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Technical Communications Toolbox

Interested in teaching yourself or your students how to improve their professional writing skills? The Technical Communications Toolbox is intended to help students write clearly and concisely, regardless of their specialty, for a variety of audiences. Regardless of the audience, being clear, accurate and complete is key, and these tips and tricks will help any engineer meet that standard.

In the Toolbox

Overview

Technical communication is a form of non-fiction writing that is used by engineers to communicate with each other, clients, and the public.  Discover the importance of clear and concise technical writing, as well as the goal, how to read, and potential costs of technical communication.

Writing

Learn about technical writing conventions and how to evaluate your audience. Develop good technical writing practices like paragraph structure, writing for clarity, conciseness and completeness, proper use of tense and voice, to avoid plagiarism, and common writing errors.

Writing Format

The format or flow of content is important in helping the reader easily understand and process the information. Learn about the common format used in technical reports and using citations and references.

Figures

Figures are visual depictions of your ideas and data.  Learn about how to cite figures and use some automatic citation features in Microsoft Word.  Also learn some suggestions for good figure formatting.

Equations

Often in technical communication you will need to present a mathematical equation. Learn about citing and formatting of equations; the proper use of significant figures; and how to calculate the percent difference.

Presentations

Presentations inform, educate, motivate and/or persuade the audience, using the power of words and images to engage the audience and retain attention. The method and means of presentation should be carefully considered.

Tables

A table is a collection of related data elements which are held in a tabular format consisting of columns, and rows. Tables can be used to present data in an organized, structured format or summarize concepts. Properly cite and format tables for clarity.

Calculations

Calculations & spreadsheets are a form of technical communication often shared by engineers with other engineers, bosses, even clients. When the calculation is shared it becomes communication!  Learn how to create calculations that communicate effectively.

Examples of Technical Writing

Examples of technical writing show the use of headings, table and figures. Real-world reports includes examples of Laboratory, Design, and Technical Reports illustrating appropriate formatting and language use.

Examples of Student Homework

Homework examples show the proper formatting, language, voice, etc. Vies project notebooks, homework assignments, lab reports, resumes, poster sessions; as well as tips for email and homework.

Remember, all written documents (paper and digital) are a permanent record. They may become a legal record as well. Always be clear, accurate and complete in your writing.

You are not just writing to be understood, you are writing to be not misunderstood.

Professor Jack Breen, University of Texas at Austin
July 2000

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