January 2011  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Effective Technical Writing

While all good writing is meant to communicate ideas, technical writing has the additional burden of making sometimes difficult, specialized information accessible to an audience that might include people unfamiliar with the subject’s jargon. It is the writer’s responsibility to clearly communicate these complex ideas in understandable language. Here are a few tips for accomplishing this goal.

  • Be clear and objective. Avoid gobbledygook, buzzwords, and wording that is potentially ambiguous, loaded, or demeaning. Never speak down to your reader.
  • Gear your language to the reader. If your audience will include people unfamiliar with the subject’s unique terminology, offer definitions whenever necessary.
  • Be concise. Trim each paragraph to the essence of the main idea. Your reader will thank you.
  • Use recognizable mechanics. Avoid unusual abbreviations or acronyms. If you must use them, give explanations.

One of the basic roadblocks to good communication is a confusing message. Your goal should be to write documents that can be clearly understood. If you are unsure about the effectiveness of your writing, ask a nontechnical person to read it and offer comments.

For more professional business-writing tips, see Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace—just one of the handy business-writing materials from UpWrite Press.

Good Catch!

Bernice E. Tresemer, PP, PLS, a legal assistant in southern Wisconsin, wrote about our December eTips Mid-Month Mini, in which we said . . .

“Our frequent contributor Vivien Yoshoko-Cooper of Los Angeles checked in, anxious to tell us about her favorite app.”

Ms. Tresemer responded . . .

How about teaching the difference between “anxious” and “eager.” (Just had to tease you!)

She makes a very good point. As our books and Web site point out, “Anxious indicates that one is worrying; eager, that one is gladly anticipating something.”

Thanks, Ms. Tresemer! We are always eager to please (and will try not to feel too anxious about having made this slip).

Teacher Tips

Training sessions are like going back to school: A “teacher” imparts his or her experience and knowledge to the “students.” But in this case, the “students” are not children—they are workers gathered to learn a new skill or technique, and they need to be treated as adults. This means presenting the material in a respectful way that allows the adult learners to take control of their learning. To do this, try to relate the material to your participants’ own abilities and talents, encouraging them to engage with the group not only as active learners, but also as intelligent people whose experiences are a valuable resource for their colleagues. During your presentation, apply the material to real-world situations that are meaningful to your audience.

That Little Extra

If you do a lot of traveling to make presentations, make your life easier with a little preemptive groundwork. Establish a contact with someone at your next stop who can handle the technical requirements for your presentation. Find out in advance what kind of equipment they have, and whether it will be set up for you. You could even forward a copy of your presentation, in case something happens to your copy en route. Being prepared isn’t being paranoid—it shows forethought and will make a great impression on the very people you want to impress.


January Writers' Forum Topic

Here’s your chance to tell us how your work environment operates. Send us your responses to the forum question below, and we’ll print the most interesting in our eTips Mid-Month Mini.

Ah, it’s time for our annual resolutions issue. But this year, let’s look back a little first. Tell us what you’ve learned (preferably about writing) this past year, and then how you will use it to accomplish your goals in 2011.

E-mail your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “January Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

We Want to Hear from You

This is your chance to be part of the UpWrite Press newsletters and blogs. What writing topics do you want to hear about? Have you any favorite communications tips you’d like to share? What words do you constantly mix up? Send us your ideas and you could see your name in Writing eTips or the Mid-Month Mini.

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Write for Business Blog

Entries for the month of December:

Staff Articles

Using Punctuation

Constructing Sentences


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eTips is a publication of UpWrite Press, P.O. Box 460, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105. Copyright © 2011,
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