Learn Technical Writing
Technical Writing skills are needed and used in many types of jobs -from scientists to factory managers; marketing copy writers to journalists. The ability to write an instruction manual, report, journal article or even purchase order -these and many other aspects of daily commercial activity are technical writing.
ACS student comment: "I think the course is a valuable learning experience as I feel I’m being challenged along the way. Generally, I am impressed with the service I have received from ACS since enrolling. The enrollment process was very quick and all email support has been prompt and helpful. The tutors seem very pleasant and helpful in their remarks, and this keeps me motivated. It is very encouraging when they offer additional information or ask questions of me/my writing." Sally Vanston, Malaysia - Technical Writing course.
There are eight lessons in this module as follows:
1. Scope and Nature of Technical Writing
2. Presentation of Technical Writing
- Nature and Scope
- Quality of Information
- Nature of Language
- Characteristics of Technical Writing
3. Matching Style and Content to the Audience
- Basic Parts of a Document (Written text, Images, White space)
- Types of Images (Tables, Charts, Graphs, Photos, Drawings)
- Captions and Labels
- Main Elements (Front Matter, Body, end matter)
- Creating an Index
- Elements of Different types of Technical Documents (References, Texts, Journals, Reports, etc)
4. Planning: Developing a Logical Structure or Format
- Writing for an Audience
- Writing Well
- Writing Guidelines (Jargon, Gender neutral writing, Using simple sentences, passive or active language, first, second or third person, etc)
- Spelling, Grammar
- Editing, Proof reading
5. Collaborative Writing
- Creating a Technical Document
- Research the Document – gather information
- Plan – decide on the format
- Write – create an outline and then write the first draft
- Verify – check the accuracy of what you have written
- Revise – amend the document before
- Writing a First Draft
6. Writing Technical Articles for Periodicals
- Working in a team
- Tasks and Roles
- Technical Brief
- Strategies for Collaboration
- Style Guide
- Using Templates
- Using Email Effectively
7. Writing Manuals and Procedures
- Writing for Periodicals
- Publisher Specs
- Writing Descriptions and Specifications
- Journal Abstracts
8. Writing Project Proposals
- Writing manuals
- Writing Instructions and Procedures
9. Writing Project Reports
- What is a Proposal?
- Proposal Categories (Solicited and Unsolicited)
- Model for Writing Proposals
- Grant Proposals
- The Stop Format
- Types of Reports
- Progress Reports
- Completion Reports
- Review Reports
- Regulatory Reports
- Feasibility Reports
- Scientific Reports
- Elements of a Formal Report
- Executive Summaries
- Identify a broad range of situations where technical writing is used and where you might gainfully apply those skills;
- Present technical documentation for a variety of situations;
- Determine how to write appropriately for a defined audience;
- Develop formats for different documents that follow a logical appropriate structure;
- Explain how to effectively collaborate with one or more people in the production of a technical writing assignment;
- Write items of technical writing that are appropriate for publication in different types of periodicals including: popular magazines, industry magazines, scientific journals, newspapers and e-zines;
- Write easy to follow, technically accurate instructions for a variety of processes, using a variety of equipment;
- Write a formal proposal for a project;
- Write in an effective and appropriate style of report, during, or on conclusion of a project.
CHARACTERISTICS OF TECHNICAL WRITING
Good technical writing helps the reader do the following:
- Quickly locate information
- Understand the information
- Apply the information in a practical way
To achieve these outcomes, good technical writing must have the following characteristics:
- Clear and precise use of language
- Correct language
- Accessibility to the intended audience
- Correct information
- Information appropriate to the intended readers and desired outcomes
- Sufficient information for full understanding
- Logical sequencing of information
- Clearly defined structure through use of informative, factual headings
- Adherence to the rules of correct grammar
- Appropriate use of jargon and technical terms
- Sufficient and appropriate use of illustrations or diagrams.
REPORT WRITING TIPS
To begin with, adapt your writing to the reader’s knowledge of the subject. If the readers are specialists in the area, you will need to write and discuss using specialized vocabulary. If your readers work in other fields, you may need to explain terminology beforehand. Many writers add glossaries to their articles for this reason. In this case you may need to adapt somehow the level and depth of your writing and discussion so that you communicate your findings effectively.
