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Introduction to Technical Style TECM 4180 Dr. Lam.

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1 Introduction to Technical Style TECM 4180 Dr. Lam

2 What are we doing today? 3:30-3:45 – Diagnostic exercise 3:45-3:55 – Three volunteers to share their revisions 3:55-4:30 – Technical style lecture and practice exercises 4:30- 4:40 – Assign technical style homework 4:40-4:50 – Questions

3 Lets try something… Write an email to your friend telling them that you have to cancel dinner plans. Now write an email to your professor telling her that you will not make it to class.

4 Three considerations, One Goal 1.Constructing sentences 2.Choosing words 3.Choosing a voice Goal of technical writing: Choose a style that is best- suited to your readers needs.

5 Constructing Sentences 1.Simplify your sentences 2.Put the action in your verbs 3.Use the active voice unless you have a good reason to use passive 4.Emphasize whats important 5.Vary your sentence length and structure (not covered in class, please read about it in Anderson)

6 Guideline 1: Simplify your sentences Research-based principle: Reading is hard work done primarily by short-term memory. 1.Eliminate unnecessary words 2.Place modifiers next to the words they modify 3.Combine short sentences

7 Place modifiers next to the words they modify Short-term memory relies on word order to indicate meaning. If you dont keep related words together, your sentence may say something different from what you mean. Mandy found many undeposited checks in the file cabinets, which were worth over $41,000. The HR department asked her on Tuesday to return the contract.

8 Combine short sentences Reduces words and helps readers see relationships among points Water quality in Hawk River declined in March. This decline occurred because of the heavy rainfall that month. All the extra water overloaded Tomlin Countys water treatment plant.

9 Guideline 2: Put the action in your verbs Overuse of to be Remove expletive structures Remove nominals

10 Overuse of main verb to be Forms of to be Main verb is always right-most verb Management tends to be uncooperative. Management could have been more cooperative. Main verb be is often followed by a noun, adjective, or prepositional phrase. These words can sometimes replace to be Determine what part of speech follows the main verb be and find a more specific verb. AmBeBeingWas AreBeenIsWere

11 Practice: Locate the verb-form to be and revise to make it more concise. The administration is supportive of our program. This information could be of benefit to the students. This report is an analysis of the problem.

12 Expletive Structures Begins with There or It There was, it is, there could be, etc. There or It is the subject of sentence Look for a stronger subject following the expletive

13 Practice: Locate the expletive structure. Revise for conciseness. It is necessary for users to back-up all contents of their websites. It is the purpose of this manual is to discuss the use of Wordpress as a content management system. There will be seven sections in this manual that describe the overall management of your website.

14 Nominals Nouns derived from verbs -ance, -ence, -ion, or –ment Maintain Recommend Achieve

15 Practice Locate the nominal and revise for conciseness. This manual contains a discussion of content management systems. The inclusion of a recommendation for your computers minimal technical requirements is found in this manual on page 17.

16 Caveat about conciseness Watch out for meaning The article includes a discussion of methods for retention The article discusses retention Watch out for tone, especially in negative messages The application deadline passed last week on February 1 st. You missed the February 1 st deadline.

17 Guideline 3: Use active unless you have a good reason for passive Active voice can focus your sentences on specific actions and actors Use active to emphasize the agent Use passive to emphasize the patient

18 Passive vs. Active Voice Based on thematic roles of agent and patient Agent: Doer of the action Patient: Receiver of action Related to syntactic position Subject: First noun phrase in the main clause of a sentence Direct Object: noun phrase following the main verb


20 Other ways to identify voice Passive must follow this formula: to be + past participle The manual was written by John. Past participles are past tense verbs that usually end in –en or –ed

21 Practice- Active or passive? Customers have been writing several letters of complaint. Items have been ripped off from customers. Customers have been ripped off. Customers have been ripping off items. Complaint letters were written.

