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Technical Writing Exercise – Getting to the Point

As you may have noticed, there is a tendency among writers to begin a sentence with a dependent clause. When this is done, it delays the reader getting to the meat of the sentence. As you can see, it may be more stylish and literary, but is it good technical writing? There are some who say that it is not.

The best tech writing gets right to the point. Cutting out unnecessary introductory ideas helps the user understand, immediately, what the message is. As a general rule, directions should begin with the verb that tells the user what is being done. The rest of the sentence provides necessary details. Unlike the point made in issue #20, the goal isn’t to shorten the sentence as much as it is to get the important information up front where it belongs.

For example, rather than writing: Using the 7/16th stress adjuster, reset the spacing widget to its original, i.e., factory spec, setting. Get right to the point by writing Reset the spacing widget to the factory spec by using the 7/16th stress adjuster. The rewrite is two words shorter, but what’s more important is that it begins by telling you what you should do.

Now, you try it. Rewrite these sentences in a straight-forward form.

1. With the dial at 50%, rotate the outer ring until the red dot aligns with the white dot on the inner ring.

2. Since it may be unsafe, never switch on the gravitas rotor while the mechanism is cycling.

3. Unlike the earlier model, the Kaybee 621 does not need to be lubricated sooner than its 100th operation cycle.

4. When lubricating the inner flush-bearing, use a nozzle made to fit the aperture.

5. With the speed dial on low, start the smoothing operation.

6. Before beginning to round the edges of the medium-size widget, adjust the turning guide to fit tightly against the bowl.

7. The 423-Widget needs special care, so use only as much pressure as necessary to push and release the tension ring.

8. Because of its design, the new style Fiddle500 is sharpened by fitting the Fiddle500 Aux-stone over both blades.

When you’re done check the solution below.

Exercise – Answer

These rewrites give one approach to improving the sentences. Yours may be different, but they should begin with a clear direction of what to do.

1. With the dial at 50%, rotate the outer ring until the red dot aligns with the white dot on the inner ring.

Set the dial at 50% and rotate the outer ring so the red dot lines up with the white dot on the inner ring.

2. Since it may be unsafe, never switch on the gravitas rotor while the mechanism is cycling.

Never turn the gravitas rotor on when the mechanism is cycling.

3. Unlike the earlier model, the Kaybee 621 does not need to be lubricated sooner than its 100th operation cycle.

Don’t lubricate the Kaybee 621 until the 100th operation cycle.

4. When lubricating the inner flush-bearing, use a nozzle made to fit the aperture.

Lubricate the inner-flush bearing using a nozzle made to fit the aperture.

5. With the speed dial on low, start the smoothing operation.

Start the smoothing operation by setting the speed dial on low.

6. Before beginning to round the edges of the medium-size widget, adjust the turning guide to fit tightly against the bowl.

Adjust the turning guide to fit tightly against the bowl before beginning to round the edges of the medium-size widget.

7. The 423-Widget needs special care, so use only as much pressure as necessary to push and release the tension ring.

Press only as hard as necessary to release the tension ring of the 423-Widget.

8. Because of its design, the new style Fiddle500 is sharpened by fitting the Fiddle500 Aux-stone over both blades.

Sharpen the Fiddle500 by fitting the Fiddle500 Aux-stone over both blades.

Source by Bryan S. Adar

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