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Technical Communications Toolbox

Writing

Conventions

Every type of writing has its own traits and characteristics that help to identify it. Technical writing is not like writing for an essay or newspaper article.  Technical writing generally has distinct features such as the use of headings to organize information, use of table and figures to present information, and a clear and concise writing style.  Table 1 gives more information on typical technical writing conventions.

Table 1 – Typical Technical Writing Conventions2

Criteria Technical Writing Other Writing
Purpose Communicate technical information such as an experimental result or design recommendation.  Is clear, concise, and complete. To support an argument or thesis, or to entertain.  May have element of suspense to keep reader reading.
Audience Varies, but can be fellow employees, managers, clients, stakeholders, or public. Varies, but often written for the public.
Writing Style Clear, concise, complete.  Direct language with clear purpose.  Technical terms used (may need to be defined) Building purpose.  Laying groundwork to support argument.  Flowing and entertaining style.
Tone Business – professional – formal.  Generally, avoid personal pronouns. Personal – conversational – informal
Structure Highly structured.   Clear headings and sub-headings with short organized paragraphs designed to orient and move reader through. Some structure, but headings may be more intriguing less clear and often sub-headings not used.
Format/Formatting Varies.  Electronic or printed, visual or non-visual, long or short.  Uses headings as well as tables and figures.  Style guides used to establish formatting rules. Varies.
Other Objective and neutral.  Results and recommendations evidence and data driven.  Precise and quantitative. May be persuasive to support an argument.  May use evidence but often more qualitative.

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