Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 180

A Course in

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology

Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges. All rights reserved.


Foreword -- Don't read this

PART I: What's the matter with scientific and technical writing today, and what can you do about it?

Lesson Lesson Lesson Lesson

1. 2. 3. 4.

How much does foggy writing really cost? Why bother to write clearly? How to overcome writing handicaps How to kick bad writing habits -- painlessly

PART II: What to say

Lesson 5. How to use a "marketing" or "top-down" approach to your Lesson 6. How to organize your paper or report Lesson 7. How to handle all those details Lesson 8. Checklists for specific writing tasks PART III: How to say it


Lesson Lesson Lesson Lesson Lesson Lesson

9. Write to analyze, not to catalog 10. Use the simplest word that will do the job 11. Pin things down with concrete nouns 12. Put active verbs to work for you 13. The dependent clause -- a natural way to write analytically 14. Step 1 to more informative paragraphs -- orient your reader


Lesson 15. Step 2 to more informative paragraphs -- tie your ideas Lesson 16. Step 3 to more informative paragraphs -- take it easy Lesson 17. Step 4 to more informative paragraphs -- arrange your ideas Lesson 18. Should you use a personal style in scientific and technical Lesson 19. Enhance your message with illustrations and tables Lesson 20. Some practical ways to get started PART IV: How to tell when you're done

through technically dense passages

in a logical sequence



Lesson 21. How to edit -- and feel OK about throwing most of it away Lesson 22. How to use feedback to simplify approvals -- and cut back on Afterword Bibliography
since 8/17/99.

WebCounter says that you are visitor number

Foreword: What Exactly is Analytical Writing?

It's a way to get technical information across, so that your readers immediately find out what's
important and why -- without getting bogged down in a swamp of details and technical jargon. Analytical writing is simple, direct, concise, and to-the-point. It leaves out gobbledygook and avoids the stilted, impersonal style that clutters journal pages and clogs the machinery of government, corporations, and academia.

I wanted a word that communicates the idea of tuning your writing exactly to your readers' needs. Writing that tells your reader exactly what he wants to know, no more, no less, and leaves him saying, "That's exactly what I wanted to find out." Isn't that the effect you want your reports, memos and papers to have? The word I settled on is ANALYTICAL. When you analyze something, you take it apart and find out what's inside, how it works, what its purpose and meaning are. Your writing is analytical when you analyze the subject matter for your reader -- pre-digesting it, if you will. How many times have you read a report or memo and said, "What does this mean?" or "What am I supposed to do about this?" Analytical writing answers these questions for your reader. The word analytical has been used before to describe a certain writing style that is crisp, concise, to the point, and informative. In 1966, Thomas P. Johnson wrote a book called Analytical Writing (Harper and Row). In it, he explained how the analytical approach permeates every aspect of your writing, from your choice of words and phrases to the way you organize and present your paper or report. Much of what I will share with you here is an expansion of Johnson's insightful concepts. The idea behind analytical writing is easier to understand when you contrast it with its opposite: CATALOGICAL writing. The root word here is CATALOG. So catalogical writing looks like a catalog -an undigested list of facts or information -- like a dictionary or a phone directory, devoid of meaning and significance. When your writing resembles a catalog, your reader has to decode and interpret it, to insert her own meaning and significance. The way she interprets it may have little to do with they way you intended. The result of this mismatch is that you "disconnect" from your reader. The central idea in learning how to write analytically is putting yourself in your reader's place. This requires you to learn how to think like someone else. Because I can't stress the importance of this ability enough, I will seem to belabor it. Virtually every fault you will find in today's scientific and technical writing stems from the writer's failure to take the reader's point of view into account. Writing analytically requires you to change the way you think about your reader. Great scientific communicators, like Carl Sagan, James Burke, Isaac Asimov, George Gamow, and Richard Feynman, developed this instinct to a fine art. Their common-sense approach to bringing science and technology within the grasp of ordinary people is one you will learn to emulate.


It's for scientists, engineers, technical managers, technical writers, and editors -- anyone who has to communicate technical information in reports, proposals, journal articles, instruction manuals, in print or electronic media. It is not, however, a remedial course in English grammar. If you need help in this area, I recommend the very enjoyable book by S. F. Wallace called Practically Painless English (Prentice-Hall, 1980). Grammar help is available online from the Guide to Grammar and Writing. If you're not sure about the difference between principal and principle, what colons and semicolons are for, whether media and data are singular or plural, or when to use i.e. vs. e.g., you'll need to brush up in this area, too.


In these lessons, you'll receive some simple, easy-to-use tools for evaluating and changing your own writing habits. These tools focus your attention on clear sentence structure, making your ideas flow logically, distinguishing the main point from masses of detail, and informative organization. There are lots of exercises that help you become proficient at using these tools to solve writing problems just like the ones that come up in your day-to-day writing asignments. Then, wherever you see this sign, you'll apply your new tools to samples of your own writing. When you finish this course, you'll have your own writing tool kit, which you can use on your own scientific and technical writing assignments, to make your words, sentences, paragraphs, and overall presentation more readable, more informative, and more effective. IMPORTANT: If you want to save your answers to the exercises, you will have to print out each lesson. (Under the copyright, you may print one copy for your own use.) If you reload (refresh) a lesson, your answers will be lost. ALSO IMPORTANT: The answers you write to the exercises in this course don't go anywhere. They're just on your screen, for your own use. No one else can see them. So feel free to write and rewrite, as you see fit. Again, if you want to save your answers you will have to print them out before leaving your web-browser program. In fact, some of the exercises require you to mark up your printed copy. BROWSER SETTINGS: This course works best on Netscape Navigator 3 or higher. Set your page width so the text is as wide as the color bar at the top of this page. If you can set font size and style, select 11- or 12-point Arial. Allow the document to set its own colors and background. If you are using a slow connection, you can turn off image loading without missing anything essential. Although you may at times feel the need to have an instructor look over your shoulder to critique your writing and answer questions, it is important to understand that the purpose of this course is to give you your own objective tools that you can use to critique your own writing, even after you finish this course. I hope this will be even more useful. If you are taking this course for credit, you will receive instructions about the examinations and grading.

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; but teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." -Mao Tse Tung Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 1

How Much Does Foggy Writing Really Cost?

In this Lesson:

The hidden cost of foggy writing Case 1: Foggy proposal unread -- job lost Case 2: The instruction maunal that scared customers away Case 3: One Garbled memo -- 17 baffled phone calls Case 4: The bright young chemist who buried his results Case 5: Big science -- little education Case 6: Frustrated CB-ers What went wrong? What does poor writing cost you? What does it cost you to do something about it?

If you're eager to get to the meat -- where you actually learn some specific tools for improving your
writing -- you can skip ahead to Lesson 5 right now. However, I urge you to be patient and go through the first four lessons. They will prepare you for the tasks ahead by showing you what usually goes wrong with scientific and technical writing, what poor writing can cost you and your organization, and what rewards the clear, incisive writer can expect. Especially important are the strategies given in Lesson 3 for overcoming the writing handicaps we acquired in school and picked up on the job. Then Lesson 4 shows you how to use the systematic methods taught in this course.


No one knows how much sloppy and imprecise writing costs American business, industry and taxpayers each year. Chances are, it's more than all the deliberate theft, embezzlement and pilfering put together. The trouble is, it doesn't show up in red on the corporate balance sheet at the end of each year, so no one pays much attention. You can't pin down the waste caused by incomprehensible regulations or long-winded memos as easily as you can identify the losses in a fire or flood.

But the losses are just as real -- in reduced productivity, efficiency and lost business. In more personal terms, the losses are measured in wasted time, work, money, and ultimately, professional recognition. If you think that inept writing can't do much harm, ask yourself how much money, time and work were were wasted in each of these instances of miscommunication:


The Figtree Electric Company worked day and night to develop a new current regulator designed to cut by one-third the electric power consumption in aluminum plants. They knew that, although the competition was fierce, their regulator could be produced more cheaply, was more reliable and worked more efficiently than the competitors' products. Alvin Figtree, eager to capture the market, personally but somewhat hastily put together a proposal to the three major aluminum manufacturers, recommending that their regulators be installed at all company plants. Unfortunately, Alvin devoted the first 87 pages of the proposal to the mathematical theory and engineering design behind his new regulator, and the next 32 to descriptions of the new assembly line had planned to set up to produce regulators quickly. Buried in an appendix were the test results that compared his regulator's performance with present models, and a poorly drawn graph showed how much the dollar savings would be. Needless to say, Figtree Electric didn't get the job. Six months later, the company filed for bankruptcy.


