You are on page 1of 42

By the end of Unit 4, you should be

able to:
Apply the three stages of the writing process in

writing technical documents.

Organise ideas into appropriate organisational
Select and use graphics and visuals in technical
Write descriptions and instructions in technical
Plan and write training manuals.

4.1 The Basics of Writing Technical

By the end of this section, you should be able to:
Plan and write clear, well-organised technical documents.
Describe the factors in determining the audience of the
technical documents.
List the organisational patterns in organising ideas.
List the graphics and visuals commonly used technical
List the various components in writing descriptions and
instructions for technical documents.
Plan and write a training manual.

What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing introduces you to some

of the most important aspects of writing

in the world of science, technology, and
business the kind of writing that
scientists, nurses, doctors, computer
specialists, government officials,
engineers, and other people do as a part
of their regular work.

The term technical refers to knowledge that is not

widespread, that is more the territory of experts and


Whatever your major is, you are developing an

expertise, and whenever you try to write anything

about your field, you are engaged in technical writing.

Technical writing is composed in and for the

Technical writing is a significant factor in work
experience for a variety of reasons.
Technical writing serves valuable purposes in the
workplace and often involves teamwork.

What is the purpose of technical

Technical writing is the delivery of technical

information to readers in a manner that is

adapted to their needs, level of understanding,
and background.

Technical writing is intended to communicate

to a specific audience, for a specific purpose.

The Technical Writing

The planning or pre-writing

The drafting stage
The revising and editing

Effective Technical Writing:

Prewriting Techniques
Reporters questions
Mind mapping

The Audience
The audience element is so important that it is one of

the cornerstones of technical writing.

You are challenged to write about highly technical

subjects but in a way that a beginnera nonspecialistcould understand.

Analysing the audience

The readers purpose
The readers knowledge of

the subject
The educational level of the
The attitude of the reader

Translating Technical Information

In a world of rapid technological

development, people are constantly falling

behind and becoming technological

As a technical writer, you need to write

about the area of specialization you know

and plan to write about in such a way that
even Granddad can understand.

Organising ideas
Organisation patterns

Chronological order
This would mean arranging your ideas in chronological
order. The chronological pattern is usually used when the
purpose is to show the history or development of a
subject. The title of the subject should be clearly stated.
You can use ascending order where you organise
events from the earliest to the most recent happening,
or descending order where events are arranged
starting from the latest development to the earliest.

Spatial order
In this case, ideas are arranged by location. For
example, if you want to explain a housing
development, you can start with the North, then the
South and so on. Similarly, if you are introducing a
new machine to some workers, you could start from
the right and move on to the left.
Comparison-and-contrast order
Sometimes, information is arranged according to
similarities and differences. When you are comparing
two products or processes, this is the order you should

Most important to least important order

This involves the listing of a number of points with the
most important one being placed first. This order is
normally used when the reader needs to make a

Goals of Effective Technical Writing


Effective Technical Writing: Clarity

Methods for developing ideas precisely
An expressive essay can clarify the writers intent

through emotional, impressionistic, connotative words

(soon, many, several, etc.).

An impressionistic word such as

near will mean different things

to different people which is okay
essay where the goal may

in in an
be to convey a

Effective Technical Writing: Clarity

One person may place the heater 6 feet from the

Another reader will place the heater 6 inches from
the window.
As the writer, I have failed to

Effective Technical Writing: Clarity

Provide specific detail
Avoid vague words (some,


Answer reporters questions

(who, what, where, when, why,


Effective Technical Writing: Clarity

Avoid obscure words
Use easily understood words
Write to express, not to impress
Write to communicate, not to confuse
Write the way you speak
in lieu of

already discussed
instead of

Effective Technical Writing: Clarity

Limit and/or define your use of abbreviations ,

acronyms, and jargon.

Define your terms parenthetically

CIA (Cash in Advance)


Supply a separate glossary

Alphabetized list of terms, followed by their


Effective Technical Writing: Clarity

Use the active versus the passive voice.
Passive voice:
It was decided all employees will take a ten percent cut in pay.
Unclear: Who decided?
Active: The Board of Directors decided that all employees
Overtime is favored by hourly workers.
Active: Hourly workers favor overtime.

