for problems such as the following: • • • • Avoid writing an introduction consisting of only background information. an afterword. Conclusions We normally use the word "conclusion" to refer to that last section or paragraph or a document. Be sure to indicate the audience and situation—what the readers should expect from the report. however. heavily detailed. and the hydrate method. and nothing. the word refers more to a specific type of final section. plus scope information—what the report doesn't cover. the indirect method. If your report is rather long. the final section is some combination of the first three ways of ending the document. SUMMARY This report has shown that as the supply of fresh water decreases. and if you want your readers to come away with the right perspective. An element that is very useful in section introductions but unnecessary in report introductions is the transitional phrasing that indicates how the preceding section is related to the one about to start. it is possible to end a document with no conclusion (or "final section") whatsoever. More often. things have settled down. in most cases. it is a good technique—it guides readers along. Each has some adavantage . summaries can seem absurd--the reader thinks "You've just told me that!" Summaries need to read as if time has passed. desalting water will become a necessity. The three main freezing techniques are the direct method. a true conclusion. Make sure the topic of the report is indicated early. that's a bit like slamming the phone down without even saying good-bye. what knowledge or background they need to understand the report.

scaling and corrosion of pipe and other equipment is greatly reduced. In the conclusion. Freezing processes also allow the use of plastic and other protective coatings on steel equipment to prevent their corrosion. Every home represents a different set of conditions. regardless of the method. by recovering and Summary-type of final section. Some of the expense of desalination can be offset. corrosion is a great problem that is difficult and expensive to prevent. you might present conflicting theories and explored the related data. A salesman can make any system appear to be profitable on paper. the best system for one home may not be the best one for next door. Therefore. Because freezing methods operate at such low temperatures. and therefore prospective buyers must have some general knowledge about solar products. in the body of a report. CONCLUSIONS Solar heating can be an aid in fighting high fuel bills if planned carefully. as this report has shown. For example.Technical Writing and Communications 66 over the others. requires much energy. Desalination. "True" Conclusions A "true" conclusion is a logical thing. A solar heating system should have as many of the best design features as possible and still be affordable. your choice of the best model or brand--your final conclusions. however. the "true" conclusion. As explained in this report. Or you might have compared different models and brands of some product. but all three freezing methods have distinct adavantages over other methods of desalination. a measure that cannot be taken in other methods that require high operating temperatures. as has been shown in preceding sections. In non-freezing methods. the collector should have high transmissivity and yet be durable . you'd present your interpretation. V. pairing desalination plants with nuclear or solar power resources may be a necessity.

This type states conclusions based on the discussion contained in the body of the report. In the final section. But the key is to keep it general--don't force yourself into a whole new detailed section.000 pounds between 1978 and 1990 [2:40]. Afterwords One last possibility for ending a report involves turning to some related topic but discussing it at a very general level. Careful attention to the details of the design and selection of solar heating devices discussed in this report will enable homeowners to install efficient. productive solar heating systems. The collector is the second in importance. The control module should perform all the required functions with no added circuits. VII. In particular. CONCLUSION: FUTURE TRENDS Everyone seems to agree that the car of the future must weigh even less than today's down-sized models. According to a recent forecast by the Arthur Anderson Company. they should decide how much money they are willing to spend and then arrange their components in their order of importance. The control module designs vary the most in quality and therefore should have first priority. and care should be taken to ensure compatibility. Imagine that you had written a background report on some exciting new technology. or the problems it might bring about. you might broaden your focus and discuss how that technology might be used. Liquid circulating coils should be at least one inch in diameter if an open loop system is used. Homeowners should follow the recommendations in the guidelines section carefully. A "true"-conclusions final section.Technical Writing and Communications 67 enough to handle hail storms. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the loss of another 350 pounds . the typical car will have lost about 1. Any hot water circulating pumps should be isolated from the electric drive motor by a non-transmitting coupler of some kind. Collector insulation should be at least one inch of fiberglass mat.

automobile manufacturers will have find or develop composites such as fiber-reinforced plastics for the major load-bearing components. Jenks. speculating on the impact of this trend. and leaf springs. The main body of the report discussed technical aspects of using plastics in main structural components of automobiles. . to predict that hybrid composites can compete with metal by the mid-1980's for both automotive leaf springs and transmission supports. Ford Motor Company believes that if it is to achieve further growth in the late 1980's. particularly the frame and drivetrain components. researchers at Owens Corning and Hercules are seeking the best combination of hybrid fibers for structural automotive components such as engine and transmission supports. Some of the breakthroughs Ford sees as needed include improvements in the use of continuous fibers. John B. With development in these areas of plastics for automobiles. Combinations In practice. less expensive. You can analyze final sections of reports and identify elements that summarize. elements that conclude. To obtain these reductions. This final section explores the future. Afterword-type final section. Tests thus far have led the vice president of Owen Corning's Composites and Equipment Marketing Division. In the related area of composite technology. especially hybridized reinforced materials containing glass and graphite fibers. looking at current developments. In addition. Such developments might well provide the needed spark to rejuvenate America's auto industry and to further decrease our rate of petroleum consumption. drive shafts. these ways of ending reports combine. Ford hopes to develop a high speed production system for continuous fiber preforms. and more economical cars in the next decade.Technical Writing and Communications 68 by 1995. we can look forward to lighter. and elements that discuss something related but at a general level (afterwords). it must achieve breakthroughs in structural and semistructural load-bearing applications.

Technical Writing and Communications 69 Here are some possibilities for afterword-type final sections: • • • • • Provide a brief. Explore solutions to problems that were discussed in the main body of the report. Discuss the operation of a mechanism or technology that was discussed in the main body of the report. guidelines. advantages. legal aspects. . Explore the economics. social implications. speculate on future developments. tips. Provide some cautions. or applications of the report subject (but only generally and briefly). or preview of advanced functions at the end of a set of instructions. general look to the future. disadvantages. benefits. problems.

.Technical Writing and Communications 70 Revision Checklist for Conclusions As you reread and revise your conclusions. Avoid perfunctory conclusions that have no real reason to be in the report. watch out for problems such as the following: • • • If you use an afterword-type last section. Keep final sections brief and general. make sure you write it at a general enough level that it doesn't seem like yet another body section of the report.

how it flows. but also sources outside the library. technical background report. correspondence. You don't need to be a trained graphic designer to produce a fine-looking report. For many students. Report purpose: Define what the report will accomplish—what needs of the audience it is going to fufill. how well you handle the front. In a technical writing course. in handling numbers and abbreviations. Report type: Decide on the type of report—for example. clear. feasibility report. and graphics. report audience and situation. how much detail it provides. . and of course in producing good. and their typical audiences and situations. As you think about what you want to write about for this project. how it's organized. report purpose. or some other. instructions. often the information comes not only from published sources in the library. notices. About the Technical Report The major focus of many technical writing courses is the technical report. You are also focused on format: how well you use headings. It normally involves some research. narrow it as much as possible. This planning leads directly into proposals. lists. normally. well-organized writing.Technical Writing and Communications 71 Chapter 5 Technical Reports In this chapter you learn about technical reports. Basic wordprocessing skills and a decent printer and access to nice (but inexpensive) binding are all you need. but don't know much about.and back-matter elements. including nonpublished things such as interviews. Plan on doing a first-rate job on the report. If you are planning a technical report. is geared toward preparing you to write this final report. and how nice a job you do of turning out the final copy of the report. The early. title page. Report audience: Define a specific person or group of people for whom you are going to write the report. their different types. your task is typically to pick a report topic. remember that past students have shown prospective employers their reports and have benefited by doing so. the technical report is the longest document they've ever written. how clear and readable it is. you can pull together information for an excellent report from several books and a half-dozen articles. and report type. Just about everything you study. your job in this unit then is define the following: • • • • Report topic: Decide what subject you are going to write on. It may also be the fanciest document: it uses binding and covers and has special elements such as a table contents. lists. notices. don't shy away from topics you are curious about or interested in. Define the circumstances in which this report is needed. and video tapes. Your real focus is the writing: how well adapted to a specific audience it is. You don't need to do exhaustive research. and graphics. everything you write. short assignment involving instructions or descriptions and the like give you practice using headings. how well you incorporate graphics.

or program. they . For others. Others write short user manuals for an appliance. you can choose to write one of the following types Of reports (details on contents. If there is too much to write about.S. equipment. a medical problem. Students often write backup procedures for the jobs they do at their work. The background report is the hardest to define but the most commonly written. and then put a copy of it in your fancy briefcase when you go job-interviewing. but for some individual or group that has specific needs for it and is even willing to pay for that information. but they don't want to have to go digging in the library to find it. imagine an engineering firm bidding on a portion of the work to build a hemodialysis clinic. global warming. the information on the topic is not just for anybody who might be interested in the topic. and format for some of these reports can be found in report structure): Technical-background report. recycling activity (see Figure 2-2 for more topic ideas). These are probably the most familiar of all the types of reports. What they need is a technical background report on the subject. This type of technical report provides background on a topic—for example. or U. CD-ROM technology. Instructions. beginning by picking a topic is more stimulating.Technical Writing and Communications 72 Front cover of a final report. factual data for this topic? Will there be at least one or two graphics? Is there some realistic need for this report? Types of Technical Reports Depending on the technical writing course you are taking. Do a great job on your final report. specific. solar energy. you can start testing your report-project ideas by asking yourself these questions: • • • Is there hard. Once you have defined these elements. organization. it helps to start by defining an audience or a report type first. You can do these in any order: for some people. The engineers need to know general knowledge about renal disease and the technologies used to treat it. For example. However.

) Most of the elements are the same. and qualifications. functions. a college might investigate the feasibility of giving every student an e-mail address and putting many of the college functions online. whether it is practical and technologically possible. if there is a type of technical document you want to write not listed here. operation. it describes the proposed business. you discuss some new product design in terms of its construction. Plus elements from other kinds of reports get imported—such as feasibility discussion. A recommendation report compares two or more alternatives and recommends one (or. review of literature. in which they went after some contract or grant. For example. specifications are not a good exercise of your writing abilities. and evaluation reports. if you wanted to write about CD audio players. just bigger." as they are commonly called. it's hard to keep these two kinds of reports distinct. these become much more elaborate. which is a plan or proposal to start a new business or to expand an existing one. Technical specifications. Another useful type of report is one that studies a problem or opportunity and then makes a recommendation. Report-length proposal. recommendation. if necessary. It may be that we are using different names for the same thing. and give some background on the problem. The problem with writing a proposal in our technical-writing class is coordinating it with the proposal you write at the beginning of the semester (a proposal to write a proposal. materials. For example. the . In this type of report. Feasibility. Elements of the feasibility and recommendation report intermingle in specific reports—but the main thing is to get the job done! Primary research report. You may have written a "lab report. An evaluation or assessment report studies something in terms of its worth or value For example. and market potential. none). You can modify this type by summarizing other primary research reports. not this semester. you not only present your data and draw conclusions about it. Thus. projects revenues. you can write a business plan. proposals can be monster documents of hundreds or even thousands of pages. (Please. Primary research refers to the actual work someone does in a laboratory or in the field—in other words. you can write a more high-level version—one that might be read by marketing and planning executives. Audience and Situation in Technical Reports A critical step in your early report planning is to define a specific audience and situation in which to write the report. describe the equipment and facilities you used. talk to your instructor. explores the marketplace and the competition. Several students have set up scenarios in which they proposed internally to write an external proposal. Therefore. just a guide on writing macros in WordPerfect. This is a perfectly good possibility for the technical report as well. instead of instructions on using all of WordPerfect. If you are ambitious to run your own business. Business plans. The same college might also seek recommendations on the best hardware and software to use (after the feasibility report had determined it was a good idea). As you may be aware. come on!). experiments and surveys. A feasibility report tells whether a project is "feasible"—that is. lists. It is aimed primarily at potential investors. In this report type. fragmented. however. you could report on the research that has been done on saccharine. and describes the operation and output of the proposed business. True specifications are not much on writing—the text is dense. However. features. tables. In practice.Technical Writing and Communications 73 write about some smaller segment—for example. and graphics replace regular sentences and paragraphs whenever possible. for one of your previous courses. but also explain your methodology. Don't feel constrained by this list.

and need for the information. . street address and phone numbers." You have to define the audience in terms of its knowledge. you define who the readers are. what they know or don't know in relation to the topic.Technical Writing and Communications 74 audience cannot be this vague sort of "anybody who is considering purchasing a CD player. Just as critical to the planning process is defining the situation. and occupation or position. and why they want or might need the information. Sometimes this leaves out a critical element: just what are the circumstances that bring about the need for the information. background. what experience or background they have in relation to the topic. • • Why does the audience need this information? How will readers get access to this information? You also have to define the audience in terms of who they are specifically: that means things like names. When you define audience. organization or company.

or academic studies. Maybe somebody can even figure out a good way to handle UFOs. For example. . describe the chemical. The preceding topics are difficult to pin down this way. Remember that the word technical refers to any body of specialized knowledge. don't attempt to write a technical report on the pro's and con's of gun control. dream analysis can be very fuzzy and nebulous. Use the report project as a chance to learn something new. These get into substantial technical areas. electronics. You want your report to have hard factual data in it. avoid editorial topics. and the like. that's where your instructor can help. marijuana. look around you in your work. However. And. No one expects a doctoral thesis. For example. But avoid editorializing—there are other courses where you can do this. for some reason. For the report project. abortion. don't shy away from interesting topics that you don't feel you know enough about. Some are a little more difficult than others. physiological aspects of marijuana or the medical techniques for abortion or the developmental stages of the fetus. hobbies. As mentioned earlier. or some other "technical" topic. You can. If this is a concern for you.Technical Writing and Communications 75 Topics for Technical Reports Just about any topic can be worked into a good technical-report project. Of course. however. At the same time. good reports have been written on the apparatus used in dream research laboratories. Tough technical topics. it's common sense that we often write better about things we know about. however. develop these topics: for example. Some topics just don't work. that is why some technical writing course include a proposal assignment: it gives your instructor a chance to see what you want to do and to guide you away from problems such as the following: Editorializing. So can UFOs. don't be concerned that yours has to be about computers. Fuzzy topics.

