Project 1: Slideshare 3 Technical Prose Style

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January 07, 2019

Project 1: Slideshare 3 Technical Prose Style

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TechProf

January 07, 2019
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  1. Technical / Scientific Prose Style and Readability 1

  2. 2 Table of Contents Introduction ........................................................................................................................3 Gunning Fog Index ......................................................................................................4-7

    Be Concise ..........................................................................................................................8-11 Redundant Words........................................................................................................12 Dead Phrases ...............................................................................................................13-14 Unnecessary Modifiers .................................................................................................15 Summary.......................................................................................................................16 Be Precise ............................................................................................................................17 Audience Expertise and Technical Terminology .......................................................18-19 Consistent Terminology................................................................................................19-20 Levels of Specifics and Detail .....................................................................................21-24 Summary.......................................................................................................................25 Be Direct ..............................................................................................................................26 Active Verbs .................................................................................................................27-28 Passive Verbs ................................................................................................................29-31 Passive Voice vs. Active Voice ...................................................................................32-36 Topic Position ................................................................................................................37-39 Stress Position ................................................................................................................40-43 Summary.......................................................................................................................44 Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................45
  3. INTRODUCTION Readability If readers can't figure out what you are

    trying to say, it means your writing isn't readable. And, on the job, if your writing isn't readable, it's a problem because workplace readers don't read for pleasure, they read because they need the information you write. It turns out that math can help you determine how readable your writing is – yes math! 3
  4. The Gunning-Fog Index One of the most widely used methods

    to determine readability is the Gunning-Fog Index. It uses an algorithm to determine the number of years of education your reader would need in order to understand the paragraph you write. You can obtain your Gunning Fog Index by cutting and pasting a paragraph of your writing into this free tool. 4 ALGORITHIMS
  5. The index score of the page you just read is

    14.31. For a reference, here are some Fog Index scores with corresponding reading levels by publication. Your writing should aim at a score appropriate to the reading level of your target audience. 5 GOAL Now I know why I dislike reading anything from the government. Publication Fog Index Reading Level Needed US Government Publications 20+ Post-Graduate Plus Academic Journal Articles 17-20 Post-Graduate Medical Consent Forms 13-16 College Junior to Senior New York Times and other popular publications. 11-12 High School Junior to Senior National Geographic 10 High School Sophomore Bible 7 7th Grade
  6. Technically Dense Prose Many people, particularly academic types, like to

    write technically dense prose that scores high on the fog index. Daniel Oppenheimer, a psych professor at Princeton, wondered whether this helps or hampers them. So, he did did some experiments and published his findings in the journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology with this crazy title: • "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly." 6
  7. In 2006, Oppenheimer was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize in

    literature. At the ceremony, he gave what many believe is the perfect acceptance speech. Here it is in its entirety: • "My research shows that conciseness is interpreted as intelligence. So, thank you". • Being concise is one of three concepts important to achieving a readable technical / scientific style. The other two are being precise, and being direct. 7
  8. BE CONCISE To be concise means to be brief (of

    short length) yet comprehensive (containing all information). So, how do you do both things? Write only the words necessary to meet your audience needs and your purpose for writing. No more, and no less. One of the biggest obstacles to developing a concise prose style is the bad habit of padding your sentences with lard. 8
  9. Padding your prose with words that do not contribute to

    meaning is writing lard. 9 Yes, but we only eat it, we NEVER write it. We love lard.
  10. What Causes Lard? The most common reason students develop the

    habit of writing lard is trying to reach word or page counts. Most teachers do not insist insist that you meet a specific word count or number of pages. Okay, well, maybe my 8th grade English teacher did, but she was a bit strange. 10 Who are you calling strange sister? Karen’s 8th Grade English Teacher
  11. About Word Counts and Page Lengths In school, word count

    and page length guidelines should cue you to think about the level of development your writing will need. Padding your writing by adding unnecessary words is not developing the content. It's just adding lard, and it's a bad habit to get into. The following five slides will help you analyze your prose style to determine if you have developed this habit, and how to stop writing lard-laden sentences. 11
  12. Are you writing redundant words and/or unnecessarily repeating the same

    phrase or term? 12 already existing alternative choices at the present time presently basic fundamentals currently at this time completely eliminate continue to remain had done previously introduced a new mix together never before none at all now at this time private industry separate entities the reason being because silver in color start out still persists whether or not first began period of time empty space In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered for the first time that Penicillium mold could kill Staphylococcus bacteria in petri dishes. Fleming named the lethal antibacterial chemical secreted by the deadly Penicillium mold, dubbing it "penicillin." In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered that Penicillium mold could kill Staphylococcus bacteria in petri dishes. He dubbed the lethal antibacterial chemical secreted by the mold "penicillin."
  13. Are you writing dead phrases? 13 it is my intent