As one of the first to enter the field of office automation, Megatex Software, Inc. had built a reputation for designing high-quality data-base and accounting programs for business and industry. When they decided to enter the word-processing market, their engineers designed a versatile and powerful program that Megatex felt sure would outperform any competitor. To be sure that their new word-processing program was accurately documented, Megatex asked the senior program designer to supervise writing the instruction manual. The result was a thorough, accurate and precise description of every detail of the program's operation. But when Megatex began marketing its new word processor, cries for help flooded in from typists who were so confused by the massive manual that they couldn't even find out how to get started. Then several business journals judged the program "too complicated" and "difficult to learn." After an impressive start, sales of the new word processor went through the floor. Megatex eventually put out a new, clearly written training guide that led new users step by step through introductory exercises and told them how to find commands quickly. But the rewrite cost Megatex $350,000, a year's lead in the market, and its reputation for producing easy-to-use business software.


Joann supervised 25 professionals in 6 city libraries. To cut the costs of unnecessary overtime, she issued this one-sentence memo to her staff:

When workloads increase to a level requiring hours in excess of an employee's regular duty assignment, and when such work is estimated to require a full shift of eight (8) hours or more on two (2) or more consecutive days, even though unscheduled days intervene, an employee's tour of duty shall be altered so as to include the hours when such work must be done, unless an adverse impact would result from such employee's absence from his previously scheduled assignment.
After the 25 copies were sent out, Joann's office received 17 phone calls asking what the memo meant. What the 8 who didn't call did about the memo is uncertain. It took a week to straighten out the mess.


Bruce, a research chemist for a major oil company, wrote a thick report about some new compounds he had synthesized in the laboratory from oil-refining by-products. The bulk of the report consisted of tables listing their chemical and physical properties, diagrams of their molecular structure, chemical formulas and computer printouts of toxicity tests. Buried at the end of the report was a casual speculation that one of the compounds might be a particularly effective insecticide. Seven years later, the same oil company launched a major research program to find more effective but environmentally safe insecticides. After six months of research, someone uncovered Bruce's report and his toxicity tests. A few hours of further testing confirmed that one of Bruce's compounds was the safe, economical insecticide they had been looking for. Bruce had since left the company, because he felt that the importance of his research was not being appreciated.


The following is from Carl Sagan's last and greatest work, The Demon-Haunted World -- Science as a Candle in the Dark, itself both a plea for and an example of clear scientific communication:

The Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) would have been the preeminent instrument on the planet for probing the fine structure of matter and the nature of the early Universe. Its price tag was $10 to $15 billion. It was canceled by Congress in 1993 after

about $2 billion had been spent -- a worst of both worlds outcome. But this debate was not, I think, mainly about declining interest in the support of science. Few in Congress understood what modern high-energy accelerators are for. They are not for weapons. They have no practical applications. They are for something that is, worrisomely from the point of view of many, called "the theory of everything." Explanations that involve entities called quarks, charm, flavor, color, etc., sound as if physicists are being cute. The whole thing has an aura, in the view of at least some Congresspeople I've talked to, of "nerds gone wild" -- which I suppose is an uncharitable way of describing curiosity-based science. No one asked to pay for this had the foggiest idea of what a Higgs boson is. I've read some of the material intended to justify the SSC. At the very end, some of it wasn't too bad, but there was nothing that really addressed what the project was about on a level accessible to bright but skeptical non-physicists. If physicists are asking for 10 or 15 billion dollars to build a machine that has no practical value, at the very least they should make an extremely serious effort, with dazzling graphics, metaphors, and capable use of the English language, to justify their proposal. More than financial mismanagement, budgetary constraints, and political incompetence, I think this is the key to the failure of the SSC. CASE 6: FRUSTRATED CB-ERS
During the CB-radio craze of the 1970s, the FCC was flooded with phone calls from people trying to understand and comply with the voluminous and incomprehensible set of CB regulations. Five FCC employees worked full-time answering phones and explaining to citizens how to get their licences and install their radios to conform to the rules. Then someone decided that it might cost the government less money in the long run if the rules were rewritten so ordinary people could understand them. An attractive, well-organized booklet was prepared that spelled out in plain language all the rules and licensing procedures, and left out all the legalese that no one reads or understands anyway. After the new booklet was distributed, the phone calls dropped dramatically, and the five employees who spent all their time answering the phone now have more productive jobs.


In each of these stories, both individuals and their organizations have suffered tangible -- in some cases, huge -- losses because someone has failed to write clearly, concisely and efficiently. Notice that in each case, it wasn't the product or idea that was at fault -- just the way information was handled. The trouble may lie in pompous, bureaucratic language, poor organization, ignorance of the reader's needs, or lack of efficient procedures for handling writing tasks. Whatever the cause, the consequences could have been avoided if the writer in each case had applied just a few simple principles of informative writing. The best clues you have about what's wrong with today's business and technical writing come from your own personal experiences. So answer these questions as specifically and in as much detail as you can: WHAT MOST IRRITATES YOU ABOUT THE WRITING YOU HAVE TO READ ON THE JOB?



Is writing the bottleneck that holds you back and keeps you from having the impact and getting the results you want? Your answers to these questions should give you a clue:

Are you having trouble finishing that progress report the boss wanted yesterday? Do you just go blank every time you sit down to work on it? Are the technical papers and reports you submit for publication consistently rejected, even though you know their subject matter deserves attention? Do your internal reports always come back for rewrites, often several times? Do your written instructions often get ignored because your employees can't figure out what you wanted them to do? Are you swamped with paperwork because you need a whole hour to compose a simple onepage letter? Have you lately overheard a colleague say of your carefully thought-out memo: "I just can't figure out what he's trying to say! Why doesn't he get to the point?" Does management consistently respond coolly to your written proposals for new projects and withhold support for your ideas, even though you know your ideas are sound?

Can you think of any recent examples in your own organization where poor writing was responsible for lost work, time or money? Write one such example from your own experience below:


Many colleagues and students who come to me for help with their writing seem to want me to wave my wand over their manuscripts and make their writing instantly clear and readable, without any effort on their part. When I tell them that they have to take the time to work on changing their writing habits, they always tell me how urgent the pressures of their jobs are, and how they wish they had the time. Yet these same people have no trouble spending much more time salvaging rejected manuscripts and straightenting out the messes caused by their fuzzy writing. False economy indeed! Here's a proposition for you. How much time did you spend revising your last paper or report after the reviewers got through with it?

Would you be willing to invest that much time to avoid most of that grief on your next paper? Fine. If you spend that much time doing the exercises in this course, I guarantee that you will save at least that much time on your next writing assignment.


Inept writing costs you and your organization time, energy and money. Isn't it time you made the small investment needed to recover those losses and to get the professional recognition you deserve? Next, let's look more specifically at the rewards that await the clear, incisive writer.

"This passage has been made nonconducive to utilization for an indefinite period." - sign in Pentagon corridor

-- End of Lesson 1 -Beginning of Lesson 1 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 2

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 2

Why Bother to Write Clearly?

In this Lesson:

Coping with the information explosion The most important skill you possess Advance and be recognized -- professionally Enlist others' cooperation Calling attention to your new results Plain-language laws require it Orders that can't be misunderstood Clear writing aids clear thinking

Look around at the professionals you work with. Whose work has the largest impact on your
organization's productivity? Who have the most influence with management? Who appear to be the most successful on their way up the organizational ladder? Who have achieved a reputation for getting things done? Nine times out of ten, the ones who stand out are those who communicate their ideas clearly and forcefully, both orally and in writing. Notice, too, how often success eludes those who can't express their ideas, or who do so only in pretentious, bureaucratic prose. It's not enough to be a good scientist, engineer, businessman, or whatever you do. You have to be able to make other people understand what you're doing -- and why it's important. No matter how competent you may seem in private, your hard work will usually go unrecognized, because others will step in and communicate it more skillfully.


The fastest growing segment of the nation's economy is the information industry, that is, the production and dissemination of information. Rapidly overtaking the production of goods and services, it now represents at least half of the U. S. Gross National Product. Corporations and government agencies have grown so large and unwieldy that you can seldom transmit information by personal contact. Today, more than ever before, your business and technical writing has to be clear, concise and to-the-point. A couple of decades ago, you could get away with writing rambling memos, verbose and disorganized reports, because everything moved more slowly and people had more time. The volume of paperwork people had to go through every day wasn't so overwhelming. Today, you compete with thousands of other writers for people's attention. You can send multiple electronic documents and e-mail to many people at the speed of light, but no one will read them if it takes them more than a minute to find out what you're getting at.