Technical Writing and Communications 76 .

list of figures. who can help you brainstorm for graphics. Realistic audience and situation: The report must be defined for a real or realistic group of readers who exist in a real or realistic situation. or city. Problems: Think about problems—your own. Use your instructor as a brainstorming device. you may be able to think of some topics by this means. There are plenty of topics here as well. interviews or correspondence with experts. improved? Thinking along these lines can also lead to some good topics. Here are some areas in which you can look for topics as well: • • • • • Your major. you may not have a good topic. get with your instructor." Headings and lists: The report should use the format for headings that is required for the course." Instead. future courses: Think about some the courses you have taken or will soon be taking within your major. periodical indexes: Do some browsing in magazines and journals that are of interest to you. And the audience can't merely be something like "anybody who might be interested in global warming. Indexes are a terrific way of brainstorming for a topic— they are huge lists of topics! Career plans. Get in touch with your instructor. Magazines. If you don't believe any information sources are necessary for your report project. the world's. journals. The point of the report is to go into details. as well as first-hand inspections. here is a brief review of some of the chief characteristics of the technical report: • Graphics: The report should have graphics. school. binding. as well as various kinds of lists as appropriate. the kind of details your specific audience needs. and specific: for example. Ideas for improvements: Take a look around your home. Most students invent an audience and situation. current work: Consider what sorts of work you will be doing in your chosen field. "Texas Coastal Real Estate Developers Association. to be used to aid in long-range investment planning. In addition to that. Ask your instructor to show you a few example reports. One style commonly used in science and engineering is called the number system. realistic. Documentation: When you use borrowed information in your technical report. transmittal letter. Factual detail: The report should be very detailed and factual. contact your instructor. Browse through some textbooks used in those courses. If you can't think of any graphics for your report project. as a later chapter in this book will show. And of course if you are absolutely stumped. the city's. Information sources: Your report should make use of information sources. neighborhood. Think about problem in relation to certain groups of people. General Characteristics of Technical Reports You're probably wondering what this technical report is supposed to look like. be sure to cite your sources. table of contents. Special format: The technical report uses a rather involved format including covers. the country's. the state's. The style of citing your sources (also called "documenting" your sources). These may include not only books and articles that can be found in libraries but also technical brochures. interested in reliable information on global warming. Take a look around you at work—there may be some possibilities there as well. What needs to be fixed. it has to be real. Graphics include all kinds of possibilities. title page.Technical Writing and Communications 77 Instructors as brainstorming devices. and • • • • • • .

and the photocopy handed in (not the original with the taped-in graphics). and stamina can handle. and is it written according to the specifications in the chapter on abstracts? Specifically. Remember that this is a writing course. Production: The technical report should be typed or printed out neatly. at some point. but don't go overboard. Make a good-faith effort to get the facts right. There is no real maximum length. which will be presented in a later chapter. the whole report must be photocopied. not a course in engineering. you must write for the nonspecialist. are your figure titles (captions) to our class specifications? Is page 1 of your introduction designed according to the standard for this course? Does every new section (which starts with a first-level heading) start on a new page? Have you check for widowed headings (headings that start at the very bottom of a page)? stacked headings (two or more consecutive headings without intervening text)? lone headings (a single heading within a section)? parallelism in the phrasing of headings? Does the title page of your report include a descriptive abstract. transmittal letter. But remember that sheer weight does not equal quality (or better grade). followed by title page. counting from introduction to conclusion. electronics. These have to be prepared according to a set standard. Length: The report should be at least 8 doublespaced typed or printed pages (using 1-inch margins). and so on? Do you address your report to a real or realistic audience that has a genuine need for your report? Do you identify in the introduction what background the audience needs to read and understand your report? Does your report contain specific. science. Checklist for the Technical Report Use the following questions to ensure that your technical report is structured properly according to common expectations: • • • • • • • • • • Do you include all the required components in the required order. or the like. followed by figure list. contact your instructor—there are numerous tricks we can use to cut it down to size. Technical content: You must design your report project in such a way that your poor technical-writing instructor has a chance to understand it—in other words. is it positioned properly in relation to the other report components. does your informative abstract summarize the key facts and conclusions of your report rather than act as just another introduction or descriptive abstract? • • . nursing. Also. and is it written according to the specifications in the chapter on abstracts? Do you include an informative abstract in your report. factual detail focused on the purpose of the report and the needs of the audience and aimed at their level of understanding? Does your report accomplish its purpose? Is that purpose clearly stated in the introduction? Does your report use information sources and do you properly document them? Does your report use the format for headings that is standard for this course? Does your report use the format for lists that is standard for this course? Does your report use graphics and tables? Does your report use the format for graphics and tables that is standard for this course? Specifically. you may get concerned about the technical accuracy of your information. The report must be bound in some way. other than what your time. If graphics are taped in. a report of this length is rather skimpy. energy. If you get into a bind with a report project that would take too many pages.Technical Writing and Communications 78 • • • appendixes. for example. This is a minimum.

such as audience. overview.Technical Writing and Communications 79 • Does the introduction of your report include the elements necessary in good introductions. purpose? Do you avoid the problem of having too much background in the introduction. or having an introduction that is all background? .

remember the basic definition: a proposal is an offer or bid to do a certain project for someone. recommendations. written proposals may be one of your most important tools for bringing in business. fund. if you are just playing around with the business-startup notion: the business plan you write for this course must be every bit as serious. That's why it's a good option for the final project in a technical. if you work for a government . you are in a writing course. government officials who may need to approve aspects of the plan. proposes to write something. or grant permission to do the proposed project. however. A business plan is obviously an important application of writing and one that may contain substantial technical information about the business operations or products.writing course. information about feasibility. If you plan to be a consultant or run your own business. Also. and format. Business plans are important documents for business partners who need to agree upon and document their plans. well-designed documents. see the section on proposals for documentation projects for the specifics of getting hired to write technical documentation. not a business course. Real proposals. Some Preliminaries As you get started. Remember too that your instructor is probably not a professional business-startup consultant and probably won't be able to help you on the finer points of planning a business. You can write a business plan if you actually are trying to start a business or if you'd merely like to do some constructive daydreaming about a business you'd like to start. at least in part. Beware. Business Plans and Writing Courses • If you are enrolled in a course associated with this page. And.Technical Writing and Communications 80 Chapter 6 Business Plans A business plan is a document used to start a new business or get funding for a business that is changing in some significant way. Work with your instructor to reach an agreement on the scope of the business plan you write. To begin planning a proposal. and of course potential investors such as banks or private individuals who may decide to fund the business or its expansion. and documents that meet common expectations as to their content. specific. Proposals may contain other elements— technical background. organization. and so on. realistic. Our focus is on good writing. documents that accomplish their purpose. factual. • Scope of Business Plans Business plans can be very large documents containing information that you may have no way of getting. Proposals This chapter focuses on proposals—the kinds of documents that get you or your organization approved or hired to do a project. make sure you understand the definition we're using for proposals. But what makes a proposal a proposal is that it asks the audience to approve. While this chapter focuses on proposals in general. make sure you understand the proposal assignment—not to write just any proposal but one that. and well-thought-out as a business plan for a real situation. well-researched. results of surveys.

A proposal should contain information that would enable the audience of that proposal to decide whether to approve the project. all it would take to make this document a proposal would be to add elements that ask management for approval for you to go ahead with the project. unsolicited. your boss might get interested and ask you to write up a proposal that offered to do a formal study of the idea. and then work up a contract. etc. But proposals can be solicited on a very local level: for example. you may not have to include certain sections (such as qualifications). But proposals come about much less formally. Types of proposals. which studies the merits of a project and then recommends for or against it. Unsolicited proposals are those in which the recipient has not requested proposals. With unsolicited proposals. nonprofit organization. investigating the merits of bringing in some new technology to increase productivity). independent organization or individual to another such entity. or you may not have to include as much information in them. A company may send out a public announcement requesting proposals for a specific project. the one beginning on page is an example of an external proposal. some proposals must sell the projects they offer to do. select the best candidate. or a large corporation. proposals can be divided into several categories: • Internal. Certainly. to approve or hire you to do the work. a government agency. at least not in this context. a company will send out requests for proposals (RFPs) through the mail or publish them in some news source. but in all cases proposals must sell the writer (or the writer's organization) as the one to do the project. external. Is that a proposal? No. Firms or individuals interested in the project would then write proposals in which they summarize their qualifications.Technical Writing and Communications 81 agency. Imagine that you visited with your supervisor and tried to convince her of this. the recipient of the proposal in some way requested the proposal. or both. This public announcement—called a request for proposals (RFP)—could be issued through newspapers. The recipient of all these proposals would then evaluate them. With internal proposals. you could be explaining to your boss what a great thing it would be to install a new technology in the office. Chamber of Commerce channels. and discuss their approach to the project. It's more like a feasibility report. or individual letters.). Typically.) Solicited. you sometimes must convince the recipient that a problem or need exists before you can begin the main part of the • . The typical example is the independent consultant proposing to do a project for another firm. It's easy to get confused about proposals. Consider the situations in which proposals occur. To write a successful proposal. project schedules and costs. put yourself in the place of your audience—the recipient of the proposal—and think about what sorts of information that person would need to feel confident having you do the project. or at least the type of proposal you'll be writing here. and then end by urging management to go for it. it is an internal proposal. An external proposal is one written from one separate. If a proposal is solicited. Now." As you can see from these examples. the proposal can be a valuable tool for initiating projects that benefit the organization or you the employee-proposer (and usually both). showing the benefits. (The proposal that begins on page is an example of an internal proposal. Imagine that you have a terrific idea for installing some new technology where you work and you write up a document explaining how it works and why it's so great. trade journals. "Write me a proposal and I'll present it to upper management. She might respond by saying. If you write a proposal to someone within your organization (a business. Imagine that you are interested in doing a project at work (for example.

Refer to some previous contact with the recipient of the proposal or to your source of information about the project. Find one brief motivating statement that will encourage the recipient to read on and to consider doing the project. Here are some ideas: • Imagine that a company has some sort of problem or wants to make some sort of improvement. • • • Common Sections in Proposals The following is a review of the sections you'll commonly find in proposals. It may be that you cannot force your report-project plans into the proposal context.) Other options for the proposal assignment. investigate. . you send out request for proposals to professional consultants. You offer to come in. Make sure it does all of the following things (but not necessarily in this order) that apply to your particular proposal: • • • • Indicate that the document to follow is a proposal. Some organization wants a seminar in your expertise. It may be that you cannot force your brain into imagining a proposal scenario. make recommendations—and present it all in the form of a report. (The proposal that begins on page is an example of an unsolicited proposal. There is the option of writing the straight academic proposal—you address it to your instructor and make no pretence of realism.Technical Writing and Communications 82 proposal.. Typical Scenarios for the Proposal It gets a bit tricky dreaming up a good technical report project and then a proposal project that proposes at least in part to write that report. You want to write a business prospectus for the kind of business you intend to start up. As you read the following on common sections in proposals. but most will. See an example of this type of proposal. therefore. you (as Business Startup Consultants. but the documentation is giving people fits. Inc. You change hats and pretend you are Business Startup Consultants. nor that they have to be in the order they are presented here—plus you may discover that other kinds of information not mentioned here must be included in your particular proposal. Introduction. interview. Some agency has just started using a fancy desktop-publishing system. Plan the introduction to your proposal carefully. Not all of the sections discussed in the following will show up in the examples. Don't assume that each one of them has to be in the actual proposal you write. Imagine that you want a top-quality prospectus and don't have the time or expertise to prepare one.) write the prospectus. check out the example proposals starting on page . Talk about this option with your instructor—there may be other requirements or a difference in the way it is evaluated. and send your other self a proposal to do the job. You receive a request for proposals from this agency to write some sort of simplified guide or startup guide. you receive one and respond with a proposal. Give an overview of the contents of the proposal. It sends out a request for proposals. Your proposal accepted. You write a proposal to give the seminar—included in the package deal is a guide or handbook that the people attending the seminar will receive. Inc. the one beginning on page is an example of a solicited proposal.

