both differ from specifications and instructions. All of these genres may be written for audiences with high-levels of technical/subject-matter expertise or lay audiences, those with low- levels of expertise. When writing on the job, you will frequently experience a need to bridge the gap between a high-level of expertise (what you know) and a low-level of expertise (what an audience doesn't know but needs to know). This project is aimed at giving you applied practice in how to do this. 3 INTRODUCTION
technical expertise, and you will choose this audience. Your choice will be based on a need you identify that this audience has. Next, you will decide if that need can best be met by composing either an extended technical definition of a term (option 1) or a technical description of a mechanism; process; animal, plant, insect; geographical feature/place (option 2). The purpose of this slidedoc is to help you begin to make these decisions by clarifying the difference between a technical definition and a technical description. 4 About this Project
and we learn, at an early age, how to differentiate what something is from what it is not. 5 About Definitions Tree Building Shrub Dog Road Truck A tree is not a building, shrub, dog, etc. And each of the words that are crossed out could, in turn, be defined by what that word is not. The result is an endless chain of difference, but naming and categorizing difference cannot help us to understand what a word means.
English words have been used for the past 1,000 years and continues to be updated as new words are created and usages for old ones occur. But this dictionary (and any other) can only provide a definition based on usage; it cannot define what a word means in a larger context. 6
level of development required. • Sometimes the context arises from a scientific or engineering communication need (less development needed). • Sometimes the context arises from a need to bridge the gap between scientific or engineering knowledge and a lay audience's knowledge (more development needed). The next four slides explain common types of technical definitions and when to write these. 8 Contexts
short explanation as to what an acronym stands for or word means and to cue the audience that you will be using the word from that point on without further definition. • The required gravel equivalent (GE) for the estimated traffic loading and sub grade conditions is 575 millimeters. Write a sentence-level definition when the context requires more information about what the word means. Often a sentence-level definition is a topic sentence and uses this pattern. 9 An elephant is a large mammal with a prehensile trunk, long ivory tusks, and large ears. Types
you to assign values to terminology that cannot be quantitatively measured. 10 This study uses Blascovich and Tomaka's definition of self-esteem as an individual's sense of his or her value or worth. It also considers the extent to which a person values, approves of, appreciates, prizes, or likes him or herself.
even more information to help an audience better understand something and/or make a decision. "Extended" just means the definition is developed beyond the sentence-level. How developed it needs to be is a function of the audience's need.
definition of a word or phrase (i.e. what is x?) but is then narrowly focused to explain how x works or what x is like and not about what x means. 13 How does it work? What is it like? About Technical Descriptions
something. • Sometimes the context arises from a scientific or engineering communication need (high-level of complexity needed). • At other times, the context arises from the need to bridge the gap between scientific or engineering knowledge and a lay audience's knowledge (low level of complexity needed). • The next slides explain common types of technical descriptions. 14 Contexts
rarely independent pieces of communication. Instead they are part of other communication products. Where they appear (placement) may be in print or multimedia formats and their purposes are often in-service to persuasive arguments such as the previous examples or in attempts to persuade consumers to purchase a product. When writing the technical documentation (your planning choices) for this project, you will be asked to consider placement, but keep in mind you will be writing to meet the needs of a lay audience, so the placement cannot be for a website aimed at specialized audiences. 26 Placement and Purpose
a description. Both use descriptive language. The difference rests with the questions each answers and the context. • Technical definitions answer the questions: what is x? and what does it mean? (wider context) • Technical descriptions answer the questions: what is it like? how does it work? etc.(narrow context) 27 Descriptive Language
give you applied practice in composing technical documentation. 29 Technical documentation is a planning genre. On the job, it is written to plan how a project will be done, including making important decisions about target audience, need, and what communication product will best meet this need. Learning Objective