When corporate executives are asked how business and engineering schools could better equip their students for the challenges of the real business world, the responses are remarkably consistent: Teach them to write better. While teaching writing courses, I often hear businessmen, managers, scientists and engineers complain that their formal educations filled their heads with specialized knowledge that they have few occasions to use, yet did little or nothing to prepare them for what they have to do every day -- write. Fair or not, communication skills are among the most highly rewarded in business, industry, and the scientific community today. If you're the one in ten who can get messages down on paper clearly and condense masses of data to one sheet of clear analysis, your future in your organization is bright indeed. You can see why when you realize that the machinery of any institution (and especially governments) runs on paper (and increasingly, electronic documents). The difference between a smoothly running machine and one that's grinding to a halt often depends on how much corporate energy is being wasted cranking out useless memos, junk e-mail, bloated, pointless reports and incomprehensible regulations. Millions of corporate and government dollars spent on research and technical achievements are wasted every year by memos and letters that get no action and by reports and papers that are ignored because they fail to inform concisely. You may not be able to single-handedly unsnarl the information jams that paralyze your organization, but you can do something about the part of it you create. And that will get you noticed!


The person who can slice through all this waste will immediately attract attention. Someone who never heard of you before will come across your incisive memos and ask, "Say, who wrote this? He's really on top of the chemical inventory problem. Let's get him in here and see if he can help us straighten out that mess in production."

By the same token, sloppy writing can hold you back, too. How often have you looked at a rambling, incoherent report and said, "What a jerk!" -- even though you never met the author. How do you feel about that person the next time you come across his name? Because your writing reaches far more people than you can personally contact, you are often judged solely on how clearly and effectively you communicate in writing. If your main point of contact with your professional world is through your writing, your professional image may well lie largely in your reports, memos and articles. To that world, your writing is you. Sooner or later, some client or manager will make a decision affecting your future based solely on something you've written.


Almost everyone needs to ask for help in the course of his or her job. How do you feel when someone asks for your help? Annoyed? Put upon? Eager to cooperate? What does it take to make you want to take the time from your busy schedule to solve someone else's problems? Getting people's interest and attention is the first step. To do that, you have to understand something about what motivates each person you deal with. You can bet that the values and rewards that motivate others are very different from the ones that motivate you. Some see money as the prime value. For others, it's power, professional standing, stimulating problems, job security, praise, or any of a dozen other rewards in endless combinations. To make someone else feel like cooperating with you, you have to deal in that person's currency, whatever it is. Suppose, for example, that you want your division manager to approve your research project's budget and assign three engineers to help you. You might guess that an effective approach would be to paint a picture of a successful project, whose results would make the division (and its manager) look good on up the administrative ladder. Such a guess assumes that your manager is strongly motivated by praise and support from his superiors. A reasonable assumption, but other values may enter the picture as well. Suppose she has an inordinate fear of budget overruns. Your approach would have to take that into account. And so forth. If you write to secure others' cooperation, you have to develop a keen sensitivity for what is important to them. Your writing has to reflect that sensitivity, which means that your own perspectives often have to take a back seat. If you write to administrators and managers, you have to realize that time is a valuable commodity. Generally, the more responsible an executive's position, the less time he has to read and digest your message. You might get a junior executive to take the time to read your detailed market analysis, but the president won't get past the first few pages before he gets distracted.

Today, you can usefully assume that important people are buried in paperwork. If you want to get -- and hold -- their attention, you have to convince them that you're telling them something that will make their job easier. Give them information that helps them make decisions. Help them deal with your item as quickly and painlessly as possible, whether it's approving your plan, endorsing your product or just sending money for your charity. The clearer your message, the easier you've made their lives. They'll remember you for that. Decisions about really important issues are usually based on written documentation, simply because the spoken word is so imprecise and transient. Even if you're a forceful and convincing speaker, you still have to write your ideas down when decision time comes around.


No scientific investigation or engineering project is complete until you report your results. No matter how significant your findings, they remain useless unless you communicate them in a way that others can understand and digest. Have you ever worked long, hard hours to develop some new idea or product, and when you finally succeeded you decided that this might be something a lot of other people in your organization might find useful? You excitedly write it up and distribute your memo announcing you new result to your colleagues. You wait for the response. Then... nothing. What happened? Didn't they read it? Why hasn't the boss stopped in to congratulate and encourage you? No one appreciates you. And so on.

It might never even occur to you that the way you wrote that memo was the problem. To understand how this can happen, put yourself in the receiver's shoes for a minute. Suppose you work in a research laboratory and you receive this memo:

This memo describes a method for time-domain convolution with certain classes of functions. Both analog and digital realizations of the method are presented. The digital realization is economical of computation time, whereas the analog method preserves certain mathematical properties....
You're not likely to read beyond the first sentence, unless this is exactly the problem you've been working on. You file it, perhaps in the circular file, or maybe under "Mathematical tools I might look at someday if I have time." To see what went wrong, let's go back to the author and ask him a pointed question or two: "Why should anyone be interested in your new result?" "Well," he answers immediately, "It's a great time saver. You can now put calculations on a computer that used to be done by hand. In a half-hour you can get answers that used to take a week. We can save thousands on data-reduction costs every week." "So who cares?" we continue to probe. "What do you mean? Lots of people care about saving money and work! Data processing is the bottleneck that keeps us from analyzing all those exploration logs. If we could find promising drilling sites more quickly, we'd have a competitive edge over everyone else....." Can you see how these words, rather than the ones he actually sent, would have commanded the attention he wanted? All he had to do was ask himself the right questions before writing his memo. Your new result may seem important and fascinating to you for many reasons that have to do with your background and the amount of research you invested in them. But you can be sure that if they're important to anyone else, it's for very different reasons. Your job, in communicating those new results, is to understand those many other points of view from which people see your result. How will a manager see them? A company customer? A computer programmer? The stockholders? Each lives in his own world, in which your result has unique implications. By linking your message with your readers' experiences and needs, you tune your message to your intended audience. Then the message gets through.


The national concern for clear, concise and easy-to-understand public documents places a new burden on business and technical writers. Your company or agency may actually be held accountable for damages that result from sloppy and foggy writing.

In 1978, President Carter issued an Executive Order called "Improving Government Regulations." This order directed government agencies to make sure that their regulations were worded in plain English, as simply and clearly as possible. This order placed responsibility squarely on each agency head to "determine that regulations are written in plain English and are understandable by those who must comply with them." Unfortunately, this Executive Order was revoked by President Reagan, but the Federal Communications Commission had taken it seriously and began revising the part of its regulations that apply to amateur radio. Here is a section of the old rules that defines the purpose of the amateur service:

The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles: (a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service particularly with respect to providing emergency communications. (b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art. (c) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians and electronics experts. (d) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international good will.
Now, here's the proposed rewrite:

The Amateur Radio Service is for persons interested in the technical side of radio communications. They use the service only for their own personal satisfaction and get no financial benefit from its use. They learn about radio, communicate with other radio operators around the world, and find better ways to communicate by radio.
We can only hope that all government regulations will someday be so simplified.

Following suit, twenty-two states have passed laws that require consumer documents to be written in plain language. The Employee Income Retirement Security Act now demands that the pension plans it covers be written in easily understandable language. Several years ago, a Pittsburgh man filed a lawsuit that claimed he couldn't understand the credit agreement his local bank sent him. The case eventually got to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, which decided that the language was indeed incomprehensible. The bank had to pay the damages. In another case, a large railroad was charged with discrimination for writing training manuals that most of its employees couldn't understand. If your job requires you to write regulations for the government or a large corporation, it's not just a nice idea that they be understandable by those who have to comply with them -- it's the law!


How many times have you given an order or just asked a favor of someone, and what got done had nothing to do with what you wanted? Such experiences are so common that large organizations have very formalized procedures for writing orders down and most have strict policies against giving and accepting verbal orders. But even written orders get misunderstood -- occasionally at great expense. The surest way to avoid misunderstanding is to tell your audience exactly what you expect them to do, in your first paragraph. Also be sure you tell them when you want it done, and what feedback you want, to confirm that the instructions were understood, and that the job has been done. Here's a memo from the government's General Services Administration that ignored all these principles of clear orders:

To: All drivers of Interagency Motor Pool System (IMPS) Vehicles The General Services Administration (GSA) has a growing nationwide problem related to the number of reported lost or stolen U.S. Government National Credit Cards, Standard Form 149, which are furnished with motor vehicles assigned or dispatched from our Interagency Motor Pool System (IMPS). The most recent report from the credit card contractor shows that over 70 percent of the lost/stolen cards are those assigned to IMPS vehicles. In some instances, cards issued for the same vehicle have been reported lost/stolen two or

three times. This clearly demonstrates the failure of some drivers to realize the importance of safeguarding the credit card. This card, like any commercial credit card, provides easy access to goods and services, and we, the Federal agencies, are fully responsible for all charges when the lost/stolen card is fraudulently used. In addition to the possibility of fraudulent use, the added administrative costs in obtaining a replacement IMPS credit card are growing and are currently calculated to be at least $35 for each card. If the overall situation does not improve, GSA-IMPS will be forced to take administrative action by instituting a $35 charge against the user agency for every IMPS credit card that is reported lost or stolen. We are hopeful that with your assistance this problem can be significantly reduced or eliminated. If you have any questions on proper use or control of the credit card, please call.......
First of all, this memo is much to long for what it has to say. Many readers will simply store it in the round file, because they don't know what specific action to take. Although the problem is clearly (if somewhat laboriously) stated, the memo never really specifies a solution. The message here is worth no more than two clear sentences, for example:

To: Drivers of Government Vehicles Subject: Care of Credit Cards So many government credit cards have been lost or stolen lately that it's costing us a bundle to replace them. Please care for these credit cards as you would your own, so that we don't have to start charging your agency the $35 replacement cost.
This memo is much more likely to get the desired result.

