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How to be an Effective Technical Writer?

DOI: 10.3991/ijep.v2i3.2094

Keywords: Writing , research report , technical communication

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Abstract:

--This paper has focused on technical writing as a skill for engineers. It has sought to define technical writing and throw light on the content and technique of writing the various components of successful technical reports (for example, articles, papers, or research reports, such as theses and dissertations). Then, it has highlighted other special features and principles of effective technical writing. The material in this paper is divided into seven major parts. Part 1 (Technical writing for engineers) stresses that a successful engineering career requires strong writing skills. Part 2 (How to write the major sections or elements of a report) describes the techniques of writing the abstract, introduction, literature review, procedure/methods & materials, results, discussion, conclusion, and recommendations. Part 3 (Special features of technical writing) brings into focus some of the special features of technical writing such as tables & graphs in the text, graphics in instructions, team writing, ethics (plagiarism), document sources, three citation styles and IEEE reference style. Part 4 (Technical usage) deals with writing abbreviations, initialisms and acronyms, numbers, units of measurement, and equations.Part 5 (Technical style) highlights the imperative writing style and other features of technical writing such as the use of active and passive voices, plain vs. complex syntax, avoiding redundant or superfluous expressions, and vague generalities, using words or expressions with visual impact, the past tense to describe experimental work, the present tense to describe hypotheses, principles, theories and truths, and breaking up the text of the report into short sections. Part 6 (Document specifications) emphasizes the technical writer’s need to conform to such document specifications as word count, format, font, number of words per line of text imposed. Part 7 (Reader-friendly technical writing) suggests choosing the varied writing modes (patterns of organization of information) to suit the technical writing task, checking for technical accuracy and following three levels of editing to help increase the readability of a technical text. Finally, in part 8 (Ethical/legal considerations for the technical writer), the authors suggest ways for the technical writer to overcome ethical/legal dilemmas on the job.

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