Types of Technical Writing

1)      Identify different forms of technical writing?

Types of Technical Writing

Technical writing is a broad term that encompasses different types of technical documents used for specific purposes in various fields such as business, science, engineering, industries, construction, etc. Technical document is written keeping focus on the type of audience being targeted. The main aspects of this form of writing are:

  • Content: Some of the characteristics of a good content are factual information, credible source, appropriate for readership, useful and understandable information, clear purpose, no plagiarism, etc.
  • Presentation Techniques: A presentation should be concise, logical, without any bias, containing useful visual aids, specific, interesting, and should have suitable and appropriate font.
  • Language Skills: Language skills includes no grammatical or punctuation errors, no misspelling, no jargon or acronyms, hierarchical headings, active voice sentences, etc.
    Types

    Reports
    Reports are made at all levels from students to business people, for various purposes. Perfect format and layout are very important factors in a report, as it contains the complete information of any project. Wide knowledge pertaining to the subject of the report is absolutely necessary for any author. It requires intense research and data analysis. Some types of reports are:

  • Business and sales reports
  • Academic project reports
  • Case study report


Let’s take an example of a complete and well-written academic report. The format of such a report should have:

  • Title Page
  • Acknowledgments
  • Summary or Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Findings or Observations
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography

Presentation
The presentation model depends upon the intended audience, whether they are internal audience or external audience. A presentation can be made using equipment and graphical aids such as flip charts, tables, transparencies, bar graphs, slides, multimedia objects, pie charts, dry erase boards, line drawings, handouts, physical objects, etc. the basic requirements in a good presentation document is:

  • The information in the slides should be crisp and uncluttered.
  • The font type and font size should be readable.
  • Each slide should have a heading or title, if necessary.
  • If images or clip arts are used in the presentation, it should be placed in the right
  • Corner, preferably in the lower right corner.
  • Advancing the slides should be done manually to avoid time elapsing problems.

User Manual
The user manuals are the set of instructions or explanations written to help the reader, understand some software application or any system. The important criteria of a properly written user manual are simple language, because it is mostly targeted for non-technical people. Mainly, to understand the troubleshooting techniques, people refer to the user manual. So, the writer should cover all the minute details of the product and the troubleshooting tricks. The difficult terms should be well explained and made easy. The one important chapter in the user manual is frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Executive Summaries
Executive summary is an important communication tool used by academicians and business people. Executive summaries are basically documents that contains the summary of reports, so that the reader is acquainted with the required knowledge, without reading the large body of the report. Executive summary documents are widely used in management sectors like sales & marketing, accounts & finance, etc. Executive summary documents mostly contains the summary of the problems of the service or the product. The typical structure of an executive summary should be 10% of the report from which it is derived. Concise analysis of the report is made and final conclusions are drawn from it. Executive summary is different from abstracts, in a way that, abstracts are short and it just provides the overview of a large document, whereas, reports can be replaced with executive summaries, as it contains the condensed version of the report. A good executive summary should be presented in the order given below:

  • Subject Information
  • Method of analysis
  • Inference or findings
  • Conclusion or problem solution
  • Recommendations and justification
  • Limitations of the report

Abstracts
Abstracts are basically, a concise and brief guide of a report that summarizes the whole report, which is mainly addressed to technical readers. There are two important types of abstracts. They are:

  • Descriptive Abstract: Descriptive abstract is also called topical, table-of-contents abstract and indicative abstract. This type of abstract lists the topics or chapters that are covered in the reports.
  • Informative Abstract: This type of abstract summarizes the important information in the report, which includes results, recommendation and conclusions.

Spec Sheets
Spec sheet is an information sheet that, illustrates the construction and manufacturing process. Spec sheet documents are widely used especially in mechanical, instrumentation, architecture, production and manufacturing industries. The spec sheets are mainly targeting to the contractors, who will analyze the information and the package which includes all the required schematics and they would estimate the scope and expertise required for the completion of the project. After studying the spec sheet data, bid sheet will be prepared. 