Here's an old example of foggy government orders. During World War II, a Washington bureaucrat drafted these air-raid instructions:

Such preparations shall be made as will completely obscure all Federal buildings and non-Federal buildings occupied by the Federal Government during an air raid for any period of time from visibility by reason of internal or external illumination. Such obscuration may be obtained either by blackout contruction or by termination of the illumintaion.
President Roosevelt saw the draft and ordered a rewrite:

Tell them that in buildings where they have to keep the work going to put something over the windows; and in buildings where they can let the work stop for a while, turn out the lights.
So the point here is that your orders and instructions are much more likely to be understood and carried out if you write them simply and plainly, just as you would say them orally.


How often have you sat down to write a report, and half-way through it you realize that you don't understand the subject as well as you thought? You find that you really have nothing to say, or worse, you find yourself making up information to cover up your ignorance. Writing has a way of pinning your knowledge down, uncovering gaps in your understanding. If you tell yourself that you're no good at writing, you're probably really saying that your thinking processes are fuzzy. Or how often have you written a really good report that required a lot of research, and afterwards felt that you understood the subject much more clearly than ever before? When the boss questions you about it, you have all the facts and insights at your command, and people start coming to you as the recognized authority of the subject. These two examples are designed to remind you of the close connection between clear writing and clear thinking. Everyone has experienced the clarifying effects of getting something down on paper. The reason is simple. When you view something through several senses, you gain new perspectives from each one. Writing uses vision, touch and, if you read it to yourself, sound. Each sense enriches the experiences surrounding a concept that may have formerly been only vaguely specified somewhere inside your head. If you're finding that your thinking about some idea is fuzzy and ill-defined, try jotting your ideas down, in whatever form and order comes to mind. Look them over. Read them out loud. Write them out in different ways. Talk them over with friends and coworkers. You'll soon find that your thinking more clearly about them, too.


The rewards to the clear, incisive writer are many and substantial. You get the attention of your peers, your subordinates, and your supervisors. That adds up to professional recognition and greater job satisfaction. Next, we'll examine some reasons why you may not be writing this way automatically. "In science, the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs." - Sir William Osler

-- End of Lesson 2 -Beginning of Lesson 2 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 3

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 3

How to Overcome Writing Handicaps

In this Lesson:

Your biggest handicap of all: deciding to write Why writing seems like hard work for most of us Myth 1: Clear writing requires inborn talent Myth 2: That's the way they taught me in school Myth 3: That's the way we do it around here Myth 4: Form is more important than content Myth 5: Complex subject matter demands complex language Myth 6: Good, clear writing eventually comes effortlessly Some myths you might be telling yourself

This lesson calls attention to some harmful attitudes and conditioning that can handicap you from the
start and keep your scientific and technical writing from being as effective as it could be. Some of these

attitudes come from how you were taught to write in school. Others come from bad habits you picked up on the job. You'll have a hard time changing any of your writing habits until you free yourself of some of these writing hangups. At this point, you may be saying, "Let's get to the meat and stop belaboring these philosophical preliminaries!" If you feel that examining the reasons behind your writing problems is wasting your time, you can always skip ahead to the part that looks most interesting to you. But I urge you to be patient. You'll make much better use of the tools I'll give you later if you first get rid of these barriers that can keep you from even learning about clear writing.


Writing is a terrible way to communicate. Why? Because the most important element of any communication is usually absent from all written communications. Can you guess what that missing element is? Of course -- it's FEEDBACK. When you're in a face-to-face conversation, you can watch the other person's facial expressions and body postures and listen to the responses you get. You can immediately tell whether your message is "getting through." If you see or hear something that tells you you're not having the impact you wanted, you can immediately change your message, add information or try something else. Even when visual information is missing, as in a phone conversation, auditory cues, both words and tone of voice, give you enough feedback to tell you whether the person on the other end understands or needs more information. In spite of its inefficiency, almost everyone in science and technology today has to communicate in writing to some extent. Writing is justified, of course, when you have to reach a large audience quickly and can't make personal contact with each one. You also need to write when the information you have is complicated and takes a lot of thought and concentration to understand, and if you want your audience to keep the information for future reference.

Is this document really necessary?

As you might guess from the volume of paper (and E-mail) addressed to you each day, we could all get along just fine without a lot of it. Much writing is simply a waste of time and resources (sender's and receiver's). Before you decide to write anything, ask yourself first whether you're handicapping yourself by eliminating the feedback you could get by communicating in person. Then ask yourself if you're placing any undue burdens on others by adding to the volume of paper (and electronic documents) they have to process. In other words, ask: Is this document really necessary?

So, even though writing is a terrible way to communicate, there seem to be times when nothing else will do. But when you do choose to write, recognize that you're depriving yourself of valuable feedback. The question is: what can you do to compensate for that missing feedback? You have several choices. One is to proceed without feedback. That, unfortunately, is most people's choice and leads to all the misunderstanding that written messages cause. Another choice is to make up feedback. Depending on how good you are at putting yourself in someone else's shoes, and imagining the responses you'll get, this can work pretty well. It can also backfire, if you anticipate incorrectly (or wishfully).

A third choice is to actually solicit feedback in advance from your audience, or at least a reasonable sample of it. As we go along, I'll give you more information about how to anticipate your readers' responses and how to get some real feedback while you write.

Questions about your writing attitudes

requires inborn talent?

WHY WRITING SEEMS LIKE HARD WORK FOR MOST OF 1. Do you believe that clear writing US
If you find your scientific and engineering writing assignments difficult, even painful, it's probably because you're trying to do something you were never trained to do. While you were preparing for your present career, you probably never realized how important writing would be in your day-to-day job. If you're a scientist or engineer, you may have imagined your time being spent designing spacecraft or discovering cures for cancer. Whatever your dreams, no one ever told you how much of your time and energy would be taken up with various kinds of writing. 2. Can clear, effective writing be taught? 3. Is technical writing more like an art or a science? 4. Is it necessary to get "inspired" before you can get started on a writing assignment?

5. Do you think there are objective For most of you, your formal education didn't help much, either. Maybe you had to write lab reports, but no one really explained how ways to measure your writing's effectiveness? to do it. So the strategies you use to get through your daily writing assignments are based on a lot of myths and misinformation you picked up along the way. What you need now is a way to erase those inefficient writing habits and to replace them with new skills that will get you through your writing tasks quickly and efficiently. And more important, you need specific tools that will give your writing power. Take a look at the questions in the box at the right. Think about these or any other beliefs and attitudes you harbor about writing. Prepare to question and reject any that might be holding you back. This course is based on five premises: (1) inborn talent is not required, (2) techniques for clear, effective writing can be taught, (3) you can more usefully view technical writing as a science, (4) it is not necessary to "get inspired", and (5) there are objective ways to measure your writing's effectiveness. Let's look closely at six common myths that can get in your way and make writing harder for you than it has to be:


A lot of people still believe you can't teach another person how to write clearly and effectively. In other words, if "the gift" isn't there in your genes, forget it. If you've been frustrated by previous efforts to improve your own writing, or by efforts to get others to improve their writing, you may think that it's possible to teach only the rules and mechanics, so that whether you're great or just mediocre still depends on innate, intangible "talent"

Do you have to get inspired?

Is clear writing really a mysterious creative talent like the ability to compose music or cook a gourmet meal? This course is based on the premise that talent is just a word we use to describe an ability to perform a complex task whose detailed workings we don't yet understand. Because many talents appear to employ subconscious resources, they seem to operate in mysterious ways. But the mystery disappears when the steps are set forth and the procedures for making them automatic are defined. The history of science is full of examples of black arts that have been transformed into more-or-less exact sciences. Physics and chemistry evolved from the mysticism of astrology and alchemy. The transformation of medicine and the social sciences is as yet incomplete. Things that we still call arts, like "creative" writing, are practiced by imitation and by trial and error, and artists have to wait for the right "inspiration" before they can get started.

A first cousin to the "talent" myth is the "inspiration" myth. Many people think they can't get started on a writing task until they feel inspired. So they wait around and seek diversions until that "spark" arrives. Waiting for inspiration is OK for poets, but if you're trying to get a job done, it's just plain wasting time. This course replaces inspiration with specific procedures, so that you never have any doubt about what has to be done next.