Most proposals discuss the advantages or benefits of doing the proposed project. what opportunity there is for improving things. .Technical Writing and Communications 83 Now remember: you may not need all of these elements. Often occurring just after the introduction. Background on the problem. however. how likely those returns are. In the unsolicited proposal. in demonstrating your particular view of the problem. and try to identify these elements. at the end of the proposal. Writing the background section still might be useful. An owner of pine timber land in east Texas may want to get the land productive of saleable timber without destroying the ecology. Also. Benefits and feasibility of the proposed project. a background section is almost a requirement—you will probably need to convince the audience that the problem or opportunity exists and that it should be addressed. And. opportunity. the background section discusses what has brought about the need for the project—what problem. or situation. This acts as an argument in favor of approving the project. some proposals discuss the likelihood of the project's success. if the the proposal is unsolicited.) It's true that the audience of the proposal may know the problem very well. in which case this section might not be needed. (The section entitled "Need for a Wellness Program. he explores the question of what return there will be on that investment. the proposer is recommending that the landowner make an investment. For example. The introduction ought to be brisk and to the point and not feel as though it is trudging laboriously through each of these elements. In the forestry proposal. management of a chain of daycare centers may need to ensure that all employees know CPR (maybe new state guidelines have been enacted about CPR certification). this section is particularly important—you are trying to "sell" the audience on the project. what the basic situation is. Take a look at the introductions in the first two example proposals listed at the beginning of this chapter." in example proposal 1 (listed at the beginning of this chapter) is a good example of this. and some of them can combine neatly into single sentences.

Technical Writing and Communications 84 Schematic view of proposals. . Remember that is a typical or common model for the contents and organization—many others are possible.

Technical Writing and Communications


Schematic view of proposals—continued. Remember too that each of the specific sections shown here may not be necessary in your proposal and that the order shown here may not be entirely right for your proposal. Description of the proposed work (results of the project). Most proposals must describe the finished product of the proposed project. In this course, that means describing the written document you propose to write, its audience and purpose; providing an outline; and discussing such things as its length, graphics, binding, and so forth.) In the scenario you define, there may be other work such as conducting training seminars or providing an ongoing service. Add that too. Method, procedure, theory. In most proposals, you'll want to explain how you'll go about doing the proposed work, if approved to do it. This acts as an additional persuasive element; it shows the audience you have a sound, well-thought-out approach to the project. Also, it serves as the other form of background some proposals need. Remember that the background section (the one discussed above) focused on the problem or need that brings about the proposal. However, in this section, you discuss the technical background relating to the procedures or technology you plan to use in the proposed work. For example, in the forestry proposal, the writer gives a bit of background on how timber management is done. Once again, this gives you the proposal writer a chance to show that you know what you are talking about, and build confidence in the audience that you are a good choice to do the project.

Technical Writing and Communications


Schedule. Most proposals contain a section that shows not only the projected completion date but also key milestones for the project. If you are doing a large project spreading over many months, the timeline would also show dates on which you would deliver progress reports. And if you can't cite specific dates, cite amounts of time or time spans for each phase of the project. (See the examples of the schedule section in the examples proposals listed at the beginning of this chapter. Qualifications. Most proposals contain a summary of the proposing individual's or organization's qualifications to do the proposed work. It's like a mini-resume contained in the proposal. The proposal audience uses it to decide whether you are suited for the project. Therefore, this section lists work experience, similar projects, references, training, and education that shows familiarity with the project. (See the examples of the qualifications section in the examples proposals listed at the beginning of this chapter.) Costs, resources required. Most proposals also contain a section detailing the costs of the project, whether internal or external. With external projects, you may need to list your hourly rates, projected hours, costs of equipment and supplies, and so forth, and then calculate the total cost of the complete project. With internal projects, there probably won't be a fee, but you should still list the project costs: for example, hours you will need to complete the project, equipment and supplies you'll be using, assistance from other people in the organization, and so on. Conclusions. The final paragraph or section of the proposal should bring readers back to a focus on the positive aspects of the project (you've just showed them the costs). In the final section, you can end by urging them to get in touch to work out the details of the project, to remind them of the benefits of doing the project, and maybe to put in one last plug for you or your organization as the right choice for the project. Special project-specific sections. Remember that the preceding sections are typical or common in written proposals, not absolute requirements. Similarly, some proposals may require other sections not discussed above. Don't let your proposal planning be dictated by the preceding discussion. Always ask yourself what else might my audience need to understand the project, the need for it, the benefits arising from it, my role in it, my qualifications to it What else might my readers need to be convinced to allow me to do the project? What else do they need to see in order to approve the project and to approve me to do the project? Organization of Proposals As for the organization of the content of a proposal, remember that it is essentially a sales, or promotional kind of thing. Here are the basic steps it goes through: 1. You introduce the proposal, telling the readers its purpose and contents. 2. You present the background—the problem, opportunity, or situation that brings about the proposed project. Get the reader concerned about the problem, excited about the opportunity, or interested in the situation in some way. 3. State what you propose to do about the problem, how you plan to help the readers take advantage of the opportunity, how you intend to help them with the situation. 4. Discuss the benefits of doing the proposed project, the advantages that come from approving it. 5. Describe exactly what the completed project would consist of, what it would look like, how it would work—describe the results of the project. 6. Discuss the method and theory or approach behind that method—enable readers to understand how you'll go about the proposed work.

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7. Provide a schedule, including major milestones or checkpoints in the project. 8. Briefly list your qualifications for the project; provide a mini-resume of the background you have that makes you right for the project. 9. Now (and only now), list the costs of the project, the resources you'll need to do the project. 10. Conclude with a review of the benefits of doing the project (in case the shock from the costs section was too much), and urge the audience to get in touch or to accept the proposal. Notice the overall logic of the movement through these section: you get them concerned about a problem or interested in an opportunity, then you get them excited about how you'll fix the problem or do the project, then you show them what good qualifications you have— then hit them with the costs, but then come right back to the good points about the project.

Technical Writing and Communications 88 Format of Proposals You have the following options for the format and packaging of your proposal. one internal. • Cover letter with separate proposal: In this format. The cover letter briefly announces that a . the other external. It does not matter which you use as long as you use the memorandum format for internal proposals and the business-letter format for external proposals. These examples integrate the cover letter (or memo) and the proposal proper into one continuous document. Excerpts from two proposals. you write a brief "cover" letter and attach the proposal proper after it.

This is because the memo may get detached from the proposal or the reader may not even . however. (This format is illustrated in below. that the proposal proper that follows the cover letter repeats much of what you see in the cover letter. The cover memo briefly announces that a proposal follows and outlines the contents of it. • Cover memo with separate proposal: In this format. the contents of the cover memo are pretty much the same as the introduction (discussed in the previous section). The proposal proper uses a title at the top of the page and repeats some of the contents of the cover letter (in case the letter is separated from the proposal). Notice. A cover memo would work the same way as the business letter does in this example.) Excerpts from a proposal that uses a cover letter. In fact. you write a brief "cover" memo and attach the proposal proper after it. The proposal proper that repeats much of what's in the cover memo. This is because the letter may get detached from the proposal or the recipient may not even bother to look at the letter and just dive right into the proposal itself. In fact. the contents of the cover letter are pretty much the same as the introduction (discussed in the previous section).Technical Writing and Communications 89 proposal follows and outlines the contents of it.

) Memo proposal: In this format. where are they located? Report type: Explain what type of report you intend to write: is it a technical background report? a feasibility report? Provide enough explanation so that your instructor can see that you understand the type of report. (See the illustration above and just picture the letter reformatted as a memo. You include headings and other special formatting elements as if it were a report. If it doesn't fit in the proposal proper. the memo format is for internal proposals. You include headings and other special formatting elements as if it were a report. • • • • Revision Checklist for Proposals As you reread and revise your proposal. what they do. Here's a checklist of what to include somewhere in the proposal or in an attached memo to the instructor: • • Audience: Describe the audience of the proposal and the proposed report (they may be different) in terms of the organization they work for. list specific books. (Whether you use a cover memo or cover letter is your choice. you may not have a good topic—do some brainstorming with your instructor. (If you can't think of any your report would need. make sure you know that there is adequate information for your topic. their titles and jobs. • • . (3) to give your instructor a chance to work with you on your report project. For the second and third reasons. some of which may not seem appropriate in the proposal proper. state that this is a proposal.) Special Assignment Requirements Remember that the assignment for this unit serves several purposes: (1) to give you some experience in writing a proposal. you put the entire proposal within a standard office memorandum. (This format is illustrated in the left portion of a previous illustration. reference works. you need to include to include certain specific contents in (or with) your proposal. Remember. to make sure you've got something workable. their ability to understand the report you propose to write. (2) to get you to start planning your term report. Information sources: List information sources. Graphics: List the graphics you think your report will need according to their type and their content. their technical background. Make sure to identify exactly what you are proposing to do. articles. (This format is illustrated in the right portion of a previous illustration. Describe the situation in which the proposal is written and in which the project is needed: what problems or needs are there? who has them.) Business-letter proposal: In this format. put it in a memo to your instructor as is done in first example proposal listed at the beginning of this chapter. watch out for problems such as the following: • Make sure you use the right format. other kinds of sources that you think will contribute to your report. what their level of knowledge and background on the proposal topic is. and provide an overview of the contents of the proposal.) Outline: Include an outline of the topics and subtopics you think you'll cover in your report. Situation: Describe the intended audience of the proposal: who they are.Technical Writing and Communications 90 • • bother to look at the memo and just dive right into the proposal itself. the business-letter format is for proposals written from one external organization to another. you put the entire proposal within a standard business letter.) Write a good introduction—in it.

Technical Writing and Communications 91 • • • • • • • Make sure that a report—a written document—is somehow involved in the project you are proposing to do." If it doesn't logically or naturally fit in the proposal itself. (You can use your instructor's name as the CEO or supervisor of the organization you are sending the proposal to.) Watch out for generating technobabble. put it in a memo to your instructor. don't hit the audience with schedules and costs before you've gotten them interested in the project. some of your proposal readers may know the technical side of your project—but others may not. just not direct ones. For example. Break out the costs section into specifics. natural order. how much time will you need. Remember that in this course we are trying to do two things: write a proposal and plan a term-report project. don't omit the section on costs and qualifications: there will be costs. Be sure to include all the information listed in "Special assignment requirements. Yes. Challenge yourself to bring difficult technical concepts down to a level that nonspecialists can understand. will there be printing. For example. Make sure the sections are in a logical. . Be sure and address the proposal to the real or realistic audience—not your instructor. Don't just hit them with a whopping big final cost. binding costs? Include your qualifications—imagine your proposal will go to somebody in the organization who doesn't know you. include hourly rates and other such details. For internal projects.

You write progress reports when it takes well over three or four months to complete a project. informal report sent to someone outside your organization Formal report—A long. or customer about progress you've made on a project over a certain period of time. The project can be the design. You can use the same format on progress reports as you can on proposals: memo. that the project is going smoothly. construction.Technical Writing and Communications 92 Chapter 7 Writing Progress Reports You write a progress report to inform a supervisor. Depending on the size of the progress report. what you plan to work on next. the length and importance of the project. Organizational Patterns for Progress Reports The recipient of a progress report wants to see what you've accomplished on the project. or repair of something. you explain any or all of the following: • • • • • How much of the work is complete What part of the work is currently in progress What work remains to be done What problems or unexpected things. associate. have arisen How the project is going in general Progress reports have several important functions: • • • • • Reassure recipients that you are making progress. Provide their recipients with a brief look at some of the findings or some of the work of the project. you combine two of these organizational strategies: time periods. six. one after three. formal report sent to someone outside your organization Take a look at the discussion in Format of Proposals. or report topics. project tasks. Functions and Contents of Progress Reports In the progress report. separated report. letter. there are customarily three progress reports. and nine months. Timing and Format of Progress Reports In a year-long project. Give you a chance to discuss problems in the project and thus to forewarn recipients. or cover memo or letter with separate report. and that it will be complete by the expected date. To report this information. and the recipient. Force you to establish a work schedule so that you'll complete the project on time. or the gathering of information on a technical subject. what you are working on now. Give their recipients a chance to evaluate your work on the project and to request changes. the study or research of a problem or question. if any. . informal report to someone within your organization Letter—A short. and how the project is going in general. the progress report can take the following forms: • • • Memo—A short.

