So far we have discussed the importance of writing with a purpose and audience in mind. This chapter will look at style and usage in technical writing, including precision, conciseness, sentence structure, tone, parallel construction, and active vs. passive voice. The end of the chapter will offer a few guidelines for self-editing your writing, and the final pages have a few punctuation lessons, including possession and correct comma usage.
Anything you write is designed to be read. That is its first and foremost purpose. Thus, increasing readability means increasing the functionality of your document in terms of both content and document design—making it “user friendly.” If your document is difficult to read because vocabulary, sentence structure, paragraphing, organization, or formatting is unclear, your reader will likely stop reading.
When it comes to technical communications, style should be concise, precise, direct, and well organized. The following sections offer useful tips, but know that these are only a starting point. Writing style is something you must be aware of and continually work to refine as you develop your communication skills.
A technical communications writing style prioritizes the efficient transfer of information—this may be a change from the types of writing you have done in the past. Much of the writing done in high school tends to be descriptive and expository essays with length requirements. Technical communication asks you to document information and communicate it in a concise, precise, and professional way. The focus tends to be more on how well the writing achieves that goal rather than on proving that you read or understand something.
To be a successful technical writer, you must be attentive to the ways your writing style needs to vary from one situation to the next.
Understanding Writing Style
To understand what “writing style” is, think about all the different ways people talk. With their tone of voice, volume, and speed of delivery, they are able to project different moods, personalities, and purposes. Think about how a person sounds while they’re telling a funny story. Then think about how a person sounds while telling you about their problems.
You might also intuitively know that certain ways of speaking are appropriate for some situations, but not for others. If you wanted to deliver a passionate speech to persuade your audience to vote for you, you certainly wouldn’t want to sound like you were delivering a eulogy at a funeral (or vice versa).
Those same concepts apply to your writing. How you deliver information—the voice, tone, mood of your writing—is the “style.” It affects how well your audience will understand and respond to the information you are trying to communicate. Since writing style affects how your reader responds, be aware of and use it to help you achieve your purpose.
In most situations, you must also communicate in the style your reader expects. This is often driven by genre (type of document) and context. If you are asked to produce a lab report, your reader will have certain expectations about what goes in it, and if you don’t meet those expectations, it will reflect poorly on you as a communicator and make it less likely that your message is delivered.
Since writing style affects how your reader responds, be aware of and use it to help you achieve your purpose.
Audience and purpose, then, will always affect your writing style. In this chapter, you will find guidance for developing a general technical communications writing style for documents common to technical communicators.
- Here are some additional helpful hints on writing style from the UK College of Engineering
- “Style Guides for Technical Writers” from Technical Writing is Easy
*This page borrows from the following source: Fundamentals of Engineering Technical Communications. Source link.