Because the detailed process that a good expository writer goes through in organizing and communicating his thoughts has not yet been precisely defined, technical writing, as it is now practiced, must still be regarded as part art and part science. In this course, we'll treat the task more like a science by reducing it to a sequence of well-defined and teachable operations and by adopting objective tests for measuring how well you're doing. But before you can automatically write clearly, you'll still have to practice a lot -- as with any "talent". But I hope that the specific principles I'll give you here will make that task more systematic and purposeful and will help you treat the process more scientifically and less like an art form.


Answer these questions about what you learned about writing in school: 1. When Miss Fernpot gave you a test asking you everything you knew about the Spanish Inquisition, was it best to write an essay with 50 words? 100 words? 250 words? 1000 words? 2. Are ambiguity and suspense useful things to incorporate in your writing? 3. Did you ever really understand what a dangling participle is? 4. Did you ever figure out how to diagram sentences? 5. Suppose you have to write an essay for English class and have to choose between using words in the left or right columns in this table. Which column will get you the better grade? 6. Which of these aspects of your writing do you think most influenced your final grade in English Composition?

Which of these words would you use?

study do air carry out best use show start now help try find out investigate perform atmosphere implement optimum utilize indicate initiate currently facilitate endeavor ascertain

SPELLING GRAMMAR PUNCTUATION GRAMMATICAL USAGE "STYLE" READABILITY CLARITY VOCABULARY LOGICAL REASONING ORGANIZATION Can you see the inverse relation between the qualities that are easiest to grade and the skills you need today to communicate scientific and technological concepts clearly?


Most of the writing you were exposed to were literary Novel/Drama classics -- novels, drama and poetry -- entirely different kinds of writing from what you need in narration, today's scientific and technologcal communities. To tell a story see how different they all are, look at this table, which has been adapted from Analytical Writing by Thomas P. Johnson.

The Purposes of Three Kinds of Writing

Poetry insight, personal view Exposition inform, persuade

Notice that each of the three different kinds of writing has a different purpose. In a novel or drama, the purpose is narration; you're telling a story. In poetry, the purpose is quite different. The poet is not usually as interested in telling a story as in providing a kind of insight or personal perspective on some event. Poetry is usually so vague and subjective that each reader gets something different from it. Each interpretation is shaped by each reader's own experience. interprets a written passage in exactly the same way. In fact, as in the visual arts, ambiguity often enhances the artist's message. But in science and technology, it's a people: their ideas & things & lives and problems feelings developments disaster if everyone interprets what you're saying differently. So one good test of effective technical writing is: Will everyone who reads this message interpret it in exactly the same way? Novel/Drama Poetry Exposition This table lists the subject of each kind of writing you learned about. In the novel or drama, the subject is usually people and what they do with their lives. Otherwise, it's not very interesting. In poetry, the subject matter is usually a little more abstract -- universal ideas or feelings. Things that are subjective

The Subjects of Three Kinds of Writing In fiction, it doesn't matter very much whether every reader

and have different meanings for each reader. The subject of exposition is things or developments, and most often, things. What, then, is the character that results from the different purpose and subject matter of these different kinds of writing? A novel or drama is often suspenseful. The writer hopes that by withholding information he will make you hang in there until the end. So suspense is just a trick to hold your attention. Novel/Drama suspenseful, withholds information Poetry allusive, indirect, ambiguous, metaphorical

The Character of Three Kinds of Writing

Exposition direct, objective, specific

The character of poetry is allusive, or indirect. It's ambiguous and never gets directly to the point. It skirts around the point and gives you insight about a feeling or an abstract idea, but it never faces the point directly. In exposition, the character is objective, just the opposite of poetry. As you might expect, the structure of these three kinds of writing is entirely different, too. A novel "climbs up" from a beginning to an end, so you don't really get to the main point, or "punch line," until the end. When you go to a play, you don't leave before the end -- unless it's really boring -- because you'll miss the most important part. The same for a novel, especially a whodunnit.

The Structure of Three Kinds of Writing

Novel/Drama Poetry Exposition

In poetry, the structure circles around the main point and never faces it directly. It's not supposed to -- the purpose is to provide insight by comparing the author's subjective account of something with your own feelings about it. So what is the right structure for exposition? Contrary to what you may have learned in school, I will argue that the best structure is represented by a pyramid, in which the main point is supported by a base of amplifying details. In other words, you get to the point right away and then give the details. Can you see how much trouble you can get into if you apply what you learned about classical English composition to the task of writing a technical memo or report? Who will read your memos if you create suspense by saving your "punch line" until the end? What kind of impact will your technical papers have if you skirt around the main point and never face it directly? Or if you keep your reader in doubt by making your language deliberately vague and ambiguous?

Are you still writing for your English teacher?

When Miss Fernpot told everyone to write a thousand-word essay on everything you knew about the Spanish Inquisition, didn't you really feel that fifty words would have done the job? You were probably right, but that wasn't the proper attitude if you wanted an A. That's where you learned verbosity -the art of padding your writing to create the impression that you knew what you were talking about. There were no lessons on how to get an idea across as plainly and concisely as possible. Instead, you learned to write as though you were paid by the word. If you learned to use long words, verbose essays, suspense, and ambiguity to get an A in English, you've been conditioned to produce writing that conforms instead of informing. If spelling, punctuation and grammar were the "important" things in school, you missed the essential elements of informing clearly and logically.

Such devices are the useful tools of playwrights, novelists and poets, but have no place in today's science and technology. Another difference between the writing you did in school and the writing you do today is that in school you generally worked alone, in forced isolation from others. You wrote your composition, submitted it to the instructor and waited for your grade. That kind of isolation from your audience can be deadly in science and technology. You have to work with others, to find out in advance what they expect, and to learn how to tune your writing to their needs. No one taught you in school how to get the feedback you need in your writing today. Probably the most damage to your writing skills during your education was inflicted by those who taught you about the structure of the English language. Most grammar courses have left us with such a terror of rigid rules about dangling participles, split infinitives and sentence diagramming, that any mention of grammatical terminology immediately strikes fear into most of our hearts. (This, by the way, is a good reason to avoid books and courses put together by anyone who has ever had anything to do with teaching English.) Later on, I'll show you how to make grammar work for you, not against you, and how to fearlessly throw around subordinate clauses with the best of them. For now, my point is that most of your formal training about writing may be useless and even counterproductive, so don't be surprised if I give you new information that contradicts everything you learned in school. "I like the exact word, the clarity of statement, and here and there a touch of good grammar for picturesqueness." - Mark Twain Beginning of Lesson 3 || Contents || Continue with Lesson 3 Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 3

How to Overcome Writing Handicaps -- continued -MYTH NO. 3: THAT'S THE WAY WE DO IT AROUND HERE
Early in your career, you further formed your writing habits by copying the practices of your professional colleagues, by trial-and-error, and by adapting to the regulations, policies and practices of the institutions you've worked for. Unfortunately, that tended more to make your writing conform to some norm than to make it more effective. You learned to begin a letter like this:

Enclosed herewith please find the photographs per your request of 17 June....
instead of in plain English:

Here are the photographs you asked for....

What is your reaction to these two versions of the same message?

How would you say it?

What about this longer passage in "standard" format for the beginning of a report?

The purpose of this report on procedures for analyzing the statistical properties of certain population samples is to outline methods for analyzing the data and to show by examples how these techniques might be applied to situations commonly met in demographic analysis.
Look familiar? Do you see anything wrong with this way of beginning a report? What questions does it raise?

If this opening paragraph seems OK to you, you've been conditioned by "the system" to accept writing that conforms but contains little useful information. What's missing here are the specifics that let the reader know whether the rest of this report will be useful to him or whether he would be wasting his time reading it. This kind of stilted, institutionalized writing has become an accepted standard in large organizations, governments and publications, who resist change because "That's the way we've always done it here."

Some questions about the way things are done in your organization
By asking you these questions, I'm not encouraging rebellion. I just want you to think about the subtle influences your working environment has on your writing. 1. Have you ever questioned any of your organization's policies or rules about the way things should be written, because they don't make any sense to you? If so, write down some of those policies here:

2. Do you automatically write your memos, papers or reports in the same format and using the same style as those that have gone before you?

3. Do you take it for granted that those formats and styles are the best ones for the job?

4. What happens in your organization when someone tries to deviate from established procedures?

5. Does your organization have (at least unwritten) rules against being personal in company writing -for example, using "I" -- so that it's hard to find out who's responsible?

Most organizational policies just limit your flexibility and give you fewer options than someone with a full range of choices. A good example of an institutional taboo is the widespread rule against using "I" in formal publications and even in some internal memos. Such rules not only lead to convoluted writing but also make it hard to find out who is actually responsible for the views being expressed.

Does writing have to be formal to be informative?