You can also organize your progress report according to the work done on the sections of the final report. The energy potential of MSW. you'd explain the work you have done. the work you are currently doing. Costs to modify city utilities in order to change to cocombustion For each of these topics. The following outline excerpts give you an idea of how they combine: . etc. factors affecting its energy potential 3. fences. In a report project on cocombusting municipal solid waste. A progress report usually summarizes work within each of the following: • • • Work accomplished in the preceding period(s) Work currently being performed Work planned for the next period(s) Project tasks. The total amount of MSW produced —locally —nationally 2. you would need information on these topics: Topics to be covered in the final report 1. Practically every project breaks down into individual tasks: Project Individual tasks Building municipal Measuring community interest ball parks on cityLocating suitable property owned land Clearing the property Designing the bleachers. A progress report is a combination of two of these organizational strategies.Technical Writing and Communications 93 Time periods. Writing a report Studying the assignment Selecting a topic Identifying the audience of the report Narrowing the topic Developing a rough outline Gathering information Writing one or more rough drafts Documenting the report Revising and editing the report draft Typing and proofreading the report Putting the report in its final package Report topics. and the work you have planned.

the washing efficiency seems to remain relatively constant as the production vs. we have continued to work on problems associated with the brine drainage tubes. The screen sections of these tubes. Current period. Depending on the continued performance of the screen in its current position in relation to the top of the pack. So far. Production statistics at the end of this month (February) should give us a clearer idea of the effect of this modification. Brine Drainage Tube Modifications During this period.Technical Writing and Communications 94 Progress report A Progress report B Progress report C Topic 1 Work completed Current work Planned work Current Work Topic 2 Task 1 Work Completed Work completed Task 1 Current work Task 2 Planned work Task 3 Task 2 Work completed Current work Planned work Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Work completed Current work Planned work Topic 3 Work completed Current work Planned work Task 3 Current Work Work completed Task 1 Current work Task 2 Planned work Task 3 The following illustration shows an example of the project-tasks approach with subheadings for time periods. Progress report organized by project tasks and time periods WORK COMPLETED . The screen portion of the brine drainage tubes have been moved to within 5 feet of the top of the pack. After minor adjustments during a month of operation. as you know. are located at variable distances along the height of the washer. the drainage tubes and the counterwasher have performed better but still not completely satisfactorily. we may move the screen to within 3 feet of the top of the pack in the next period of testing. compressor KW data for all screen locations so far has seemed to follow the same linear curve. Previous period. Although the wash ratio was greater with greater screen height. no change in counterwasher performance has been observed. the one after that shows the time-period approach with subheadings for report topics. Next period.

I have chosen four physical properties that many raw materials containers are tested for. I have described this chosen method and have explained exactly how a plastic bottle is produced on an assembly line. It is very complete and gives the reader a good idea of what the product should look like and able to accomplish. PRESENT WORK Right now I am mainly involved in determining just which areas of my report are lacking information. Economics I have finished work on half the economics section of this report. Here. So far. Manufacturing Processes For the section on manufacturing processes. Here is a breakdown of the work that I have done so far. I have done research to help me recommend one particular production method for PET bottles. Development of the Bottle In the development section of my report. Also. I have written a technical description of a typical PET soft-drink bottle. I have completed almost all of the research work and am putting the sections of the final report together. I have written an econimic comparison of the use of plastic and glass bottles. and I have shown how PET withstands these tests. I am continuing my work in locating financial information on PET bottles.Technical Writing and Communications 95 As of this time. Favorable Properties The section of the report describing the properties of PET is finished. Manufacturing Processes .

S. date the project is scheduled to be completed People or organization working on the project People or organization for whom the project is being done Overview of the contents of the progress report I am now submitting to you a report on the progress that I have made on my research for your company. and (c) an overall appraisal of the project to date. of the project Date the project began. Introduction. you will be informed on the work that I have already accomplished. (b) a detailed description of your project. which usually acts as the conclusion. In the following sections of this progress report. or limits. the work left to do. scope. This will aid recipients who are unfamiliar with the project. The original investment plan of this corporation included only long-term. Review the details of your project's purpose. and finally an overall appraisal of the how the project is going. . the work I am now involved in. Example introduction to a progress report Project description. or who want to doublecheck your approach to the project.Technical Writing and Communications 96 In the manufucaturing section. who do not remember certain details. low-risk investment in corporate bonds and U. securities. include a project description to review the details of your project for the recipients: PROJECT DESCRIPTION Here is a review of the purpose and scope of this project. This project was designed to answer questions about the potential of shortterm. you also need (a) an introduction that reviews the history of the project's beginnings as well as the purpose and scope of the work. and activities. high-dollar investments. Progress report organized by time periods and report topics Other Parts of Progress Reports In your progress report. In most progress reports. I am currently . particularly those suited to the future . I began investigating all areas of the project. Ginseng Cola. Purpose. . Immediately following the January 15 acceptance of my firm's bid to study the advantages of bottling your soft-drink product in plastic bottles. The introduction can contain the following: • • • • • • • Purpose of the project Specific objectives of the project Scope.

I can foresee no major problems that will keep me from submitting my report to you on the contract date. The report will be broken down into four areas: • • • • • • • Mechanics of stocks and options Comparisons of stocks and options Example investment scenarios Recommendations for an investment plan Example project description from a report Conclusion. I have not run into any major problems and have found plenty of material on this subject. Sincerely. however. will appear in the final report. who is sending information on PET production methods used in several plants in the Southwest.Technical Writing and Communications 97 expansion of this company's investment plan. Scope.. Full details on this. The final paragraph or section usually reassures audiences that all is going well and on schedule. watch out for problems such as the following: . In general. In fact. I am finding that the PET bottle is an even more attractive packaging idea than had seemed in our earlier discussions. Crosswell Process Engineer C & S Engineering Overall appraisal used as conclusion to a progress report Revision Checklist for Progress Reports As you reread and revise your progress report. However. Steven C. OVERALL APPRAISAL The project to recommend PET production is coming along well. It can also alert recipients to unexpected changes or problems in the project. The report will cover basic definitions of stocks and options as well as reasons for and against these two investment strategies. I may be able to get it to you a few days earlier than planned. I have not heard from Mr. Simon Juarez of PET Mfg.

and provide an overview of the contents of the progress report. state that this is a progress report. (Whether you use a cover memo or cover letter is your choice.Technical Writing and Communications 98 • • • • • • • • • Make sure you use the right format. Assume there will nonspecialist reading your progress report.) Write a good introduction-in it. Use lists as appropriate. particularly the different parts of your summary of work done on the project. But don't avoid discussion of technical aspects of the project—just bring them down to a level that nonspecialists can understand. Be sure and address the progress report to the real or realistic audience-not your instructor. the business-letter format is for progress reports written from one external organization to another. . Remember. overly general statements about the work you've done on the final report project. Provide specifics-avoid relying on vague. Use headings to mark off the different parts of your progress report. the memo format is for internal progress reports. Use one or a combination of the organizational patterns in the discussion of your work on the final report. Make sure to include a description of the final report project.

Technical Writing and Communications 99 Chapter 8 Instructions The focus for this chapter is one of the most important of all uses of technical writing— instructions. instructions are some of the worst-written documents you can find. Early in the process. property appraisals. simple writing A thorough understanding the procedure in all its technical detail Your ability to put yourself in the place of the reader. As you know. The content. being used heavily in reports on accidents. and format suggestions discussed in the information-structures section will give you a good foundation to write these other kinds of documents. Audience and situation. What follows in this chapter may not be a fool-proof. you can imagine description. or maintain things. By now. you may also need to include descriptions. but it will show you what professionals consider the best techniques. goof-proof guide to writing instructions. Remember that defining an audience means defining its level of familiarity with . or one of the other information structures. Like me. instructions are those step-by-step explanations of how to do something: how to build. You can in turn use these considerations to plan your own instructions. however. Just break the discussion out into numbered vertical lists and throw in some special notices at the obvious points and you're done! Well. define the audience and situation of your instructions. you've probably had many infuriating experiences with badly written instructions. operate. but that's a great start. for example. Writing Instructions One of the most common and one of the most important uses of technical writing is instructions—those step-by-step explanations of how to do things: assemble something. good instruction writing not only requires these techniques but also: • • • • • Clear. definitions. When you write instructions. they more commonly appear as elements or parts of other documents. or do routine maintenance on something. These are common elements in technical writing. your willingness to go that extra distance and test your instructions on the kind of person you wrote them for. This chapter explores some of the features of instructions that can make them more complex. lists. organization. and product specifications. not quite. and special notices—writing a set of instructions with these tools probably seems obvious. Some Preliminaries At the beginning of a project to write instructions. it's important to determine the structure or characteristics of the particular procedure you are going to write about. However. such as instructions in this case. you've probably studied headings. Ultimately. But for something seemingly so easy and intuitive. Rather than documents type of their own. the person trying to use your instructions Your ability to visualize the procedure in great detail and to capture that awareness on paper Finally. repair something. operate something. repair.

in a tools approach to instructions on using a photocopier. anchoring the thing in the ground would be another. there were more than a 130 steps! That can be a bit daunting. and so on. And remember too that in this technical-writing course it is preferable to write for nonspecialist audiences—this is much more of a challenge to you as a writer. cleaning and maintaining the microwave. An important consideration is how many tasks there are in the procedure you are writing instructions for. but have many steps within that single task. saving your messages. sometimes you have to use more than just the one button to accomplish the task. there are no semiindependent groupings of activities. or you can focus on tools (or features of tools). (The instructions on using a camera are organized by tasks. In a task approach to instructions on using a phone-answering machine. A good approach is to group similar and related steps into phases. and start renumbering the steps at each new phase. the cancel button. If you designed a set of instructions on this plan. setting the clock on a microwave oven is one task in the big overall procedure of operating a microwave oven. Most importantly. (The instructions on are organized by phases.Technical Writing and Communications 100 the topic as well as other such details. Groupings of tasks. installing and customizing tasks. playing back your messages. In my own experience. the collate/staple button. For further diswcussion. the following are common task groupings in instructions: unpacking and setup tasks.) Best approach to the step-by-step discussion. For example. forwarding your messages. you can focus on tasks. using the timer. (For the purposes of this technical writing course. Still. there would be sections on the copy button. Instructions using this tools approach are hard to make work. see the chapter on task analysis. These are tasks—the typical things we'd want to do with the machine. assembling the box swing would be still another. the copy-size button. and so on. the enlarge/reduce button. A task is a semi-independent group of actions within the procedure: for example. A more complex procedure like using a microwave oven contains plenty of such semi-independent tasks: setting the clock.) Some instructions have only a single task. In the swing-set example. the name of the button doesn't quite match the task it is associated with. you'd have sections on recording your greeting. Listing tasks may not be all that you need to do. you'd write steps for using each button or feature of the photocopier. is how to focus your instructions. For example. basic operating tasks. A simple procedure like changing the oil in a car contains only one task. setting the power level. Let's use the term procedure to refer to the whole set of activities your instructions are intended to discuss. See the discussion of audiences and steps to use in defining audiences. On the other hand. This will enable your instructor to assess your instructions in terms of their rightness for the intended audience. Sometimes. deleting your messages. imagine a set of instructions for assembling a kids' swing set. A phase then is a group of similar steps within a single-task procedure. there can be times when the tools/feature approach may be preferable. For most instructions. There may be so many tasks that you must group them so that readers can find individual ones more easily. you . which maybe you can't determine early on. the paper tray. Number of tasks. routine maintenance tasks. you'll need to describe your audience on a separate sheet of paper and hand that in with your instructions. setting up the frame would be a phase. among others. troubleshooting tasks. Another consideration.

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won't need to cover all of these possibilities—but in a real-world set of instructions, you would.) Common Sections in Instructions The following is a review of the sections you'll commonly find in instructions. Don't assume that each one of them must be in the actual instructions you write, nor that they have to be in the order presented here, nor that these are the only sections possible in a set of instructions. As you read the following on common sections in instructions, check out the example instructions listed above. Not all of the following sections typically found in instructions will show up in the examples, but most will.

Schematic view of instructions. Remember that this is a typical or common model for the contents and organization—many others are possible.

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Introduction. Plan the introduction to your instructions carefully. Make sure it does any of the following things (but not necessarily in this order) that apply to your particular instructions: • • • • • Indicate the specific tasks or procedure to be explained as well as the scope of coverage (what won't be covered). Indicate what the audience needs in terms of knowledge and background to understand the instructions. Give a general idea of the procedure and what it accomplishes. Indicate the conditions when these instructions should (or should not) be used. Give an overview of the contents of the instructions.

