If you take a technical writing workshop, the materials will address numerous areas; some are very specific while others are more general in nature. A good starting point is to look at six principles of technical writing.
Reviewing these basics can provide a great platform from which we can launch forays into specific areas of interest and documentation.Use Good GrammarWrite ConciselyUse the Active VoiceUse Positive StatementsAvoid Long SentencesPunctuate CorrectlyPrinciple One: Use Good GrammarYour readers expect technical documents to be written in standard English. Certain grammatical errors can actually cause your reader to misinterpret the information. However, because technical documents must be precise and accurate, readers expect documents to be professional, polished, and flawless.One grammatical rule to adhere to is subject-verb agreement. Note the choice of verbs below:One employee is absent.Two employees are absent.
This subject-verb agreement is easy to make because in each sentence, the subject is obvious: employee in the first sentence agrees with is and employees in the second sentence agrees with are . The real challenge is when the subject is not as obvious. In the following sentences, which verb would you select?Either of the levers is clearly marked.Either of the levers are clearly marked?You must decide if the subject is either or levers . If you selected either as the subject and is as the verb, you made the correct choice. A list of indefinite pronouns that are always singular is listed below:Each, either, everybody, everyone, neither, one, anyone, anybody, someone, somebody, no one, nobody The following indefinite pronouns are always plural:Both, few, many, severalJust to keep your life interesting, the following pronouns can be either singular or plural.All, more, most, none, someYou may wonder how some pronouns can be both singular and plural.
Review the following examples:Some of the information is inaccurate.Some of the figures are inaccurate.Principle two: Avoiding Long SentencesShort sentences are easier to understand than long sentences. For this reason, it is best to write your technical documents in short sentences.
If you are asking your readers to perform several actions, begin the step with an active verb. This highlights the action itself. Compare the following sentences:Example of a sentence with multiple steps within the sentence:For Forte applications, create an empty workspace, populate it with application source code, and compile the workspace.
Example of a sentence with multiple steps set apart:For Forte applications, perform the following steps:Create an empty workspace.Populate it with application source code.Compile the workspace.Another tip when separating steps into distinct bullet points is to make sure that the action verbs in each bulleted item are in the same tense. For example, if the first step was worded, “Creating an empty workspace ,” then the next bullet would be, “Populating it with application source code ,” and the third bullet point would be, “Compiling the workspace .”If grammar is a weak area for you, purchase and use a good reference book.