Effective Technical Writing:

Limit paragraph, word, and sentence length.
A paragraph in a memo, letter, or short report should consist of

No more than four to six typed lines or

No more than fifty words.

Fog index (sixth to eighth grade level)

Strive for an average of 15 words per sentence

No more than 5 multisyllabic words per 100 words

Effective Technical Writing:

Fog Index
Count up to 100 words in successive sentences
Divide words by number of sentences = average

number of words per sentence

Count number of long words (three or more syllables)

within sentences
Dont count proper names (Christopher Columbus),
long words created by combining shorter words
(chairperson), or three syllable words created by ed or
es endings (united).

Effective Technical Writing:

Use the meat cleaver theory of revision

Cut the sentence in half or thirds

Avoid shun words

Avoid words ending in tion or sion

Came to the conclusion


Avoid camouflaged words

Make an amendment to

Effective Technical Writing:

Avoid the expletive pattern
There is, are, was, were, will be
It is, was
There are three people who will work for Acme.

Three people will work for Acme.

Omit redundancies
During the year of 1996

During 1996

Effective Technical Writing:

Avoid wordy phrases
In order to purchase

Proofread for accuracy

Consider ethics

to purchase

Effective Technical Writing:

The importance of correct

grammar and mechanics

Grammatical or mechanical

errors make writers look

unprofessional and

Effective Technical Writing:

Grammar is so important in technical writing

that in a one page assignment

4 major grammatical errors = F
3 major grammatical errors = D
2 major grammatical errors = C
1 major grammatical error = B

A means excellent which is defined as

without flaw

Effective Technical Writing:

Methods for organizing
General to Specific
Mechanism Description
Process Description

Effective Technical Writing:

Methods for organizing
More Important to Less Important



Effective Technical Writing: Ethics

Ethics methods encouraging moral standards in

technical writing

Effective Technical Writing: Ethics

General categories of ethics in communication
Behavior towards colleagues, subordinates and

others (plagiarism, harassment, malicious actions)

Dealing with experimental subjects, interviewees,

etc. (informed consent)

Telling the truth (falsify data, misrepresent facts)

Rhetoricchoosing your words (loaded words,

discriminatory language, logical fallacies)

Effective Technical Writing: Process

The writing process is effective . . . and easy.
All that you need to do is three things:
Prewrite (about 25 percent of your time)

(about 25 percent of your time)

(about 50 percent of your time)

Writing the document

Defining terms
Writing readable sentences

Incorporating graphics and visuals

Purpose of using visual and graphic aids
Commonly used graphics and visuals
Tables/Charts/Graphs/Maps/ Photographs/
Other visual aids

Writing descriptions
Describing a process
Describing an object or a
Writing instructions
Components of instructions
Language of instructions

3.2 Writing Training Manuals

By the end of this section, you should be able to:
List the different types of training manuals and

describe their purposes.

Describe the various aspects when planning a training
Identify the components of a manual.
Write a basic manual

The different types of training

manuals and their uses
User manual
Office procedure manual
Reference manual
Service manual
Combination manual

Planning a training manual

Target audience
Graphics or visuals

Parts of a training manual

Title page
Table of contents

Writing a training manual

Key terms
There are different key terms for different manuals.
Terms like User Guide, Table of Contents,
Operating Instructions and Safety Instructions
are familiar to most readers.

Editing the manual

Review for technical accuracy
Technical specialists will usually go through the draft to check
that the contents are technically correct. If any corrections
need to be done, they will indicate the changes that have to be
Review by potential users
The second draft is checked by potential users who will use the
manual like a trial run. If the users find any inconsistency in
the process or if they are confused over certain issues, then the
manual has to be revised.
Review by a copyediting team
The manual is finally checked for grammar and spelling
mistakes, accuracy of page references and formatting.

Technical Writing
Is important to succeed in business
Lets you conduct business
Takes time
Reflects your interpersonal

communication skills
Often involves teamwork