Now remember: you may not need all of these elements, and some of them can combine neatly into single sentences. The introduction ought to be brisk and to the point and not feel as though it is trudging laboriously through each of these elements. (See the section on introductions for further discussion.) General warning, caution, danger notices. Instructions often must alert readers to the possibility of ruining their equipment, screwing up the procedure, and hurting themselves. Also, instructions must often emphasize key points or exceptions. For these situations, you use special notices—note, warning, caution, and danger notices. Notice how these special notices are used in the example instructions listed above. Technical background or theory. At the beginning of certain kinds of instructions (after the introduction, of course), you may need a discussion of background related to the procedure. For certain instructions, this background is critical—otherwise, the steps in the procedure make no sense. For example, you may have had some experience with those software applets in which you define your own colors by nudging red, green, and blue slider bars around. To really understand what you're doing, you need to have some background on color. Similarly, you can imagine that, for certain instructions using cameras, some theory might be needed as well. Equipment and supplies. Notice that most instructions include a list of the things you need to gather before you start the procedure. This includes equipment, the tools you use in the procedure (such as mixing bowls, spoons, bread pans, hammers, drills, and saws) and supplies, the things that are consumed in the procedure (such as wood, paint, oil, flour, and nails). In instructions, these typically are listed either in a simple vertical list or in a twocolumn list. Use the two-column list if you need to add some specifications to some or all of the items—for example, brand names, sizes, amounts, types, model numbers, and so on. Discussion of the steps. When you get to the actual writing of the steps, there are several things to keep in mind: (1) the structure and format of those steps, (2) supplementary information that might be needed, and (3) the point of view and general writing style. Structure and format. Normally, we imagine a set of instructions as being formatted as vertical numbered lists. And most are in fact. Normally, you format your actual step-by-step instructions this way. There are some variations, however, as well as some other considerations: • Fixed-order steps are steps that must be performed in the order presented. For example, if you are changing the oil in a car, draining the oil is a step that must come before putting the new oil. These are numbered lists (usually, vertical numbered lists).

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• •

Variable-order steps are steps that can be performed in practically any order. Good examples are those troubleshooting guides that tell you to check this, check that where you are trying to fix something. You can do these kinds of steps in practically any order. With this type, the bulleted list is the appropriate format. Alternate steps are those in which two or more ways to accomplish the same thing are presented. Alternate steps are also used when various conditions might exist. Use bulleted lists with this type, with OR inserted between the alternatives, or the lead-in indicating that alternatives are about to be presented. Nested steps. In some cases, individual steps within a procedure can be rather complex in their own right and need to be broken down into substeps. In this case, you indent further and sequence the substeps as a, b, c, and so on. "Stepless" instructions. And finally there exist instructions that really cannot use numbered vertical list and that do little if any straightforward instructional-style directing of the reader. Some situations must be so generalized or so variable that steps cannot be stated.

Supplementary discussion. Often, it is not enough simply to tell readers to do this or to do that. They need additional explanatory information such as how the thing should look before and after the step; why they should care about doing this step; what mechanical principle is behind what they are doing; even more micro-level explanation of the step—discussion of the specific actions that make up the step. The problem with supplementary discussion, however, is that it can hide the actual step. You want the actual step—the specific actions the reader is to take—to stand out. You don't want it all buried in a heap of words. There are at least techniques to avoid this problem: you can split the instruction from the supplement into separate paragraphs; or you can bold the instruction. Writing style. The way you actually write instructions, sentence by sentence, may seem contradictory to what previous writing classes have taught you. However, notice how "realworld" instructions are written—they use a lot of imperative (command, or direct-address) kinds of writing; they use a lot of "you." That's entirely appropriate. You want to get in your reader's face, get her or his full attention. For that reason, instruction-style sentences sound like these: "Now, press the Pause button on the front panel to stop the display temporarily" and "You should be careful not to ..." A particular problem involves use of the passive voice in instructions. For some weird reason, some instructions sound like this: "The Pause button should be depressed in order to stop the display temporarily." Not only are we worried about the Pause button's mental health, but we wonder who's supposed to depress the thing (are you talkin' to me?). Or consider this example: "The Timer button is then set to 3:00." Again, as the person following these instructions, you might miss this; you might think it is simply a reference to some existing state, or you might wonder, "Are they talking to me?" Almost as bad is using the third person: "The user should then press the Pause button." Again, it's the old double-take: you look around the room and wonder, "Who me?" (For more detail, see passive-voice problem.) Another of the typical problems with writing style in instructions is that people seem to want to leave out articles: "Press Pause button on front panel to stop display of information temporarily" or "Earthperson, please provide address of nearest pizza restaurant." Why do we do this? Do we all secretly want to be robots? Anyway, be sure to include all articles (a, an, the) and other such words that we'd normally use in instructions. Graphics in Instructions

and subheadings for the individual tasks or phases within that section. Remember not to use first-level headings in this assignment. for poorly written special notices. Use headings to mark off all the main sections and subheadings for subsections. For guidelines on these areas. Special notices. words simply cannot explain the step. See headings for common requirements. In particular. Number. you'll see not only suggestions for creating graphics. Companies have been sued for lack of these special notices. injure themselves or others—even seriously or fatally. and that you don't feel wildly confident in your artistic abilities. watch out for problems such as the following: • • • • Make sure you provide real instructions—explanations of how to build. See lists for common requirements. particularly numbered vertical lists for the actual step-by-step explanations. • • • • . See special notices for a complete discussion of the proper use of these special notices as well as their format and placement within instructions. In-sentence lists are good whenever you give an overview of things to come. operate. a general heading for the actual instructions section. There are ways to overcome these problems! Take a look at the suggestions in graphics. Writing assignments for instructions may ask you to include illustrations or other kinds of graphics—whatever would normally be used in the instructions. abbreviations. The problem of course may be that you don't have access to graphics that would be suitable for your particular instructions. make good use of headings. or repair something. and symbols. lists. Make sure you use the class style and format for all headings. cause the entire procedure to fail. Use graphics to illustrate any key actions or objects. Revision Checklist for Instructions As you reread and revise your instructions. indicate the exact procedure to be explained and provide an overview of contents. get in touch with your instructor. (Remember that no heading "Introduction" is needed between the title and the first paragraph. Take a look at the examples at the end of this chapter. the equipment and supplies section. Similarly. Simple vertical lists or two-column lists are usually good for the equipment and supplies section. In that chapter. I>Make sure that you use the various types of lists wherever appropriate. use numbered vertical lists for sequential steps. If that's a problem. In instructions. and symbols. Instructions also use plenty of numbers.) Use special notices as appropriate. In your instructions. Sometimes. and graphics.Technical Writing and Communications 104 Probably more so than in any other form of writing (except maybe for comic books). Write a good introduction—in it. abbreviations. you'd want headings for any background section you might have. special notices. graphics are crucial to instructions. waste supplies. instructions typically make heavy use of lists. Normally. start with the second level. Lists. but also requirements on their format. or for special notices that were out of place. Illustrations are often critical to readers' ability to visualize what they are supposed to do. Provide additional supplementary explanation of the steps as necessary. Format in Instructions Headings. you must alert readers to possibilities in which they may damage their equipment.

Include strong sections of definition. description.Technical Writing and Communications 105 • • Remember to create a section listing equipment and supplies. organization. . as necessary. or both. and format in the chapters on definition and description. using the guidelines on content. if necessary.

See the chapter on instructions for details on planning and designing instructions. While this definition assumes computers. graphics commonly used in instructions. some elements of the user guide get split out into their own separate volumes—especially the installation procedures. highlighting. microwave ovens. use the standard design of instructions. caps. • Components of User Guides . and so on. troubleshooting procedures. See the chapter on notices for details on planning and designing notices. At its core is instruction writing. and illustrations of key actions that readers must perform. color. tables. See the chapter on highlighting for details on planning and designing highlighting guidelines. Style and Format for User Guides A user guide is a combination of many things presented in this online textbook. see the page-design chapter in this online textbook. dishwashers. when this happens. lists. getting users started using the product—but if there is too much tutorial. A user guide can be very brief— for example. See the chapter on headings for details on planning and designing headings. A user guide can even contain a brief tutorial—for example. and the commands. italics. Highlighting—Use a consistent and standard scheme of highlighting (bold. See the chapter on graphics for details on planning and designing graphics. the greater the page count. it too goes into a separate book. and notes to alert readers to potential problems or emphasize special points. In user guides. a user guide should use the style and format that is presented elsewhere in this online textbook: • • • • Headings—Use headings to mark off key contents of the information so that readers can find it quickly. (For an overview of these elements. Instructional design—In general. or troubleshooting a hardware or software product. Special notices—Use special notices such as warnings.) As a set of instructions. See the chapter on lists for details on planning and designing lists. you need to be good at the writing style. using. cautions. tables are particularly useful whenever reference-type information must be presented. primarily.Technical Writing and Communications 106 Chapter 9 User Guides A user guide is essentially a book-length document containing instructions on installing. notices. alternate fonts. before and after views. only 10 or 20 pages or it can a full-length book of 200 pages or more. this means task-oriented headings and sections and numbered vertical lists for actual steps that readers are to perform. Instructions—and therefore user guides—also make abundant use of: • • Graphics—Show readers key components of the objects they will be working with. and so on). a user guide can provide operating instructions on practically anything—lawnmowers. headings. Tables—Provide statistical information and other such details in easy-to-access table form. The more complex the product. See the chapter on tables for details on planning and designing tables. Lists—Use numbered and bulleted lists to help readers scan information quickly.

and hue. written for specific tasks that users must perform. Information Included in User Guides Here's review the common contents of user guides: • Instructions—The most obvious are those step-by-step directions on how to assemble. caution. and even danger notices in user guides. and so on. users guides will include technical explanations of how the product works. operate. parameters. Precautionary information—You'll see notes. A law. every company does it differently. and so on. Instructions should generally use vertical numbered lists for actions that must be performed in a required sequence. if it is extensive. what physical or chemical principles are essential to its operation. For example. saturation. Reference information in user guides is often presented in tables: columnar lists of settings. Sometimes this information also gets put into a separate volume. a user guide must have some combination of the standard book-design components such as the following: • • • • • • • • • • • • • Front and back covers Title page Edition notice Trademarks Disclaimers Warranties License agreements Safety notices Preface Appendixes Glossary Index Reader-comment form There is no standard combination or sequence of these elements.. Getting-started information—Some user guides will actually include brief tutorials that will help new users get acquainted with using the product.. warning. but only up to a certain point. or troubleshoot the product. the volume will be called something like "Introducing New Product. and other such. variables. Reference information—User guides typically contain plenty of reference information. mu law. format. For example. descriptions. These represent liability concerns for the manufacturer of the product. Details on the contents.Technical Writing and Communications 107 As a book. you will see considerable background in user guides for graphic or audio programs—you can't operate them without understanding the concepts of brightness. a separate book for commands is necessary.. flags. Similar or closely related instructions in user guides should be grouped into chapters. a review of its essential features or its new features. Typically. About the product—User guides also provide some description of the product. • • • • • Examples of User Guides . and design of these elements can be found in the book-design chapter." Technical background—Sometimes. if there are numerous commands. Instructions in user guide should generally be task-oriented—that is.