Proposals
The proposals are persuasive documents that are made to provide solutions, recommendations and needs regarding to the problems concerning a product or service. It is a narrative work that is made to bring out successful sales experience. The good proposal should be made in such a way that, it should be “as easy as possible to digest”. Many business people say that, writing a proposal is an art and it should be persuasive and rational as well. The proposals can be formal or informal.

Employment Documents

Employment document is mainly referred to as resumes, follow-up letter, resignation letter. The employment documents are prepared from the employer’s perspective. Follow-up letter is written by a candidate, to thank the employer for the conducted interview and to express his continuing interests in the job. Resignation letter is a professional courtesy letter to inform the current employer that you are resigning from your job and the reasons for your resignation. Resume is another employment document produced by a candidate, who is seeking for a new job. The essential requirements of a well prepared resume are:

  • Basic Information : It is mainly divided into three parts identification, educational qualifications and work experience.
  • Optional Headings: It may include accomplishments or achievements, extracurricular activities, awards, career objective, etc.

There are three main types of resumes, depending on the context. They are:

  • Chronological resume
  • Functional resume
  • Electronic resume

Questionnaires
Questionnaire is a document that contains a list of questions that are targeted to the readers, in order to gather information from the respondents. It may be for the purpose of survey or to get statistical data. The modes of questionnaire administration are paper-and-pencil mode, computerized mode and face-to-face administration mode. The questions in a questionnaire are basically targeted to get information on preferences, behavior, facts and guidelines.

Tools Used in this Form of Writing

  • Publishing tools, e.g. Microsoft Word, Frame Maker
  • Help Authoring tools, e.g. Robo Help, Epic Editor, Authority
  • Template Designer tools, e.g. In design, PageMaker, Quark Express
  • Image Editors, e.g. Photoshop, Snag It, CorelDraw, Illustrator
  • Web Design tools, e.g. Dreamweaver, FrontPage
  • Screen Recording tools, e.g. Camtasia, Captivate
  • Multimedia tools, e.g. Flash, Max 3D
    The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) tools, e.g. Epic Editor

2)      Write readable correspondence?

Correspondence is the primary means to communicate both within and outside the Coast Guard.  It refers to letters, memoranda, messages, electronic mail (E-mail), and directives.  Since most of our communications are conducted through the written word, it is important to compose correspondence that is cordial, responsive, correctly written, and concise.  All correspondence prepared by the Coast Guard should reflect a positive image of the Service.

Margins
Business letter margins should be about 1″ all around. This gives your professional letter an uncluttered look. You should align your text to the left; this is how most documents are aligned, so it will make your letter readable.

Letter Spacing
Leaving space in your letter creates a clear, uncluttered and easy to read look that the reader will appreciate. Your letter should be in block format: the entire letter should be aligned to the left and single-spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.

Font Size
The traditional font size for a professional letter is 12. The font should be Times New Roman or Arial. However, if you are using a letterhead, the letterhead may be in a different font size and style.

Font Style
There is no need to use different styles within a professional letter. Use a uniform font (a book print font such as Times New Roman or Arial) and avoid underlining, italicizing, or bolding. However, if you are using a letterhead, the letterhead may be in a different font style.

Letter Text
Business letter text should be clean and readable. Avoid writing your letter in one large block of text. Break your text into several concise paragraphs. These paragraphs should be aligned to the left; this allows for easier reading. When you have completed your letter, ask someone else to read it for you. Have them glance briefly at the letter. Is there too much text on the page? Is it easy to see the distinct paragraphs?

Contact Information
The first section of your letter should include your contact information and the contact information of the person you are writing, too. Also include the date you are writing at the top of your letter.

Letter Salutation
unless you know the reader well and typically address them by their first name, you should include the person’s personal title and full name in the salutation (i.e. “Dear Mr. James Franklin”). If you are unsure of the reader’s name, include his or her title (i.e. “Dear Executive of Marketing”). If you are unsure of the reader’s gender, simply state their full name and avoid the personal title (i.e. “Dear Jamie Smith”). If you are unsure of the reader’s gender, name, and title, simply write, “To Whom It May Concern.” Leave one line blank after the salutation.