22 Choosing active and passive voice Active for conciseness Removes form of to be and by phrase Letters have been written by customers – (5 words) Customers wrote letters (3 words) Active to focus on Agent John made several mistakes. Use passive to focus on patient Agentless passive Mistakes were made. Use passive to describe generalizable actions or results Today, faster processers are used in computers.

23 Guideline 4: Emphasize whats important Place key information at the end of the sentence Place key information in the main clause Emphasize key information typographically Tell readers explicitly were key information is

24 Place key information at the end of the sentence Last month, he topped his sales quota even though he was sick for an entire week. Original : The departments performance has been superb in all areas. Revised : ???

25 Place key information in the main clause If your sentence has more than one clause, place key information in the main clause Main (independent) clauses can stand alone as a sentence Subordinate (dependent) clauses are sentence fragments and often begin with relative pronouns (e.g., who, which, that) or subordinate conjnctions (e.g., although, after). Original: Although our profits were up, our productivity was down. Revised: ???

26 Emphasize key information typographically Emphasize by bolding, italics, small caps, etc. Be careful not to overdo it SUBJECT: PLEASE READ- VERY IMPORTANT

27 Tell readers explicitly what the key information is Use explicit markers to tell readers what is important Creative writing often discourages explicit markers. However, technical writing encourages these markers. E.g., In this proposal, I will cover three important issues: 1) cost of healthcare; 2) implementation of healthcare, and 3) quality of healthcare

28 Guideline 5: Vary your sentence length and structure Repetitive length and structure can lead to monotony and can remove the ability to emphasize major points Vary your sentence length Shorter sentence that follows longer sentences can be a point of emphasis Vary your structure Use introductory clauses (conjunctive adverbs and other transition words) Active and passive voice

29 Selecting Words 1.Use concrete, specific words 2.Use specialized terms when, and only when, your readers will understand them 3.Use words accurately 4.Choose plain words over fancy words 5.Choose words with appropriate associations

30 Guideline 1: Use concrete, specific words Words can be abstract or concrete, or anywhere in between E.g., animal > mammal > dog > labrador retriever Because technical communication often relies on the audience reacting in some tangible way (making a decision, performing an action, etc.), using concrete words is essential. Original: The cost of some materials has risen recently. Revised: The cost of the bonding agent has tripled in three months.

31 Guideline 2: Use specialized terms only when your readers will understand them Specialized terms can convey precise, technical meanings economically. Many terms have no exact equivalent in everyday speech. E.g., MySQL Database They help you establish credibility They shouldnt be used if the audience wont understand them

32 Defining terms for your readers Provide a synonym E.g., On a boat, a rope or cord is called a line. Give a description E.g., The exit gate consists of two arms that hold a jug while it is being painted and then allow it to proceed down the production line. Make and analogy E.g., An atom is like a miniature solar system. Give a classical definition (provide group and distinguishing characteristics) E.g., A crystal is a solid in which the atoms or molecules are arranged in a regularly repeated pattern.

33 Practice: Definitions Visit the below links and identify the various definition strategies. Evaluate how well the authors defined terms for their audiences: turntables beginners-guide-to-buying-your-first-turntable/

34 Guideline 3: Use words accurately Be aware of misused words E.g., infer vs. imply; accept vs. except; affect vs. effect Consult a dictionary and/or reference when in doubt

35 Guideline 4: Choose plain words over fancy ones Verbs are a common place this occurs (see page 279) E.g., Ascertain vs. find out Plain words promote efficient reading Plain words reduce your risk of creating a bad impression E.g., Ambulation deters cardiac arrest

36 Guideline 5: Choose words with appropriate associations Connotations – All words have connotation, but pay special attention to verbs High value vs. low value modal verbs High: You should send me the file Low : You could send me the file Flexible words vs. stiff words Flexible: ask, should Stiff: must, require Register- Linguistic term to identify or associate words with specific kinds of words E.g., Sales and marketing register – Youll love this product and its low, low price.

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