    to show as a matter of fact as is well known as stated earlier it is noteworthy the presence of it goes without saying A dead phrase usually has a pompous tone and is not saying anything necessary.
  14. 14 at the present time now at that point in

    time then has the ability to can has the potential to will in the event that if in the vicinity of near owing to the fact that because the reason being that because the question as to whether whether there is no doubt but that no doubt for the purpose of to Some phrases may only be near death; do you have phrases that could be useful it revived with one word? Yes! They have a heartbeat now.
  15. Are you writing unnecessary modifiers? • Unnecessary modifiers may be

    considered lard if they are not contributing much to the meaning you intend. • Some of these modifiers may reveal a need to be more precise (concept 2). Examples • Actually, • Really, • Basically, • Very, • Definitely, • Somewhat, • Probably, • Extremely, • Practically. 15
  16. Summary: to analyze your writing for Being Concise Check your

    writing for • unnecessary repetition (redundant words, repeating phrases or terms that mean the same thing), • dead phrases or wordy phrases that could be useful if replaced by a single word, • unnecessary modifiers. 16
  17. BE PRECISE The second concept in achieving a readable style

    is to be precise. To be precise means to be exact and accurate. In technical writing, how precise you need to be is based on the audience: • Be careful when writing to an audience with a low-level of technical expertise, that you are not using technical terminology that is so exact the audience would not understand what you mean. AND • Be careful when writing to an audience with a high level of technical expertise that you are using technical terminology that is more accurate than common words and phrases. 17
  18. A bid proposal to homeowners about the cost of paving

    their driveway would not use these technical terms: • The cost to pave your driveway using a mix of aggregate bonded with calcium to form an agglomerate will be . . . . • The word “concrete” is precise enough. 18 Audiences with a low-level of technical expertise need Plain English.
  19. Audiences with a high-level of expertise need more precision. Our

    research presents a new technique for studying the complex phenomena associated with the development of sparks and other gas discharges. 19 Audiences with a high-level of technical expertise would question why the author is conflating sparks and gas discharges because these are different, so the writing is not being precise.
  20. All terms need to be used consistently. Although young drivers

    say they believe that distracted driving is a problem, our tests revealed that over 90% of teenage drivers still in engage in distracted driving behaviors. The objective of this study was to survey the effectiveness of involving students in the production of public service announcements (PSA) aimed at changing the disconnect between what drivers say they believe and what they do. Our experiment revealed that when students produced PSA's, these announcements were more effective in changing this disconnect. • Was it a test, study, survey, or an experiment? • Were they young drivers, teenage drivers, all drivers, or just students? 20
  21. Level of specifics and detail. To determine if specifics and

    detail are at the right level, you need to think about audience and your purpose for writing. Example: A mailing address is specific and contains the details necessary for someone to send you mail or a package. The specifics and details of a mailing address, however, would not be enough to identify property in a mortgage contract. • Different audiences --- Different purposes ---- Different needs. 21
  22. Think about what you wanted readers to understand, think about,

    or do after reading what you wrote. Did you write the level of specifics and details they needed? After recognizing some problems with the solar mirrors, we took subsequent corrective measures. What problems? Should I be worried? What corrective measures? Why are you telling me this? What do you want me to do? 22
  23. 23 We recently discovered that ten solar mirrors stored horizontally

    had cracked. The cause was traced to large amounts of snow accumulating on their surface. In the future, we will be stowing all mirrors vertically. I see, you are telling me about a problem you solved. I’m relieved to know this. Thanks for updating me about the solar mirrors.
  24. When analyzing your prior writing for the appropriate level of

    specifics and detail, you may want to consider the purpose of writing papers and reports for college courses. In college, your purpose is to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the subject matter. Did you provide enough specifics and detail to do that? 24
  25. Summary: to analyze your writing for Being Precise • Consider

    if your writing is using technical terminology appropriate to the audience level, • Check your writing for consistent use of terms. • Check if the level of specifics and detail were appropriate to meet audience needs and your purpose for writing. 25
  26. BE DIRECT The third concept to achieving a readable style

    is “to be direct.” To be direct means to be straightforward. But what does that mean when you are writing? It means your writing needs to get to the point. And, to do that, you need to use: • mostly active verbs, • mostly active voice (but know when passive is a better choice), • topic position • stress position 26
  27. Are your verbs active or lazy? Lazy verbs are generic