The company name has a registered trademark symbol beside it. o Headings — First-level headings are about 1 point smaller than chapter titles. a copyright notice. and warning that the book is not for retail sale. the book title. The back cover contains advertising material—rather atypical for user guides—on the product's best features. and system messages. This book is 5. Table of content: The TOC begins on a righthand page numbered "i" and lists up to level of headings within the chapters. list of trademarked product names occurring in the book. the date of the edition. Open squares are used for bulleted items that have a subhead.5 inches and under 150 pages.Technical Writing and Communications 108 Consider a few examples: Delarina WinFax LITE User's Guide. and the book number. legal statements concerning copying the book. The chapter title is used for the inside header on each page. It is uses by-chapter pagination. special offers on the full version. you see the full book title. • • • • • • • . Third-level headings are the same size as body text but use bold-italic Arial and are placed on the left margin. options. This manual does not use hanging-head format. the current heading is used for the outside header on each page. and a solid ruled line is placed just above both footers. Preface: The Overview which is treated as chapter 1. the title is left-aligned.5 × 8. field names. and instructions on how to get help. Second-level headings are about 2 points smaller. hardware and software requirements on its use. Bold is used for simple emphasis. It contains some promotion of the product. several addresses for the company. a 1-800 number to call. No trademark symbols are shown on the front or back covers. the title is right-aligned. the company logo (which includes its name). o Text — Body text is a serif font about 10 points in size. with a solid ruled line just below. left aligned. with new chapters and sections beginning on a righthand page. left aligned. Edition notice: On the back of the title page is the edition notice. a diagram of the product's many uses. they are all centered. Body chapters: Chapters use the following design features: o Chapter title — Large bold Arial letters with the chapter title on the left margin and the chapter number on the right and a double ruled line below. Headers and footers: The book title is used for both the left and right footers: on the left-page. and the document number. a version number. text extends to the same left margin as do headings. License agreement: On the next page is the software agreement. an overview of the manual contents. the product name has the trademark letters beside it. a two-page thing that outlines permitted uses of the software and related warranties. which includes the product name. A solid ruled line is placed just beneath these headers. otherwise standard filled disks are used as bullets. • Covers: On the front cover. Title page: The first page inside this user guide is the title page. The page number appears opposite of both footers. the company name with its logo. This edition notice includes the book title. and the not-for-retail-sale warning. on the right-page. the book edition number. o Graphics — numerous screen captures are used through the book. o Lists — Numbered lists are used for items in sequence such as steps. o Highlighting — Text that users must type uses a sans serif type (probably Arial) as do screen buttons. with no ruled line.

upper third and bottom of the area." and "troubleshooting" seems to float between the second and third title elements. highlighting conventions used in the book. A-2. . its print date. Also included are an address where comments can be sent. The heading for the edition notice is the edition number followed by the month and year of th edition. Table of contents: The TOC is an unusual design in which all entries are left aligned in the center of the page. that the book is for multiple models of the product and that portions of it may not refer to the reader's own particular model. The index uses the standard but does something unusual with entries.5 × 5. The hanging-head format is used. • • • • • . and regulatory (communications) notices. menu names. It is pushed to the bottom of the page and uses a smaller type size. Second-level heading align with body text. First-level entries use bold. It is uses consecutive page numbering throughout the book and is about 120 pages long. Appendix B addresses fonts. giving readers a more detailed sense of the book's contents. Notices section: The first body section of this manual is for notices—specifically. safety notices. probably 9 or 10 points. a statement that the bopok was printed in th e"USA" and a bar code for the book number. Title page: This page contains the words "Aptiva Reference Guide" is large serif letter in the upper right of the page—and that's it! Edition notice: The edition notice occurs on the back of the title page. Body text is a rather small sans serif font. probably Helvetica. the following elements are bold: buttons. probably 7-point. a 1-800 number to request additional copies. The word "Note:" or "Hint" uses bold-italics. The text of the notices section begins on a right-hand page as does the chapter title page. o Highlighting — In stepwise instructions. for its body text. tabs. These pages are numbered A-1. menu options. Body text: Here are the key design features of the body text: o Text — Text for this book is indented nearly 2 inches. B-2. The text of the notice is regular body font indented an inch.5 inches. o Index — The book ends with a 10-page index whose page are numbered with lowercase roman numerals starting at i. with the page numbers to the left about an inch. Chapter titles use a large gray serif font in the upper right corner of the first page of the chapter. TOC begins on page iii. icon names. o Appendixes — The book ends with two appendixes: Appendix A addresses common problems with a situation/solution format. It uses a table-of-contents format for the entries and their page references. and the standard copyright line. and so on. IBM Aptiva Reference Guide. • Covers: The front cover has a graphic design with stylized numbered 1. . The three elements of the book title are placed at the top. keyboard key names. trademarks. The paragraphs of the edition notice states that the book is provided "as is" without any warranty. The back cover continues the grid pattern and includes the IBM logo with the part number of the book. . This book is also 8. use a blocky bold sans serif font with a solid ruled line above. o Headings — First-level headings align to to the far left margin." "getting help. and 3 along with large grid pattern and various sorts of shading. use sentence-style caps (as do first-level headings) and use the same font as do first-level headings but about 2 points smaller. The section begins with its own title page on which is displayed the word "Notices" in a large serif font in the upper right corner and with a grid/shading design similar to that on the front cover. You also see the words "information.Technical Writing and Communications 109 o Notices — Only notes and hints are used. 2. B-1. respectively. connecting them with the sort of leader dots you'd see in TOCs.

of almost any technical document—is the process that produces it: 1. o Steps — Instructions sequences are introduced with a gerund-phrased heading in the block bold font. design. The prototype is a dummy version of the book with all planned components of the book (see the list on book-design components) and all planned elements (see the list under format and style). library plan (what books. . is centered and in a serif italics font using sentence-style caps. audience analysis (who will be using the user guide. are needed to support the product?). audience. the current heading. Substeps or alternate subtasks use infinitive phrasing with the same font but smaller and are punctuated with a colon. not chapter title. the left column with the heading "If the problem is. you may have to write a proposal in an effort to win a contract to do a certain technical documentation project. Actual steps use a number in the same smaller font with out a period. The page references are set about a half inch away from the text entries. Two levels of index entries are used. Process and Internal Documents for User Guides An important part of user guides—in fact. Usually. Prototype and specifications—Important planning tools. The next section consists of common questions with actions to take depending on yes or no answers. but the plan represents an established plan agreed upon by everybody involved in the production process (and that means both the user guide and the product it documents). include the prototype of the user guide and the specifications for the user guide. The text of the actions is bulleted or numbered depending on the content and contains cross-references to other areas of the troubleshooting information. and other such information about a documentation project and its "deliverables. format.. The next section is designed in two columns. 2. task analysis (what will users use the product for." The problem statement in the left column is in bold. the checkmark box and the notice text is in the open area between the far left margin and the body text. Documentation proposal—If you are working freelance or as part of an independent documentation firm. Index: The book has a 6-page index formatted in 3 column. and so on. which also serve as useful reference tools during a documentation project. in addition to a user guide. System messages are in regular roman and double quotation marks. Special notices: This book uses a light gray box with a white checkmark in it to call attention to special notices. Where possible. schedule. what are their common tasks?).." The documentation plan resembles the documentation proposal in certain ways. Headers and footers: Only footers are used.. the text of the special notices is the same as the footers: small italic serif font. the checkmark box is located on the far left margin and the notice text is aligned to the normal body text. the next section is similar except that it lists error codes that are displayed on the computer and actions to take. production team members." and the right column with the heading "Here's what to do. Documentation plan—User guides need documentation plans. which are internal supporting documents that specify content. Bold page numbers (using the same font as the first-level heading but much smaller) are on the outside.Technical Writing and Communications 110 • • • • parameter settings. what are theiur needs?). Troubleshooting section: The body of this section begin with a flowchart that must be meant to orient a user to the overall process of troubleshooting and to the different troubleshooting resources available. Names of disks supplied with the product are in italics. Initial planning—Early planning on a user guide involves needs assessment (is any documentation needed at all?). 4. 3.

templates or styles of that book. consectetuer adipiscing elit. they sign off on the user guide. and other such detail. Specifications describe every unique component or element of a book. Multiple review drafts & sign-off—A good process for the production of a user guide also includes several drafts that editors. usability testers. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam. the prototype of the user guide is very brief: it need include only as many pages as it takes to illustrate every unique textual component and textual element that will be used in the user guide. headers. a user guide brings together many of the topics covered in this online textbook. Typically. Specifications are descriptions of a book design in table form. paragraphs." which means producing the finished bound copies. vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan. A template is an electronic file that defines such aspects of the user guide as page size. . regular and special page layout.Technical Writing and Communications 111 However. headers and footers. Template and style catalog—A well-designed user guide. and documentation team members can review and provide comments on. 5. You as writer then implement those comments and produce a new draft for these same people to review again. 6. lists. sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. 7. instead of real text: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. For example. tables. footers. technical experts. As you can see. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat. a style for a "heading 1" might specify 24-point Arial bold with 24 picas above and 12 picas below. If you are taking a technical writing course. so that it can be recreated by someone who might not have access to the electronic files. and it can then go into "production. styles also help you maintain consistency in the format and style of that user guide. and so on. you probably cannot implement all these features and phases of a user guide. Get with your instructor to see which are required. and a well-designed process to produce that user guide. the prototype uses "greeked" text (also known as Lorem ipsum like the following. page-numbering style. should include templates and style catalogs. When everybody is satisfied with the draft of the user guide (or worn out or out of time). Styles help you create a user guide more efficiently. quis nostrud exerci tation ullam corper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. A style catalog is also an electronic thing that defines the format and style of textual elements such as headings.

policies are general statements of how an organization want things to be within its walls. and documents that meet common expectations as to their content. and format. But to make that policy a working reality.Technical Writing and Communications 112 Chapter 10 Organizational Policies and Procedures This section does not provide details on how to plan. format. contact the e-mail at the bottom of this page if you see any dead links or know of any good links to add here: . Scope of Policies-and-Procedures Projects Policies and procedures can be very large documents containing information that you may have no way of getting. you are in a writing course. factual. Once recorded. Policies and procedures are obviously an important application of writing and can contain substantial technical information about a business's operations. however. write. For example. aggressive. Policies-and-Procedures Resources Here's what we know about. Remember too that your instructor is probably not a professional business or organizational consultant and probably won't be able to help you on the finer points of your policies and procedures document. if you are working for an organization that lacks them. and well-thought-out as policies and procedures for a real situation. the policies and procedures are there for everybody in the organization to refer to. organization. and these documents become the means of settling most disputes within the organization. Policies and Procedures: Overview Organizations use policies and procedures documents to record their rules and regulations. if you are just playing around with this notion: the policies and procedures you write for this course must be every bit as serious. it will also have one or more procedures that define exactly what to do — step by step -. it does provide links to web pages that do along with some advice on maintaining a reasonable scope for a policies and procedures project if you are in a technical or business writing course. and complete policies and procedures documents.when a customer calls with a complaint or problem. Work with your instructor to reach an agreement on the scope of the document you write. or if you'd merely like to do some constructive daydreaming about how an organization ought to be structured. well-researched. well-designed documents. Our focus is on good writing. To distinguish between these two terms. and so on. do-whatever-takes customer support. substance-abuse policies. Beware. documents that accomplish their purpose. Policies-and-Procedures Projects as Writing Projects If you are enrolled in a course associated with this page. specific. realistic. work-flow procedures. not a business-policy course. You can write policies and procedures if you need to write such a document for an actual business or organization. These can include whatever the organizations considers important for its operations: attendance policies. However. it may have a policy that dictates eager. That's why it's a good option for the final project in a technical-writing course.

Running and Growing a Small Business. but there are absolutely no universally agreedupon names for them: • Feasibility report: This type studies a situation (for example. Provided by Process Improvement Publishing." Not only does it give a recommendation.. these types often combine—you might see elements of the recommendation report combine with the feasibility report. for the purposes of the policies and procedures document. a problem or opportunity) and a plan for doing something about it and then determines whether that plan is "feasible"—which means determining whether it technologically possible and whether it is practical (in terms of current technology. As the report writer on this project. and so on). or none of the products. scrap it. recommendations. This guidebook contains a wealth of information. see Planning Your Business. There is a loosely defined category of reports that is very important in technical and then you either write one of your own or format and finish one from text that your instructor makes available to you. . The feasibility report answers the question "Should we implement Plan X?" by stating "yes. For example. Of course. social needs. (And of course there may be a recommendation—continue the project. sometimes. assessment reports. or both and then recommends one. The recommendation report answers the question "Which option should we choose?" (or in some cases "Which are the best options?) by recommending Product B.Technical Writing and Communications 113 • • • CCH Incorporated provides link to its SOHO Guidebook: A Practical Guide to Starting. recommendation reports. These reports are variously called feasibility reports. Articles from about. these distinctions are rather fine. a couple of products (differing perhaps in their strengths and their weaknesses). They all do roughly the same thing— provide carefully studied opinions and. Recommendation and Feasibility Reports In this chapter. change it. but." "no. some. or maybe both Products B and C. It provides a studied opinion on the value or worth of something. or none. In real-world writing. Management. and they overlap..) • • As you can see. Recommendation report: This type starts from a stated need. a company might be looking at grammar-checking software and want a recommendation on which product is the best. This type of report compares a thing to a set of requirements (or criteria) and determines how well it meets those requirements. a selection of choices. for example. it also provides the data and the reasoning behind that recommendation. you could study the market for this type of application and recommend one particular product. for over a year the city of Austin had free bus transportation in an attempt to increase ridership and reduce automobile traffic. or none (maybe none of them are any good). Evaluation report: This type provides an opinion or judgment rather than a yes-nomaybe answer or a recommendation. you study a loosely defined group of report types that provide a studied opinion or recommendation. For example. Some Rather Fine Distinctions. Did it work? Was it worthwhile?—These are questions an evaluation report would attempt to answer. the writers of these reports don't care which type they are writing—and well they shouldn't! They're trying to get a job done. evaluation reports. economics. Clear and Effective Policy and Procedure Manuals. or other possibilities. and who knows what else." but more often "maybe. There are some subtle differences among some these types.