3)      Write readable proposals?

All these four factors have wide influence on writing style, but they do not act alone. Other points are important. Some examples, based very much on what people say they want in what they read, are now dealt with in the following bullets. Make your writing:

  • Brief: the gut reaction of readers is to want a document to be brief. But it is not an end in itself-a better word would be.
  • Succinct: this makes clear that length is inextricably linked to message. If there is a rule, then it is to make something long enough to carry the message-then stop.
  • Relevant: this goes with the first two. Not too long, covering what is required, and without irrelevant content or digression (note: comprehensiveness is never an objective. If your reports touched on absolutely everything then they would certainly be too long. In fact, you always have to be selective; if you do not say everything, then everything you do say is a choice-you need to make good content choices).
  • Precise: say exactly what you mean and get all necessary details correct. Be careful not to use words like: ‘about’, ‘I think’, ‘maybe’ etc when you should be using a phrase that is clearly definitive.
  • In ‘our’ language: this applies in every sense. It should be pitched at the right level (of technicality or complexity). It should take account of the readers’ past experience and frame of reference (which means you have to know something about what these are). It should ‘ring bells with them’; indeed it commands more attention and appreciation if it gives the impression of being purposely tailored to their situation.  


4) Write feasibility report?

A feasibility report is a testimony that attempts to create some sort of action. Feasibility reports are created to persuade/help the decision makers to choose between available options. Remember that your option is not the only one; the decision makers will probably have many to choose from. A feasibility report also determines whether or not the investigated task can be done with the amount of resources available OR how many resources will be necessary in order to complete the task. Feasibility may be useful in a lot of different situations such as event planning, finances, or even remodeling your home.

Important Features of a Basic Feasibility Report

Below are the seven elements of a feasibility report:

  • Introduction – You need to persuade the decision maker to even consider any sort of alternative. You need to convince them to even read your report first. Tell them what they will gain personally or as an organization by considering your work.
  • Criteria/Constraints – You must specifically map out the criteria of what the ideal outcomes are. This will allow you to make practical and logical decisions. You can present the criteria in your feasibility report in one of two ways. First, you can separate the criteria into its own section. This is best when you have a extensive report and you need to go in-depth with the explanation. Second, you can incorporate the criteria throughout your report as the criteria become relevant. However, it is important to realize that whichever strategy you chose make sure that the criteria is introduced early in the report. It is also very important to map out the constraints of your suggested solutions. This will show the audience that you understand and acknowledge the fact that no solution is perfect. This will also make sure that the audience makes the decision in their best interest.
  • Method – It is very important to present facts that are accurate and relevant. You should state the reliable sources you used and what method they came from (internet, interview, book, etc.). Without a credible research method or credible sources your document itself will lack credibility.
  • Overview of Alternative Options – You must underline the key features of each possible option. Make sure they are easy to understand and presented in a friendly layout. Keep in mind that the goal is to allow your audience to make the best decision.
  • Evaluation – This should be the bulk of your report, you must evaluate the options using the criteria you created. Add graphs, charts, etc. to show that you have studied your options, and have come up with statistics that back up your reasons as to why your alternative beats the competition.
  • Conclusions – You need to state the conclusion you have came up with. How did you evaluate the alternatives? And then from there, which alternative best fit your organization.
  • Recommendations You need to use your experience and knowledge in order to state which option you think should be adopted.

 

Write readable instructions?

Readability is the ease in which text can be read and understood. Various factors to measure readability have been used, such as “speed of perception,” “perceptibility at a distance,” “perceptibility in peripheral vision,” “visibility,” “the reflex blink technique,” “rate of work” (e.g., speed of reading), “eye movements,” and “fatigue in reading.”[1]

Readability is distinguished from legibility which is a measure of how easily individual letters or characters can be distinguished from each other. Readability can determine the ease in which computer program code can be read by humans, such as through embedded documentation

 

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