Tag Archives: technical writing

From Bad to Good-Technical and Academic Writing

concise.blogpromo2Academic and technical writing are far different than literary writing, such as novels and poetry. The primary purpose of academic and technical writing is to provide information about a defined topic to a specific audience. Whether you write graduate papers, professional journal articles, dissertations, white papers, manuals, websites, reviews, or similar documents, you are writing academic or technical documents.

Academic and technical writing can be bad writing. They can be complicated, tedious, and confusing. They can be terribly boring. Unfortunately, bad academic and technical writing is common (which makes bad writers nearly indistinguishable from their crowd of peers).

Why do people write badly? Possibly, they think the writing is supposed to be dull and confusing, or perhaps they think it sounds more professional. Maybe they have read a lot of poor writing, so when they review their writing, it sounds “right.”

On the other hand, academic and technical writing can be good writing. They can be clear and straightforward, logical, persuasive, and useful. They can be wonderfully interesting. Unfortunately, good writing is uncommon (which makes good writers stand out from their peers).  Continue reading


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4 Strategies for Objective Writing

Good technical or academic writing is objective, yet many writers inadvertently insert their own opinions about, and responses to, the content. In this way, they damage their credibility and reduce the value of what they write.

Feelings, emotions, opinions, and beliefs are called, collectively, individual perspective. An individual perspective indicates the perspective of one person: the writer. In all forms of technical writing, your individual perspective is inappropriate.

Think about your reader. Your reader is seeking believable, credible information. Your opinions, etc. are not believable, credible information. They only apply to you; they do not apply to your reader.

The most obvious cases are sentence that contain such phrases as I feel that, I believe, and in my opinion. If you can express the idea as a fact, do so. If you cannot express the idea without those phrases, remove the sentence entirely.

Writers also interject their individual perspectives by using particular words and by making judgments, as explained below. Continue reading


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The 3 Cs of Effective Paragraphs

Every well-written paragraph needs three parts: context, content, and conclusion. These three parts are known collectively as the 3 Cs. When you use the 3 Cs, you present information logically, you help the reader understand your message, and you demonstrate the relevance of your idea.

Context. The first sentence (or two) of a paragraph establishes the context. The context has two purposes:

1.   Reveal the single idea that will be discussed, and

2.   Demonstrate how the idea relates to the previously discussed idea.

To establish context, first determine the single idea you will discuss next. The first sentence (or two) presents that idea. Second, think about the logical connections between the idea and the previous idea. The first sentence (or two) provides the transition from one idea to the next by demonstrating those connections. Example B1 illustrates how context is established.

Example B.1:

[final sentence of a paragraph about nurses’ responsibilities] When nurses fully understand these duties, they can interact as a team to improve patient well-being.
[first sentence, i.e., context, of the next paragraph] A patient may have many needs that a single nurse, or other healthcare provider, cannot address alone.

In example B.1, the first sentence of paragraph two establishes the context for the paragraph that follows. First, it reveals the main idea: patients have multiple needs. Second, it shows the relevance of the main idea to the previous idea. It does this by echoing words or concepts found in the final sentence of the previous paragraph. Here, the first sentence of paragraph two contains the words patient, needs, and single nurse. These words relate to patient, well-being, and team (of nurses) in the final sentence of paragraph one. As a result, the reader will know what to expect from the paragraph, will be able to make sense of the information to follow, and will understand its relevance within the logical flow of ideas. Continue reading


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8 Sentence Patterns for Academic and Technical Writing

(From Concise Guide to Technical and Academic Writing.)

An expert academic or technical writer needs only a few basic sentence patterns to produce easy-to-understand writing. Each of the sentence patterns below will result in clear academic or technical writing. However, do not use any one pattern more than twice in a row to prevent the writing from sounding repetitive and boring. Also, use the more complex sentence patterns less frequently. They are more challenging for the reader and may make the writing overall more complex than necessary.

All effective sentence patterns start with the Subject-Verb-Object (S-V-O) sentence structure. Optional components are additional S-V-O structures and descriptive words, phrases, and clauses (D), which can be placed in various locations.

In the samples below, the subjects are underlined, and the main verbs are in italics.

1. Simple sentence (S-V-O): A simple sentence has one subject–verb pair. It starts with the subject (or an adjective and the subject). The subject is immediately followed by the verb (or an adverb and the verb). A simple sentence may contain an object.

Example 1: The computer desktop provides access to your files. Continue reading


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