If there is little to say about them. Technical Background. more likely. For example. Also. nor in the order shown here—plus you may need other sections not mentioned here. Some feasibility reports may require some technical discussion in order to make the rest of the report meaningful to readers. but also the data and the conclusions leading up to it. limited strictly to the comparison and the conclusion? Maybe all the technical background can be pitched in its own section—either toward the front of the report or in an appendix. For some feasibility reports. That way. or judgment. Instead of calling the report by name (which might not mean anything to most readers). The dilemma with this kind of information is whether to put it in a section of its own or to fit it into the comparison sections where it is relevant. indicate that the document that follows is a feasibility report (or whatever it is called). megahertz. you'll also be able to discuss the situation and the requirements in the introductions. you can merge them with the introduction. you can indicate its purpose. Now remember! Your specific writing project may not require all of these sections. Introduction. provide an overview of the contents of the report. choice. and processors. or make the introduction two paragraphs long. and your conclusions and come up with a completely different view. Should you put that in a section that compares the laptops according to power and speed? Should you keep the comparison neat and clean. whatever name people call it—most of the sections and the organization of those sections are roughly the same. they will be convinced by all your careful research and documentation.Technical Writing and Communications 114 Typical Contents of the Recommendation Report Whatever shade of feasibility or recommendation report you write. readers can check your findings. In the introduction. your logic. The structural principle fundamental to this type of report is this: you provide not only your recommendation. a discussion of power and speed of laptop computers is going to necessitate some discussion of RAM. But. .

Technical Writing and Communications 115 Schematic view of recommendation and feasibility reports. Remember that this is a typical or common model for the contents and organization—many others are possible. .

hard-disk storage. this information can go in the introduction. durability. and battery function. you'd need to know what was expected of the program and then compare its actual results to those requirements. If you're evaluating the recent program of free bus transportation in Austin. there are likely to be requirements concerning size. display quality.Technical Writing and Communications 116 Schematic view of recommendation and feasibility reports—continued. Remember also that these sections need not all be included. and they can appear in varying orders. For example. A critical part of feasibility and recommendation reports is the discussion of the requirements you'll use to reach the final decision or recommendation. Yes/no values: Some requirements are simply a yes-no question. or opportunity that has brought about this report. If you're trying to recommend a laptop computer for use by employees. cost. Background on the Situation. For many feasibility reports. and so on. they can be combined. If you're looking into the feasibility of providing every ACC student with an ID on the ACC computer network. Requirements can be defined in several basic ways: • • Numerical values: Many requirements are stated as maximum or minimum numerical values. Does the laptop come equipped with a modem? Is the car equipped with air conditioning? . there may be a cost requirement—the laptop should cost no more than $900. Requirements and Criteria. need. you'd need define the basic requirements of such a program— what it would be expected to accomplish. If there is little that needs to be said about it. you'll need to discuss the problem. problems that it would have to avoid.

you obviously wouldn't be comparing options. general specifications on each model about to be compared. Your basic requirements may well narrow the field down for you. you'd have a section that compared them on cost. plus most people are not sure whether it is singular or plural. another that discussed everything about option B. The discussion at this stage is not comparative. That would not be effective at all. But there may be other considerations that disqualify other options—explain these as well. (See below for a schematic illustration of these two approaches to comparisons. Instead. Category-by-Category Comparisons. you'd be comparing the thing being evaluated against the requirements placed upon it. One option is cheaper. One of the most important parts of a feasibility or recommendation report is the comparison of the options. you might want to give some brief. Try using "criterion" in public—you'll get weird looks. In the laptops example. providing multiple conclusions for different conditions. Devise a method by which you can pick a "winner" from situation where there is no clear winner. one has better ease-of-use ratings. this follows right after the discussion of the requirements. Picture the typical situation where no one option is best in all categories of comparison. Or we may have to assign a rating ourselves. Don't get this mixed up with the comparison that comes up in the next section. because the comparisons must still be made somewhere. This should be handled category by category. and so on.) Each of these comparative sections should end with a conclusion that states which option is the best choice in that particular category of comparison. another is known to be more durable. rather than option by option. Additionally. If you were comparing laptops. you provide a general discussion of the options so that readers will know something about them. you'll need to explain how you narrowed the field of choices down to the ones your report focuses on.) The requirements section should also discuss how important the individual requirements are in relation to each other. key considerations cannot be handled either with numerical values or yes/no values. it is plural. Often. "criterion" is singular. although "criteria" is commonly used for both the singular and plural. another has more functions. Capital Metro had a program of more than a year of free bus transportation—what was expected of that program? did the program meet those expectations? . it won't always be easy to state a clear winner—you may have to qualify the conclusions in various ways. and so on. we might want a laptop that has an ease-of-use rating of at least "good" by some nationally accepted ratings group. "Criterias" is not a word and should never be used. The term "requirements" is used here instead of "criteria. you may need to provide brief descriptions of the options themselves. Remember that you include this section so that readers can check your thinking and come up with different conclusions if they desire.Technical Writing and Communications 117 • Ratings values: In some cases. For example. the expectations people had of it. In this description section. Of course." A certain amount of ambiguity hangs around this word. If you were doing an evaluation report. It's just a general orientation to the options. Discussion of the Options. You wouldn't have a section that discussed everything about option A. (Technically. another section that compared them on battery function. For example. In certain kinds of feasibility or recommendation reports.

Unless you have a very unusual topic. single-category ones. In this section. Recommendation or Final Opinion. and so on. but another is rather expensive but has good or even excellent battery function. The final section of feasibility and recommendation reports states the recommendation. the conclusions section ends with the final conclusion— the one that states which option is the best choice. Thus. Ordinarily it is. laptops were . And of course as already mentioned. which is the one that states which is the best choice. You'd think that that ought to be obvious by now. which model had the best price. Conclusions. For example. Early in their history. and why? The secondary conclusion would state the answer to this dilemma. which do you choose. use the part-by-part approach. there will be some cases where there may be a best choice but you wouldn't want to recommend it. for example. if one laptop is very inexpensive and has poor battery function. But this section has to go further. which had the best battery function. but remember that some readers may skip right to the recommendation section and bypass all your hard work! Also. But then it must state secondary conclusions—the ones that balance conflicting primary conclusions. you restate the individual conclusions.Technical Writing and Communications 118 Schematic view of the whole-to-whole and the part-by-part approaches to organizing a comparison. It must untangle all the conflicting conclusions and somehow reach the final conclusion. The conclusions section of a feasibility or recommendation report is in part a summary or restatement of the conclusions you have already reached in the comparison sections. the conclusion section first lists the primary conclusions—the simple.

But in this case you're still on the hook—what's your overall evaluation? Once again. the free-bus-transportation program was successful. . and the comparisons into appendixes. In an evaluation report. This can be handled. it was a miserable flop—it lived up to none of its minimal requirements. You start with background and criteria. or at least it was. Organizational Plans for Feasibility and Recommendation Reports This is a good point to discuss the two basic organizational plans for this type of report: • • Traditional plan: This one corresponds to the order that the sections have just been presented in this chapter. with bulleted lists. criteria. Ordinarily. it was both a success and a flop—it did live up to some of its requirements. but even it was not worth having. Or. and turn to the detailed discussion only if there are questions. the basis for that judgment has to be stated somewhere in the requirements section. The recommendation section should echo the most important conclusions leading to the recommendation and then state the recommendation emphatically. based on its initial expectations. then move to comparison. the "busy executive" can see the most important information right away. as shown in the examples.Technical Writing and Communications 119 heavy and unreliable—there may have been one model that was better than the rest. and end with conclusions and recommendations. Executive plan: This one moves the conclusions and recommendations to the front of the report and pitches the full discussion of background. but did not do so in others. this final section would state a final opinion or judgement. No. Yes. That way. you may need to recommend several options based on different possibilities.

the executive approach. Organize the comparison of the options using the point-by-point approach. watch out for problems such as the following: • • • • • Write a good introduction in which you indicate the situation and the audience and provide an overview of the contents. . At the end of each comparative section. One using the standard approach. the other. Revision Checklist for Feasibility and Recommendation Reports As you reread and revise your feasibility or recommendation report. State requirements—those factors that influence the decision or the choice of options. (And remember to state how important requirements are in relation to each other. and recommendations are "up front" so that the reader can get to them quickly. there are tabs for each appendix.Technical Writing and Communications 120 Example outlines of the same report. Don't use the whole-to-whole approach. state the best choice in terms that point of comparison. In large reports. conclusions. Notice in the executive approach that all the key facts.) Indicate how the field of options was narrowed to the ones being compared.

Include strong sections of definition. if possible. Include a recommendation section where you make the recommendation. description. (For example. in which you summarize all the key data in table form. using the guidelines on content. Include a conclusions section where you restate all the key conclusions from the comparison section. if necessary for understanding the comparative discussion. State a final conclusion in the conclusions section—one that states which is the best choice. and format in the chapters on definition and description. . Briefly mention the key factors influencing the recommendation.) Provide technical background. State secondary conclusions in the conclusions section—and based them on requirements that you state in the requirements section of the report.Technical Writing and Communications 121 • • • • • • • • Include a summary table. see the summary table in the laptop computer recommendation. as necessary. or both. organization. Discuss the background on the problem or opportunity—what brought about the need for the report.

Or. This is the style of summarizing you find in the informative abstract. the descriptive abstract says something like this: Revision: This report provides conclusions and recommendations on the grammar-checking software that is currently available. to use a different analogy. In this report design.Technical Writing and Communications 122 Chapter 11 Abstracts An abstract is a summary of a body of information. There are different kinds of abstracts—your technical report uses two types: the descriptive abstract and the informative abstract. The descriptive abstract does not say something like this: Problem: Based on an exhaustive review of currently available products. it like major first-level headings of the table of contents have been rewritten in paragraph format. it appears on the title page. it is very short—usually a brief one. You may have noticed something similar to this type of abstract at the beginning of journal articles. The descriptive abstract is little like a program teaser. As you can see from the example. abstracts are in fact called summaries—sometimes. In this type of abstract. Descriptive Abstracts The descriptive abstract provides a description of the report's main topic and purpose as well an overview of its contents. you don't summarize any of the facts or conclusions of the report. this report concludes that none of the available grammar-checking software products provides any useful function to writers. Sometimes. Instead.or two-sentence paragraph. . executive summaries or executive abstracts.

as its name implies. provides information from the body of the report—specifically.Technical Writing and Communications 123 Descriptive abstract on report title page. the key facts and conclusions. then . Informative Abstracts The informative abstract. To put it another way.or two-page document. (Of course. It is as if someone had taken a yellow marker and highlighted all the key points in the body of the report then vaccuumed them up into a one. this type of abstract summarizes the key information from every major section in the body of the report.

It's expected that the writing in an informative abstract will be dense and heavily worded." Instead. If you summarize information that you borrowed from other writers. Definitions and other background information are omitted if they are not the major focus of the report. One expects to see numerical data in an informative abstract. The abstract tries to compact information down to that 10-percent level. Summarizes the key information from each of the main sections of the report.) Specifically. The informative abstract is not an introduction to the subject matter of the report—and it is not an introduction! Omits citations for source borrowings. do not omit normal words such as the. unless that is the focus of the main body of the report. and other important information in the body of the report. compact way. You should not see phrasing like this: "This report presents conclusions and recommendations from a survey done on grammarchecking software. the human voice.or 60-page reports. and an. Phrases information in a very dense. conclusions. Includes key statistical detail. Study the difference between the informative and descriptive phrasing in the following examples: Informative: Based on an exhaustive review of currently available products. Descriptive: This report provides conclusions and recommendations on the grammar-checking software that is currently available. a. (However. This ratio stops after about 30 pages. and proportionately so (a 3-page section of a 10-page report ought to take up about 30 percent of the informative abstract). Don't sacrifice key numerical facts to make the informative abstract brief. the informative abstract presents the details of those conclusions and recommendations. Sentence are longer than normal and are crammed with information. Omits descriptive-abstract phrasing. People often confuse the kinds of writing expected in descriptive and informative abstracts. Omits introductory explanation. however. ABSTRACT Computerized speech recognition takes advantage of the most natural form of communication. this report concludes that none of the available grammar-checking software products provides any useful function to writers. Usually about 10 percent of the length of the full report: for example. For 50.Technical Writing and Communications 124 some editing and rewriting would be necessary to make the abstract readable. you do not have to repeat the citation in the informative abstract (in other words. no brackets with source numbers and page numbers). • • • • This last point is particularly important. During . an informative abstract for a 10-page report would be 1 page. the requirements for the informative abstract are as follows: • • • • Summarizes the key facts. the abstract should not go over 3 to 4 pages.