A related myth is that writing has to be formal to be informative. In large organizations and especially in the government, written communications are formalized for uniformity and to create the image of a smoothly running and impersonal machine. Unfortunately, it is so easy for people to hide behind formal procedures that form often takes precedence over substance, false modesty and false courtesy rank above informing efficiently, and bureaucratic jargon overrules common sense. In its advanced stages, this crippling disease is responsible for gems like this:

The purpose of this Administrative Order is to prevent reoccurrences of recent incidents in which damage to computer equipment was sustained as a result of spilled beverages. Therefore, effective immediately, it shall be laboratory policy to prohibit the presence or consumption of any food or beverages in the computing facility.
Is it clear how the formal tone of this memo wastes time and inhibits understanding, when what the sender obviously meant was:

Don't bring food or drinks into the computer room any more -- they can damage the machines.
False modesty, false courtesy and the need for business and technical writing to remain impersonal and "objective" are institutional inventions designed to let people avoid taking a stand or saying anything controversial. Unfortunately, they also keep people from being understood. Don't blindly accept any local customs, policies or rules about business or technical writing, including the ones in this course, if they simply violate common sense, or if they result in writing that obscures instead of clarifying.


Because most of our formal training in English emphasized grammar, spelling, punctuation and "style," it is easy to believe that these are the important things to know about writing. Actually, these are just the "rules of the game". You can't play the game unless you know the rules, but knowing the rules in no way guarantees that you play well. What's the difference between knowing all the rules of football and being a great quarterback?

Writing for the Web -- Form or Substance?

The World Wide Web is the publishing medium of the future. Unfortunately, it's easy to fall into the media trap of substituting glitzy graphics for substantial information content. All of the principles given You'll be happy to know that I'm not going to spend a lot of time on in this course apply to web those rules here; that's beyond the scope and intent of this course. publishing in spades. Web surfers If you do decide you need to brush up on your basic English, I want have shorter attention spans than a to recommend an excellent and enjoyable way to do so. Get a copy CEO and are impatient with information that fails to get to the of Practically Painless English by Sally Wallace (a Prentice-Hall paperback, 1980). Would you believe that learning grammar can be point or is not efficiently organized. fun? Buy this book and find out. Hypertext provides a new, efficient way to stick to the point while For now, it won't hurt if you go with what you have, even if English making the details available to those is not your native tongue. Many of the organizations you work for who want them. have a staff of editors who will go over your writing for you and fix up your spelling, grammar and elementary construction errors. So you don't really need to worry very much about grammar, because that's something someone else can fix for you. Don't get me wrong. Ungrammatical writing and spelling errors can make you look like a jerk, if you let it get out. So if that's a weak area for you, you'll have to fix it up sooner or later. In the meantime, if you can get someone to proofread you copy for grammatical and spelling blunders, you can focus your attention on those things that only you can do. The kinds of things we will concentrate on here are the things you have to do yourself -- making a point unambiguously, presenting ideas clearly and logically, astutely handling details, and sorting the essential from the irrelevant. No one else can read your memo and rearrange it so it

seems more coherent or decide which details are important and which are not; you have to do that yourself.


How often have you been snowed by technical gibberish from supposedly competent people, and then assumed that there must be something wrong with you because you didn't understand it, and because the one who said it is obviously very intelligent? Many of us are so intimidated by the language of science and technology that we think we can't possibly understand their seemingly complex ideas. Then popularizers like Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan come along and show us that complex ideas can in fact be expressed in clear and understandable language without leaving out anything essential. Why, then, is most of the literature of science and technology cluttered with articles that can be understood only by a few specialists? Probably because most technical writers make no effort to be understood outside of their specialty. Some worry excessively about oversimplifying, whereas others even feel the need to deliberately make their craft appear difficult and complex. Many of us can talk and write coherently as long as we think we are in a conversational mode. But what happens to us when we have to write professionally? Something inside shifts gears and turns ordinary language into gibberish. There are many examples that show how highly respected scientists and technologists use simple, down-to-earth language to express technical concepts that might otherwise seem incomprehensible. By imitating their style, you can make your reports and papers more informative, no matter how complex their subject matter. Here's a passage written more than a hundred years ago by the scientist Thomas Henry Huxley:

All sorts of limestones are composed of more or less pure carbonate of lime. The crust which is often deposited by waters which have drained through limestone rocks, in the form of what are called stalactites and stalacmites, is carbonate of lime. Or, to take the more familiar example, the fur on the inside of a tea-kettle is carbonate of lime; and for anything that chemistry might tell us to the contrary, the chalk might be a kind of gigantic fur upon the bottom of the earth-kettle, which is kept pretty hot below. Let us try another method of making the chalk tell us its own history. To the unassisted eye chalk looks simply like a vey loose and open kind of stone. But it is possible to grind a slice of chalk

down so thin that you can see through it -- until it is thin enough, in fact, to be examined with any magnifying power that might be thought desirable. A thin slice of the fur of a kettle might be made in the same way. If it were examined microscopically, it would show itself to be a more or less dictinctly laminated mineral substance, and nothing more. Clear writing requires No matter how complex your message, you can always benefit clear by making it understandable to the widest possible audience. thinking.
This example shows how to use familiar imagery to make the reader comfortable with complex ideas that would otherwise be hard to visualize. If you can't explain your work at a cocktail party, you don't know what you're doing. Clear writing means more than paying attention to some arbitrary rules. Poor writing demonstrates sloppy thinking. You can't write clearly unless you can think clearly. MYTH NO. 6: GOOD, CLEAR WRITING EVENTUALLY This course can't teach you clear COMES EFFORTLESSLY thinking, but if you'd like to learn more about clear, logical thinking in Many writers feel that they've done something wrong if their drafts science and technology, try these need repeated editing. They think that, with practice, they should be books: able to turn out finished drafts the first time around. Weinberg, G. M., An Introduction to Unless you write constantly, like a newspaper reporter or a novelist, General Systems Thinking, John that isn't likely to happen. Good writing will always demand Wiley and Sons, New York, 1975. clear, organized thinking and plain hard work. You'll always write and rewrite, revise and shuffle ideas and words. Sagan, Carl, The Demon-Haunted World, Random House, 1996. Clear writing, like a fine sculpture, grows and evolves out of the crude raw materials you first put down on paper. The difference you I hope you'll find, as most do, that can expect after taking this course and doing the exercises is that there's a two-way connection your revisions and shuffling will become more systematic and between clear thinking and clear purposeful, guided not by what feels right, but by the specific writing. As you exercise more principles you will learn in the following lessons. Another difference precision and care in your writing, you can expect is that you will no longer feel discouraged or your thinking will get clearer as overwhelmed by writing tasks. Instead, you'll be able to summon well. systematic, step-by-step procedures for getting the job done. It's easy to underestimate the time and effort required to report results of your projects. When you plan your projects, how often do you allow enough time and resources to do a decent job reporting the project's results? Do you treat the writing parts of your project as afterthoughts, neglecting to give them the amount of attention that their visibility deserves? An old saying is relevant here: There's never enough time to do a job right but always time to do it over.

Another myth is perpetuated by books, articles and courses designed to teach you quickly how to write better. You often hear about simple mechanical rules for helping you improve your writing without having to think much about what you're doing. It's easy to be misled by devices like "Keep your sentences short," and "Don't use long words," and to substitute them for thinking. Quick fixes seduce the TV generation that is used to seeing the most complex problems solved in an hour. At the other end of the spectrum are those who insist there is no quick fix, no royal road to good writing, and that there is no substitute for a lifetime of disciplined learning and practice. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between. There are indeed some simple strategies that you can learn from those who write well. They can improve your writing a lot with just a little practice. I've tried to collect some of those strategies here.


So far we have examined myths that you have been exposed to during your education and career. Now let's face some internal messages you may tell yourself when you sit down to begin a writing task. Perhaps your immediate reaction is fear or even the panic that some people call a writing "block". Or else you suddenly become very creative in finding ways to avoid the task. The best way to expose the myths you tell yourself is to examine as specifically as you can the feelings you get when you first become aware that there is a writing task to be undertaken. To help you understand these feelings better, find something you have written lately and ask yourself the following questions. Make a check before each one that may apply to you: Do you obscure what you really want to say because you are afraid to be honest and straightforward or to express your own opinion? Do you avoid analyzing and interpreting in your writing because that would mean making "inappropriate" value judgments? Are you afraid to make specific statements or recommendations for fear of "imposing on others" or conflicting with the views of others, especially superiors? Is using technical jargon, officialese or verbosity your way of conforming to "the system" and insulating yourself from other people? Do you hedge and qualify everything you write for fear of "making mistakes in print"? Does being overly conscious of all the possible criticisms that could be leveled against you keep you from "committing yourself in writing" or from writing the way you speak? Are you impatient with people who don't immediately understand when you try to explain your work to them? Do you often feel like injecting large doses of your personal philosophy in writing that calls for "just the facts"?