It is not acceptable to present cut and pasted material in a report. You should type in quotes, no matter how large. If you wish to present the original document or a copy of it or part of it, include it as an appendix and reference to the appendix number. E.g. James’ table of symptoms is widely used as a reference by counsellors (see appendix I).
Note that an appendix is not the same as a resource from which you are quoting. Such material should be typed in a part of the report and correctly referenced. Always add references to materials written or conclusions drawn from other authors.
After you have written your report, it is essential to have is proof-read by another person. Even though you may have read over it 10 times, there will be mistakes due to your familiarity with the subject matter. If you cannot get another person to read it and check for spelling, grammatical and technical errors, then leave it alone for a few days and go over it yourself.
Revision is essential! Do not submit the first draft!
The old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" is true! Use visuals to enhance and support the text and do not just insert them without explanatory or supporting statements. The visuals must be referenced in the text if they are not yours.
Structuring a Report
Every report has a structure, and that includes front matter, the body, and end matter. These are the main segments of a report, and must be clearly delineated. For a research report, the following segments may be included, though they are not all required for this course.
Front matter usually includes, in this order:
Title page – with the title of the report (simple and factual), your name, date completed, and if done for someone else (such as this school), the name of the school and the tutor.
If for a business, you would indicate the name, position of the recipient and the business name (e.g. Written for Ms. Janine Blogg, Operations Manager, Betterlife Printing Pty.Ltd.)
Abstract or executive summary - provides a synopsis of the report, including your findings recommendations. It is not required in all report-writing situations, but when it is, keep it short.
Table of contents – listing main headings, section headings and page numbers. It can also include a list of illustrations. In the same report below, the main headings are in bold, and a sub-heading could be made for each of the key issues discussed.
Glossary – needed only if there are terms widely used within the report that need to be defined.
This section contains the information presented. It should be clearly organised under headings, with main headings indicating the main ideas covered in a section, and subheadings indicating parts of a section, and the idea covered in that part.
The first section is usually the introduction. In a shorter report, this may be only a paragraph or two long. The introduction introduces the report (not the topic), and should state three things:
- The aim of the report
- Content -what the report will cover (its scope and breadth). This tells the parameters of the report, such as the time-frame or region researched, or what specifically is being discussed. (E.g. The research on trauma-related brain damage in California covers the ten years from 1995 to 2005, and was largely confined to accidental rather than purposeful trauma.
- Sources -where you obtained the information from (e.g. The statistical data presented in this report was collected from hospital and police records. Subjective information is based on extensive interviews with families and friends of the injured persons.
This may include some background, usually explaining the need for the research or information, a description of the research, the results obtain, and a discussion of the results. The report content should be focused on the stated aim and not deviate too much or frequently from it.
Background - What the reader needs to know to understand the report, including the identified need for the research and similar research that might have been done.
Research description – Description of the research, including methods.
Research results – Findings from the research.
Explain what conclusions may be drawn from the research. Refer back to the research question and state the answer to that question, if one is found. If no clear answer is found, this section can also suggest areas needing further investigation. . This is where you show that you have thought about the information in the report and come to some kind of understanding.
These are not always required. If they are included, they should be stated in simple point form (e.g. It is recommended that: first you do..... and second .....).
In summary, a report may be made up of the following, in the given order:
- Title page
- Table of contents
- Abstract/Executive summary - in brief what is the report all about, what were your findings and recommendations.
- Definitions - if you plan to use terms that your reader may not know, you can place them here in a definitions section.
- Introduction - give your reader a reason to read further into your report.
- Method of obtaining information - explain your experimentation process, the recording of data. Persuade your reader that the facts and data are credible.
- Results - indicate what you discovered or what results showed.
- Discussion - what generalisations can you draw for the facts?
- Conclusion - What is the significance of your facts to the reader?
- Recommendations - Based on your conclusion, what so you think the reader should now do?
- References - list all your sources of information that were used I the report.
- Appendices (attachments that would have cluttered the report if they were included in the body of the report - such as reference statistical tables, maps, copy of questionnaire).
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