and helpful devices for the handicapped. This type summarizes the key facts and conclusions in the body of the report. zero crossing rate. If the vocal cords vibrate. Such a system is called an isolated word recognition system and con sists of three major components that process human speech: (1) the preprocessor which removes irregula rities from the speech signal and then breaks it up into parts. these same systems also face problems such as poor recognition accuracy. speech recognition has come a long way since this report was written in 1982!) Executive Summary Coming soon . Spoken words are identified on the basis of a certain decision algorithm. (By the way. security uses.Technical Writing and Communications 125 speech. Make sure the descriptive overviews all the contents—all the major sections—of the report. . sound is generated by the vo cal cords and by air rushing from the lungs. a voiced sound is produced. However. Informative abstract. and (3) the classification phase which identifies the spoken word and includes the training mode and reference pattern memory. watch out for problems such as the following: • • Make sure that the descriptive abstract does not include informative abstract phrasing. (2) the feature extractor which extracts 32 key features from the signal. otherwise. and limited vocabulary sizes. . loss of privacy among those who use them. Voice recognition systems offer many applications including data entry. most recognition systems require that each speaker train the machine to his or her voice and that words have at least one-tenth of a second pause between them. The goal of the industry is the development of speaker-independent systems that can recognize continuous human speech regardless of the speaker and that can continually improve their vocabulary size and recognition accuracy. the sound is unvoiced. . some of which involve dynamic programming. Because voices do vary and because words blend together in a continuous stream in natural speech. Revision Checklist for Abstracts As you reread and revise your abstracts. freedom for mobility. and the use of state diagram. The main problem in speech recognition is that no two voices produce their sounds alike and that an individual voice varies in different conditions. telephone access. linear predictive coding. make sure that the informative abstract does not include descriptive abstract phrasing.

obvious. Make sure that the informative abstract excludes general. and facts from the body of the report (including key statistical information). conclusions. deadwood information and that the phrasing is compact and concentrated. (And don't forget—the informative abstract is not an introduction!) Make sure the informative abstract summarizes all key concepts. .Technical Writing and Communications 126 • • • • Make sure that the informative abstract summarizes all the major sections of the report. Make sure that the informative abstract is neither too brief (less than 10 percent) nor too long (more than 15 percent).

A commercial site developed by Art Feierman and Presenting Solutions. imagine that you are formally handing over your final written report to the people with whom you set up the hypothetical contract or agreement.Technical Writing and Communications 127 Chapter 12 Oral Presentations A common assignment in technical writing courses is to prepare and deliver an oral presentation. Here are some brainstorming possibilities in case you want to present something else: • Purpose: Another way to find a topic is to think about the purpose of your talk. students evaluate each other's oral-report scripts by filling out an online form and sending it to the instructor. showing them how it is organized and written. You'd spend some time orienting them to the guide. o Informative purpose: An oral report can be primarily informative. you might be required to go before the city council and report on the success of the new city-sponsored recycling project. your job might be to give an oral report on the condition of the building and grounds at one of the sites proposed for purchase. Or. but they also look for some experience in oral presentation as well.) As you can see. discuss other possibilities with your instructor. Inc. you shouldn't have to do any research to prepare for this assignment—just plan the details of your talk and get at least one visual ready. If you have a topic that you'd prefer not to present orally to the group. You might want to convince members of local civic organizations to support a city-wide recycling program. For example. Once you had completed it. Part of an online tutorial series provided by Kansas University Medical Center. Is it to instruct (for example. you'd have a meeting with chief officers to formally deliver the guide. imagine that you had contracted with a software company to write its user guide. the oral reports can be sent in as "scripts." The following was written for a standard face-to-face classroom setting. The Art of Communicating Effectively — Tips for Presenters. For additional information on oral presentations and public speaking in general. or simply to inform (to report on citizen participation in the new recycling program). as a member of a committee involved in a project to relocate the plant. (Yourclass will gladly pretend to be whoever you tell them to be during your talk. to persuade (to vote for or against a certain technically oriented bond issue). audio versions can be transmitted live. Your goal is to get them aquainted with the guide and to prompt them for any concerns or questions. Either way." or with the right equipment. If you are taking the online version of technical writing. That's why the real name of courses like these ought to be "Introduction to Technical Communications. You might wonder what an oral report is doing in a writing class. o Persuasive purpose: An oral report can be primarily persuasive. Topic and Situation for the Oral Presentation For the oral report. and discussing some of its highlights. You might appear before city council to persuade its members to . o Instructional purpose: An oral report can be primarily instructional. to explain how to run a text editing program on a computer). For example. Your task might be to train new employees to use certain equipment or to perform certain routine tasks. see: • • Effective Presentations. Employers look for coursework and experience in preparing written documents.

Use the following as a requirements list. There is a corollary in oral reports. • • • . which part of the talk you are in." Plan to explain any technical aspect of your topic very clearly and understandably.) Plan your report in advance and practice it so that it is organized. well-planned manner. but find a reason why an audience would want to hear your oral report. With these. or has past. explain them to the audience. As for speaking style. Also. Topics: You can start by thinking of a technical subject. who you are." and "okay. or community gardens. give an overview of its contents. Point out things about them. Make sure you discuss key elements of your visuals.) Use at least one visual—preferably a transparency for the overhead projector. Make sure your oral report lasts no longer than 7 minutes. For your oral report. and find some way to interest the audience. and that your gestures and posture are okay. For example. Your instructor will work out some signals to indicate when the 7-minute mark is approaching." "you know. Make sure that listeners know what you are talking about and why. Don't race through complex. don't slouch on the podium or against the wall. and who they should imagine they are. their reasons for listening to you. Use "verbal headings"—by now. technical stuff—slow down and explain it carefully so that we understand it. microprocessors. as a way of focusing your preparations: • • • • • • Plan to explain to the class what the situation of your oral report is. You don't need to be Mr. well-organized. Pay special attention to the introduction to your talk. we'll all be listening for the same things. you've gotten used to using headings in your written work. or Ms. consider slowing your tempo a bit—a common tendency is to get nervous and talk too fast. Place or situation: You can find topics for oral reports or make more detailed plans for them by thinking about the place or the situation in which your oral report might naturally be given: at a neighborhood association? at the parent teachers' association meeting? at a church meeting? at the gardening club? at a city council meeting? at a meeting of the board of directors or high-level executives of a company? Thinking about an oral report this way makes you focus on the audience. think of a subject you'd be interested in talking about.Technical Writing and Communications 128 • • reserve certain city-owned lands for park areas. Ensure that you are loud enough so that everybody can hear. understandable presentation. softball and baseball parks. Make sure that your speaking style and gestures are okay. well-planned. Slick-Operator—just present the essentials of what you have to say in a calm. drip irrigation. Flip charts and objects for display are okay. be aware of how much you say things like "uh. and their interests and background. or laser surgery. for example. well-timed discussion. you give your audience a very clear signal you are moving from one topic or part of your talk to the next. (See the examples of verbal headings. Indicate the purpose of your oral report. solar panels. But please avoid scribbling stuff on the chalkboard or relying strictly on handouts. and avoid fidgeting with your hands. (See the example text of an introduction to an oral report. organized. Contents and Requirements for the Oral Presentation The focus for your oral presentation is clear. Make sure that there is a clean break between this brief explanation and the beginning of your actual oral report. that you don't speak too rapidly (nerves often cause that). When you give your oral presentation. Don't just throw them up there and ignore them. has arrived.

be sure your oral report is carefully timed to 7 minutes. And certainly. informal.Technical Writing and Communications 129 • • and what's coming next. keep it around for quick-reference during your talk. However. use them during your talk. bring it for reference. Overviews and verbal headings greatly contribute to this sense of organization. It doesn't often work that way—drawing a mental blank is the more common experience. provide some last thought (end with some final interesting point but general enough not to require elaboration). Some ideas on how to do this are presented in the next section. . Here are the obvious possibilities for preparation and delivery: • • • • Write a script. Diagram of the oral presentation. practice with it. you can summarize (go back over high points of what you've discussed). As mentioned above. Remember that in conclusions. you'll want to prompt the audience for questions and concerns. practice with them. People sometimes forget to plan how to end an oral report and end by just trailing off into a mumble. conclude (state some logical conclusion based on what you have presented). Set up an outline of your talk. do some sort of preparation or rehearsal—some people assume that they can just jump up there and ad lib for 7 minutes and be relaxed. or some combination of these three. End with a real conclusion. Set up cue cards. Write a script and read from it. Preparing for the Oral Presentation Pick the method of preparing for the talk that best suits your comfort level with public speaking and with your topic. practice it.

You don't have to be a slick entertainer—just be clear. organized.Technical Writing and Communications 130 Of course. focus on common problem areas such as these: . the more oral presenting you do. well-planned. Try to remember that your classmates and instructor are a very forgiving. people tend to get nervous in this situation. and informative. It doesn't matter which method you use to prepare for the talk. However. please bear in mind that up to 25 people will be listening to you —you owe them a good presentation. organized. one that is clear. The nerves will wear off someday. understandable. There is little or no eye contact or interaction with the audience. Of course the head-down style of reading your report directly from a script has its problems. the extemporaneous or impromptu methods are also out there for the brave and the adventurous. understandable. Introdu ctory remarks in an oral presentation. informative. For some reason. Delivering an Oral Presentation When you give an oral report. The delivery tends toward a dull monotone that either puts listeners off or is hard to understand. supportive group.

" "you know. Pacing. practice speaking without these verbal crutches. In the days before your oral presentation. Plan to keep your hands clasped together or holding onto the podium and only occasionally making some gesture. Here are some ideas for the "medium" to use for your visuals: . The silence that replaces them is not a bad thing—it gives listeners time to process what you are saying." "okay" and other kinds of nervous verbal habits. just don't say anything at all. or find some other way to get the timing just right. take it easy. Examples of verbal headings in an oral presentation. As for posture. it helps listeners to understand you better if you speak a bit more slowly and deliberately than you do in normal conversation. Do some rehearsal. Planning and Preparing Visuals for Oral Presentations Prepare at least one visual for this report. All that adrenaline causes them to speed through their talk. don't turn yourself into a mannikin. write a script. Volume—Obviously. You might find some way to practice speaking a little louder in the days before the oral presentation. speed—Sometimes. be clear. avoid slouching at the podium and leaning against the wall. Gestures and posture—Watch out for nervous hands flying all over the place. Instead of saying "uh" or "you know" every three seconds. you must be sure to speak loud enough so that all of your audience can hear you. That makes it hard for the audience to follow. Slow down. Verbal crutches—Watch out for too much "uh. Anything under 6 minutes is also a problem.Technical Writing and Communications 131 • • • • • Timing—Make sure you keep within the 7-minute time limit. At the same time. oral presentators who are a bit nervous talk too fast. This too can be distracting—and a bit comical. In general.

handouts are the only choice. chart. and then get a transparency of it. most copy shops can make transparencies for you. Do your best to ensure that they are legible to the entire audience. As for the content of your visuals consider these ideas: • • • • • Drawing or diagram of key objects—If you describe or refer to any objects during your talk. make sure to discuss your visuals.Technical Writing and Communications 132 • • • • Transparencies for overhead projector—For most college classrooms and. business conference rooms. good dark markers. Design your visual on a sheet of blank paper. for example. Outline of your talk. you may need to bring in actual physical objects. graphs—If you discuss statistical data. then photocopy it. Handouts—You can run off copies of what you want your listeners to see and hand them out before or during your talk. refer to them. or if your presentation is complex. If you have a choice. have an outline of it that you can show at various points during your talk.) During your actual oral report. charts. in fact. report. Many members of your audience may have trouble "hearing" such data as opposed to seeing it. or both—If you are at a loss for visuals to use in your oral presentation. Tables. Whatever you can scribble on the chalkboard can be neatly prepared and made into a transparency or posterboard-size chart. Take some time to make your visuals look sharp and professional-use a straightedge. It's a big problem just to throw a visual up on the screen and never even refer to it. legitimate ways of incorporating visuals into oral presentations when you can't think of any others. Posterboard-size charts—Another possibility is to get some posterboard and draw and letter what you want your audience to see. Key concepts or points—Similarly. present it in some form or table. key terms. neat lettering or typing. try to get visuals of them so that you can point to different components or features. . This option is even less effective than the first two because you can't point to what you want your listeners to see and because handouts take listeners' attention away from you. consider transparencies—it's hard to make charts look neat and professional. and guide your listeners through the key points in your visuals. and your instructor can make transparencies for you. Please avoid just scribbling your visual on the chalkboard. for certain visual needs. Key terms and definitions—A good idea for visuals (especially when you can't think of any others) is to set up a two-column list of key terms you use during your oral presentation with their definitions in the second column. sometimes they can take up a lot more time than you expect. you can list your key points and show them in visuals. Still. Rehearse what you are going to do with these objects. the overhead projector is the best way to show things to the whole group. given a few days lead-time. Objects—If you need to demonstrate certain procedures. or graph. You may have access to equipment like this at your work. (Outlines. and main points are all good.

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