Latest posts by techwriter (see all)
- How to Number Your Documents Properly – A Document Numbering Strategy - April 24, 2017
- How to Avoid Repeating Words in a Headline - April 18, 2017
- Leveraging Multi-Function Printers With Document Imaging Software - April 10, 2017
Technical writing needs to be objective. It should describe objects the properties of which we can measure quantitatively.
COROLLARY: When different people read a technical description, they should be able to perform identical tasks and obtain identical results.
And for that to happen, the words you use must not be open to wide-raging interpretations.
One of the ways to accomplish that is to eliminate the qualifier “very” from your vocabulary for once and all since the exact meaning of “very” differs greatly from one person to another.
Instead of “fasten the bolt very tight” use “tighten [or, torque] the bolt to 85 lb/inch pressure.” Be precise. Eliminate guesswork.
Similarly, a “very thin” motherboard is actually one that could be just plain “thin” and it’s hard to tell the difference unless the “thinness” is measured. That’s why to talk about a “0.2 inch thin motherboard” is much better than to call it “very thin” and leave it at that.
What is the difference in meaning between “the network shutdown” and “the network really shut down”? Nothing. So why should you use it?
Here are some other qualifiers to avoid in a technical document:
“inexhaustible, “unprecedented,” “incalculable,” “stupendous,” “sizable,” “nice,” “easy,” “hard,” “awful,” etc.
Another important rule in objective writing is to watch the way you address your audience and refer to the subject of your sentences.
For example, if in the beginning of the page you use the second person singular pronoun (as in “You have to enter your ID and Password to have access to the Card database”) do not switch to the “user” language just a few sentences later (as in “The User must enter his code to have access to the Operation Room”).
Such switches between subject references confuses the readers. Just select one voice and stick with it throughout your technical document.