Most writing produced in technical workplaces consists of a combination of technical writing (which transmits technical information) and business writing (which transmits information that promotes smooth business operations).  In the previous chapter, we defined technical writing as a “transactional” and primarily “problem-solving” genre and described some of the key conventions and considerations technical writers must keep in mind. In this chapter, we will look more deeply into the style of writing expected of this genre.

Chapter 2 Learning Objectives

This chapter will help you achieve the following objectives:

2.1  Understand how to use reader-centred writing (rather than a writer-centred one) that focuses on knowing your audience and writing specifically to meet their needs

2.2  Review and practice techniques to communicate with precision

2.3  Understand how to write to persuade using rhetoric in a professional context, avoiding logical fallacies and inappropriate marketing language

2.4   Recognize the importance of verbs and learn how to choose strong verbs as the “engines” that drive efficient and effective sentences; revise passages to improve concision and flow

How does technical writing style differ from essay writing? It is mostly characterized by high-information, goal-oriented sentences that are characterized by the following stylistic elements:

Characteristics of Technical Style

Active: The subject precedes the verb in most sentences to highlight action and actor.
Concise: Sentences contain only the necessary words to convey the intended idea or information.

Fact-based: A careful reliance on facts to support ideas will boost your credibility.
Objective: A presentation of accurate, unbiased information is essential for decision-making.
Specific: Concrete information will fully inform the reader.
Straight-forward: A direct approach will create a focus on the key message.

Technical writing requires accuracy and clarity not only in terms of content but also in terms of grammatical and mechanical accuracy. For a review of grammar basics, see Appendix B: Sentence Structure and Appendix C: Punctuation Rules.

To begin, complete the exercise below.

EXERCISE 2.1 Describe some differences between writing for school vs. writing for work

Writing for School Writing for Work
Document Life Span
Format & Design Elements
Writing Style

What key differences do you note between the two writing contexts? What do you think accounts for those differences?


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Technical Writing Essentials by Suzan Last is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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