Technical Writing Rhetoric Basics Dr. Brian Gastle Western Carolina University
The Goals Clear No Ambiguity Accurate Precise and Correct Detail Professional Correct – Grammatically and Syntactically Balance – Graphics, Text, Layout Honest Concise
Writing Issues Verb Choice / Use Modifier / Phrase / Clause Use Sentence Length
Verb Choice / Use Active vs Passive Professional Verb Choice and “Vague” Verbs
Active vs Passive Voice In Active Voice the subject is “doing” the verb In Passive Voice, the subject of the sentence is “being done” by the verb; acted upon Form of “to be” plus the past participle I blew up the office The office was blown up
Active/Passive and tenses Active Teri embezzled money Teri embezzles money Teri will embezzle money Passive Money was embezzled Money is embezzled Money will be embezzled
Replace Verb to Change Voice Sometimes you may want to replace the verb to switch voices, or rewrite the sentence for clarity State lotteries are used to fund education. States use lotteries to fund education. State lotteries support education. She was called into the teacher’s office. The teacher called her into her office. (notice problematic pronoun ref) The teacher summoned the student into the teacher’s office.
Passive vs Active Voice Most of the information you need will be gathered as you document the assembly process. You will gather most of the information you need as you document the assembly process. Documenting the assembly process will provide most of the necessary information. When choosing multiple programs to record, be sure that the proper tape speed has been chosen to accommodate the length of all programs. When recording multiple programs, choose a tape speed that will accommodate the length of all programs.
To Be Verbs Try to use specific action verbs rather than forms of to be (similar to ditching passive voice) You can often use the noun following the “to be” as a verb He is the editor of two magazines. He edits two magazines. Major League Baseball was the first sports organization to institute the concept of free agency for its players. Major League Baseball became the first organization to institute free agency for its players. MLB instituted free agency before any other organization.
“Real” Subjects There has been a decrease in the number of students enrolled in our training sessions The number of students enrolled in our training sessions has decreased. The use of in-store demonstrations has resulted in a dramatic increase in business. In-store demonstrations have increased business dramatically.
Expletives and Nominalizations Avoid Expletive Construction “There are...” “There is...” There are many service locations across the country. Many service locations are located throughout the country. Avoid Nominalizations Turning a verb into a noun He made a change to the schedule He changed the schedule
Nominalization – the “real” verb Pollution constitutes a threat to the Wilson Wildlife Preserve. Pollution threatens the Wilson Wildlife Preserve. Evaluation of the gumming tendency of the four tire types will be accomplished by comparing the amount of rubber that can be scraped from the tires. We will evaluate the gumming tendency of the four tire types by comparing the amount of rubber that can be scraped from the tires.
Use of vague verbs Examples To be (is, was, be, etc.) To do (did, done, etc.) To make (made, will make, etc.) To have (had, has, etc.)
Each of these materials has a unique property. Each of these materials possesses a unique property. Attendance policies are helpful to the company in many ways. Attendance policies help the company in many ways
The product’s main focus is on reducing material waste. The product focuses on reducing material waste. It is not the responsibility of this document to predict all possible service problems This document can not predict all possible service events.
When someone gets a job, they have to know how to maintain a schedule. When someone acquires a job, he or she must know how to maintain a schedule. Proper lubrication is effective in preventing the product from breaking. Proper lubrication can prevent product malfunction.
Formal vs. Informal Language The learning modules were put together by a couple of professors in the department. The learning modules were developed by two professors in the department. Two professors in the department developed the learning modules. The biggest problem faced by multimedia designers is that users freak if they don't see a button - or, heaven forbid, if they have to make up their own buttons! The greatest problems faced by multimedia designers is that users become anxious if they fail to see a button or if they are required to make their own buttons. Two of the greatest problems faced by multimedia designers are that users become anxious if: 1. users fail to see a button 2. users are required to make their own buttons
Sexist Language Each doctor is asked to make sure he follows the standard procedure for handling Medicare forms. Each doctor is asked to make sure he or she follows the standard procedure for handling Medicare forms. All doctors are asked to make sure they follow the standard procedure for handling Medicare forms. All doctors should follow the standard procedure for handling Medicare forms. Policemen are required to live in the city in which they work. Police officers are required to live in the city in which they work. Police officers must live in the city in which they work.