    and vague: • The results of this study show . . . . • This study dealt with . . . • The test involves . . . Active verbs describe work and reveal analytical thinking: • The results of this study challenge . . . • This study characterizes . . . • The test measured . . 27
  28. List of Active Verbs: use the list to determine if

    a verb you wrote could be replaced with a better one from this list. 28
  29. Does your writing use passive verbs appropriately? To be verbs

    are passive because they cannot convey action only a state of being: is, are, was, were, etc. When defining a word, a passive verb fine. • A positron is a positively charged electron. 29
  30. Unnecessary use of passive verbs drains the energy out of

    your writing. • A new process for eliminating nitrogen oxides from diesel exhaust engines is presented. Flow tube experiments to test this process are discussed. The percentage decrease in nitrogen oxide emissions is revealed. Notice how the revision below is direct and has energy: This paper presents a new process for eliminating nitrogen oxides from the exhaust of diesel engines. To test this process, we performed experiments in flow tubes. These experiments revealed a 99 percent decrease in nitrogen oxide emissions. 30
  31. Be careful when using active voice with inanimate objects. Avoid

    the Dr. Frankenstein effect. 31 Reasonable The oscilloscope displayed the voltage. The oscilloscope measured the voltage. V + - The oscilloscope calculated the voltage. V=
  32. Use Mostly Active Voice 32 but know when Passive Voice

    is the better choice. Why in the hell would you ever use passive voice? Because sometimes it’s a better rhetorical choice.
  33. • Active voice means the subject of a sentence is

    doing the action. • John washed the car. The focus is on who is doing the action. • Passive voice means the object being acted upon is the subject and who is doing the action is implied (or added with a “by” phrase). • The car was washed. Or The car was washed by John. The focus is on the action. 33
  34. Why this stuff is confusing. • Grammar checkers will count

    the number of passive verbs (is, are, were, was, etc.) But, a passive verb is not the same as passive voice. • So, let’s use zombies instead of the grammar checker to determine if you are using passive voice appropriately. 34 Why is this so hard?? Let’s see if I can make it easier.
  35. Here's an easy way to determine if you are writing

    in passive voice. • If you can add “by zombies” at the end of the sentence, it’s passive. 35
  36. But, sometimes you should use passive voice. In technical and

    scientific prose style, passive voice is preferred when what was done is more important than who did it. 36 • DNA was extracted . . . • Test holes were bored . . . • Samples were taken . . . • Surveying was done . . .
  37. Use Topic Position The beginning of a sentence or paragraph

    sets up the topic, so it is referred to as the topic position. Readers use the topic position, to get a sense of where a paragraph is going to take them. If you don’t write a topic sentence, readers will get lost or confused. 37
  38. Try reading this: 38

  39. Notice how a topic sentence clears up any confusion about

    what the paragraph is about. 39
  40. Use Stress Position • Readers place greater emphasis on information

    that is at the end of a sentence, paragraph, or chapter. • It’s where they look to figure out the point a writer is making. This placement is known as the stress position or stress emphasis. • If the ending leaves readers wondering what the sentence or paragraph means, it’s like never arriving at a destination. 40
  41. 41 Look at the end of your sentences. Are the

    words in the stress position saying what you want to emphasize? If not trim the end. Sociobiologists claim genes control our social behavior in the way we act in situations we are in every day. Since social behavior means the way we act in situations, the words at the end are unnecessary and throw the emphasis off in this sentence.
  42. 42 Metadiscourse often takes up the stress position. Job opportunities

    in computer programming are getting scarcer, it must be remembered. Metadiscourse draws attention to what is being said, it often sounds preachy and pompous. Get rid of it no matter where it shows up in your writing.
  43. Strings of prepositions make it hard for readers to find

    the emphasis you intend. The condition of the patient was documented in the patient profile written by the nurse on duty during the after-hours shift. Eliminate strings of prepositions by being direct, so the stress emphasis is clear. The after-hours nurse documented the patient’s condition in the patient profile. 43
  44. Summary: to analyze your writing for Being Direct Check your

    writing to determine if you are writing: • mostly active verbs, • mostly active voice (but are you able to recognize when passive is a better choice?), • topic sentences, • check if what you want to emphasize (your point) is in the stress position. 44
  45. Conclusion: ask yourself • If you were the intended reader,

    would you know what the writer wanted you to think about, understand, and/or do with this information? 45 If you respond to your writing like this, your style is not effective If you respond to your writing like this, your writing is effective. What was I trying to say? My writing is clear. I am awesome!