Do you need to impress others with the difficulty and importance of your job by describing your work in terms intelligible only to yourself? If any of these questions strikes a nerve, that may be where you need to examine your feelings and beliefs more carefully.


In this lesson, I've focused on some harmful attitudes and hangups that can make your writing harder than it has to be -- myths that come from your early training in writing (and lack thereof) as well as from the environment you work in. I'm not trying to discourage you, but rather to pinpoint the specific reasons you may be having difficulty communicating in writing. Equipped with this knowledge, you will find it easier to overcome and change these limitations. The rest of this course will show you how to make those changes. I'll begin in the next lesson by outlining an overall strategy for approaching your writing in a systematic and purposeful way. These proven methods have been borrowed from the structure of scientific investigations. "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so." -Will Rogers

-- End of Lesson 3 -Beginning of Lesson 3 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 4

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 4

How to Kick Bad Writing Habits -- Painlessly

In this Lesson:

You've got to get involved Writing to inform -- an art or a science? Break down a complex task into simple steps Use systematic methods to get the job done Measure your success with objective tests Some practice expressing yourself in writing A new point of view -- your reader's Your mission, should you decide to accept it... Set some goals and stick to them

Let's face it -- you've been writing the way you do for a long time, and you're not likely to change those
habits unless (1) you can see a good reason to do so and (2) you can see some immediate payoff that makes your effort seem worthwhile. Fair enough. I hope that the preceding lessons, along with the experiences that led you to take this course, have convinced you that there are many good reasons to learn clear and effective writing -reasons that benefit both your organization and you personally. As for the amount of work you have to do, I assume that you're willing to put some work into changing those bad writing habits, as long as you can see that it's doing some good.


The old cliche about getting out of any effort exactly what you put into it applies to this course, too. I assume that you're taking this course because you've decided you want to change your writing habits. You're not going to do that by passively reading the lessons. Imagine building a muscular body by watching accomplished weightlifters every day. Or learning how to play the piano by going to a lot of concerts. You have to learn by doing.

That's why this course is full of exercises for you to do as you read along. I call them exercises, rather than problems, tests or games, because their purpose is to exercise skills you have recently acquired. Behavior changes only as a result of repeated and active effort, coupled with a consistent reward system. I have built into the exercises in this course both the structure for practicing new writing patterns and the reward system that is so important for reinforcing them. But the effort has to come from you. It can't work any other way. If you do these exercises, you'll get the immediate feedback that shows you how well you're doing. Then you'll be well on your way to changing your writing habits. I know the temptation is great to simply read through the text and pass over the exercises. If you do that, any skills you learn will fade very quickly, and I guarantee that the time you spend taking this course will mostly be wasted. So, as you study these lessons, set aside enough undisturbed time, not only to read a lesson or so, but to do all the exercises you encounter. I promise you that I have made them as painless and enjoyable as possible.


Robert Gunning began his famous book The Technique of Clear Writing with the following statement: "Writing is an art. But when it is writing to inform it comes close to being a science as well." What does that mean, anyway? And what's the difference whether you call writing an art or a science? The distinction is not just a philosophical one. It has to do with whether you can actually hope to change your writing habits, or whether you're stuck with the amount of writing "talent" you were born with. If you try to learn painting, sculpting, gourmet cooking, "creative" writing, or anything that we're used to calling an art, you'll find that you can get only so far by learning specific rules and techniques. Your teachers will tell you that your success depends mostly on practice and inborn ability. In other words, they're leaving out the specific details about how to do it. You have to study how others do it and try to imitate their "style". A science, on the other hand, is built on precise models for how things work. If the models work, they survive. If the don't, they're modified or discarded. But no science says simply, "This is the truth." Its models are always subject to question and endless testing in the real world. If you believe that learning how to write clearly and informatively is an art, you can only hope to imitate those who write well. You may or may not accomplish that goal, because no one has had to write before exactly what you need to write now. Copying others' writing may get you no farther than an artist who copies the Mona Lisa. If, on the other hand, you think of writing to inform as a science, you can hope to learn exactly what the ingredients and skills of informative and effective writing are. Foremost among these are:

Breaking down a huge, overwhelming writing project into small, manageable tasks. Defining specific procedures for getting the job done. Measuring how well you're doing with objective tests.

An artist can do none of these things. He is trapped in the world of trial-and-error.

Of course, the exact science of effective writing has not yet been precisely spelled out. No one knows for sure what the specific ingredients of the most successful writing are. That's probably why Gunning said that writing is still an art. But most sciences were arts before they became sciences. Mysticism and magic consistently give way to systematic and precise models. The same process is needed to convert the art of business and technical writing into a science. So, before I can get anywhere in teaching you how to write, I have to break down the teaching process into elementary, understandable steps and present the material in specific, concrete terms you can immediately apply and test for yourself. That's what this course is all about. There are no rules in this course -- only models for you to test to see if they work for you. See if they produce the results you want better than what you're using now. You'll find that some will work better than others. Keep the former and modify or discard the latter.

Have you ever been curious (and brave) enough to open up a fine watch and look inside to see how it works? Most of us have been overwhelmed by the intricate array of tiny gears, springs and ratchets that somehow all work together to tell us what time it is. Or have you ever taken the back off a television set to see the maze of wires and electronic components that are all hooked together in just the right way to display the pictures and sounds we all take for granted? Viewed as a whole, these devices at first glance seem incomprehensible. But if you begin to break them down into smaller and smaller pieces, you eventually reach a level you can easily understand. Everyone can, after a few minutes of explanation, grasp the purpose of a coiled spring or an electrical resistor. Once you understand the principles behind many such small parts, you can advance to learning how they function in combinations. Eventually, you can develop, in building-block fashion, an understanding of large, integrated systems. This is how most scientific learning proceeds: break down difficult concepts into simple, manageable pieces. If we decide to approach our writing tasks in this same way, a large, overwhelming task like writing this course just becomes an assembly of lessons, which in turn are made up only of paragraphs, sentences and words. Each module serves its own well defined function, which is defined in advance. The easiest way to break down a complex writing task is to begin with an outline. I'll show you a generic outline that's not only designed to inform your reader more effectively, but is also easier to use than the traditional one. In the rest of this course, you will spend a lot of time dealing with the smaller, more manageable pieces of your document -- words, sentences, paragraphs and sections. These are the building blocks of all effective business and technical writing. If your building blocks are made of Jello, no amount of attention to the larger-scale architecture can make your paper or report a coherent unit. But if your building blocks are sound, you stand a pretty good chance of putting together a sound structure. The problem of

organization is then one of designing a logical structure for these modules. The mortar is made from connective words and phrases and from the logical thread you establish through your ideas.


As you sit down to face a writing task, you have the choice of beginning in some haphazard way -perhaps just jotting down random thoughts as they occur to you -- or following a specific and detailed plan. You know how important planning is in other areas of your work. You wouldn't dream of setting up an aircraft assembly line by merely gathering together all the materials and a labor force at the same place and the same time. Nor would you begin a scientific expedition by loading every instrument in sight onto trucks and sending them in random directions. Why, then, would you approach a complex writing task without a specific plan and a step-by-step set of instructions? The answer is probably that specific procedures have been set down for just about every important task you do -- except writing. I'm not talking about the formal instructions you're all too familiar with if you work for the government or a large corporation. I mean ways to make sure your writing says what you want it to say -- no more, no less. To help you get started on your writing assignments, I've made up sets of questions for you to answer. You'll select the set that corresponds to your particular writing job -- from proposal, research report, instruction manual and feasibility study, to journal article and even everyday correspondence. By answering these questions precisely and completely, you will automatically set up the structure of your piece of writing, and you'll even create some key sentences while you're at it. I'll also give you step-by-step procedures for writing informative paragraphs, for tying you ideas together and for writing sentences that inform. As you finish each step, you'll always know what to do next.


The third part of our scientific approach to writing is to make sure you know when you're done. You'll learn to use several objective tests you can apply to your writing. One kind of test tells you whether your writing is tuned to the particular readers you have in mind, and whether it contains all the information your readers expect to find. The other kind checks how clear and readable it is, and makes sure you've trimmed off useless fat.


Most people begin their writing assignments by asking "What do I want to say?" That question leads naturally to other questions like: "What am I most interested in?", "What did I work the hardest on?", "How can I impress people with the importance of my work?" and "How am I going to tell the story of what I did?" How would your writing be different if you switched your point of view to that of your reader? What questions is he asking as he picks up your report or paper? First of all, he's probably asking, "Why should I read this?" Then he might ask, "What have you done that I can use in my work or that's going to save me time, work or money?" After he finishes, he probably asks, "So what?" Can you see how different your writing will turn out if you answer these questions, not the ones in the previous paragraph? All through your paper, your reader is asking himself questions about everything you say. If you fail to answer those questions, you're going to have a frustrated and possibly angry reader on your hands.

Practice Expressing Yourself in Writing

Here's an exercise to help you feel more comfortable with putting your feelings and thoughts down on paper. Write a letter to a close friend or relative (or even yourself) describing how your day has gone. Focus on how you feel about the day's events and about the people you interacted with. Use whatever medium (crayons, marking pens, chocolate pudding) seems like the most fun and best expresses your mood. If you like, you can tape-record it and then transcribe it verbatim.

Just let all the disconnected feelings flow out onto the paper, and forget entirely about organization, By learning how to place yourself in your reader's position and grammar, spelling, punctuation or neatness. You can even draw to ask and respond to the questions he might ask, you will pictures. It sometimes helps to make his path through your paper smooth and free of obstacles, dead ends and time-consuming detours. You'll also pretend you're five years old. Repeat this exercise at regular intervals until stand a better chance of winning him over to your point of you feel completely comfortable view. doing it. Remember this Golden Rule of all Scientific and Technical Writing: Write unto others as you would have them write unto you.


As you go through the lessons in this course, you'll be learning new writing skills, and you'll be practicing them in the exercises. But to incorporate those skills into your daily writing habits, you will have to use them repeatedly in the contexts where you actually need them. Here's how to do that: First, collect some samples of your own scientific or technical writing -- the kind your work requires you to do and the kind you want most to improve. Whenever you come to an exercise that asks you to apply what you have just learned to a sample of your own writing, take a different paragraph or two from your sample and make changes that incorporate what you have just learned.

From then on, add that particular skill to all the writing you have to do. Don't go on to the next lesson until you feel comfortable with everything you have learned up to that point. If you need to at any time, go back and review any material from previous lessons that you might not yet feel comfortable with. Here are a couple of other things for you to do right now: Accumulate and keep handy a collection of writings of others who express themselves with a clarity you particularly admire, especially in the kind of writing you have to do. Write down below a brief but precise description of exactly what appeals to you about their writing.

Could you incorporate any of it into your own writing? Before beginning your next writing assignment, read a few pages from your collection and focus on what you like about the writer's style. Try to imitate that style in your assignment. (Don't laugh -- this really works!) Finally, you will need some real tools to do some of the exercises coming up. Get four differentcolored highlighting pens (the nonpenetrating kind used for emphasizing reading material). The colors I recommend, and which seem to be readily available, are pink, yellow, green and blue.


Before we go on, I want you to think about a few things that will determine your success in using this course to change your writing habits. First, write down here exactly the kind of writing you want to improve and what things about your writing you want to change. Be as detailed and specific as you can.

Next, write down how you will know when you get the changes you want; that is, what specific feedback from those you write to will tell you that your writing is being more effective?

Finally, write down how much time you are going to spend working on the lessons in this course. Also write down your timetable for finishing the course.

I wanted you to do that so you will be able to tell whether you're getting what you want from the work you put into the lessons in this course. If, as you go along, you feel overwhelmed or are losing sight of your goal, come back here and read over what you have written. Of course, feel free to change or modify you goal at any time, if you wish.


You stand a better chance of mastering complex technical writing tasks if you approach them scientifically. That means breaking them down into elementary, well specified and manageable subtasks, defining specific and concrete procedures for performing each task, and getting feedback that tells you when you've done it right. In the following lessons, we'll get down to the nuts and bolts of writing coherently. There are four lessons that help you decide WHAT TO SAY and nine to show you HOW TO SAY IT. "If language is not used rightly, then what is said is not what is meant. If what is said is not what is meant, then that which ought to be done is left undone. If it remains undone, morals and art will be corrupted. If morals and art are corrupted, justice will go awry. And if justice goes awry, the people will stand about in helpless confusion." -- Confucius

-- End of Lesson 4 -Beginning of Lesson 4 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 5

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 5

How to Use a 'Marketing' or 'Top-Down' Approach to Your Writing

Lessons 5 through 8 help you answer the basic questions about WHAT TO SAY. This means deciding
who you're writing to and what specific job you want your writing to do. The answers to these questions determine how you organize your paper or report and how you select and arrange the details you have to present. Lesson 8 contains checklists to help you answer the most important questions about seven specific writing tasks. In this Lesson:

Why are you writing? Start by deciding what results you want

Your commitment to your readers Get a clear picture of who you're writing to What are you selling? Three wrong reasons for writing


Your first step in figuring out WHAT TO SAY is deciding what purpose you want your document to serve. In this chapter, you will learn how to begin any writing task by identifying that purpose and deciding exactly what outcome or response you want from your reader. The only practical purpose to have in mind as you write is to bring about some specific change in the mind of a specific reader or class of readers. Perhaps you want to get your proposal funded, to make some change in organizational policy, to instruct someone on how to use your latest gizmo, or just to get your point of view accepted by the scientific community. Maybe you don't think consciously in those terms. Do you usually start a writing assignment by asking yourself what do I want to say? If so, this chapter will get you started thinking instead in a new direction: what does my reader want and need to know?


Business people call this a marketing approach. They have found that the most successful products and services are the ones that are the most carefully tuned to the genuine needs of the marketplace. The impact of Japanese automobiles in the American marketplace gives you an idea how effective this strategy is. Designing efficient transportation makes more sense than selling masculinity symbols. Systems engineers call the same process another name: top-down design. The most effective and reliable hardware and software designs are built around a specific end product or user need. This is called a top-down approach because the total system can be viewed like an organization chart, in which the end use (systems people call it the functional requirement) is at the top, and the supporting modules represent the subtasks and problems that must be solved to make the system work. This strategy became so successful during the space program that structured design and top-down Ask some basic development have become the buzzwords of the decade in the questions systems engineering community.

before you start

So how can this proven strategy be applied to your scientific and technical writing tasks? Start by asking yourself some simple questions about who you are writing to and the effects you want your writing to have. Then ask what you need to do to get that response, and then break down that task into problems and subproblems you need to solve to accomplish that task. The questions may be simple, but the care you take in answering them determines how successfully your document will be designed and the impact it will have.


With this approach, you'll learn to view your writing more actively -as a way to get the results you want by giving your readers what they want. This means learning how to anticipate their needs as well as their responses to what you write. Because most scientific

and technical writers fail to understand the basic needs of their readers, most scientific and technical writing says far too much and wastes both the writer's and the readers' time with useless information. They think it's safer (and easier) to just write everything than to discriminate and analyze. These people forget that one of the things all scientific and technical readers want is to get through their reading as efficiently and painlessly as possible. (Don't you?) That's your first responsibility to your readers. So one of your first objectives, no matter what your subject matter is, is to help them do that. As you will find out in Part Three of this book, this means analyzing and interpreting what you have to say and telling them what's important and why without forcing them to wade through swamps of undigested data or seas of technical jargon. But for now, let's concentrate on WHAT TO SAY. We'll get to HOW TO SAY IT in Part Three.


Here's an exercise to start you thinking about the people you write to and the responses you want from them. In the spaces below, fill in the names of three audiences you most frequently write to (individuals or groups of people). Identify people by name if you can. Include a variety of your writing tasks, such as memos, reports, proposals and journal articles: AUDIENCE NO. 1



Next, fill in the responses you want from these people. If you can, tell exactly what you expect them to do in response to your writing: AUDIENCE NO. 1



Finally, write down the responses you actually get from these audiences:




If the responses you want don't match up with the responses you actually get, then you need to pay more attention to finely tuning your message to those particular audiences.


Whenever you write, you're really selling something -- perhaps a product, yourself, or just an idea. If you're successful, you convince your readers to "buy" your product. You're happy and they're happy. Some people, especially scientists, object to a sales approach, probably because of the bad taste that modern advertising has left in their mouths. They dislike "manipulating" people, believing that everyone should simply present his ideas in an "objective" way that leaves others "free to choose" among the possible alternatives.

Scientists and engineers, more than business people, tend to adopt a passive attitude about their work. It's as though they're saying, "I shouldn't have to sell my work; it speaks for itself. My business is knowledge, not manipulating people." Although a few scientists are able to build successful careers on this ivory-tower strategy, most soon find their advancement blocked and their work ignored unless they are able to orient their outlook toward those who might ultimately use their results. The truth is that, unless you're a hermit, it is impossible to avoid influencing others. Everything you do has some impact on those you contact. If that impact is not well thought-out and planned, a person's response is likely to be assembled from random combinations of his predispositions and accidental details of your actions. For example, a weak, noncommittal memo to your boss might cause him to decide that you have few convictions and to ignore your ideas. So would you rather have some random, unplanned influence or the specific influence you desire?

To get some practice designing documents for a specific audience and purpose, find a recent sample of your own professional writing and write its title here so you'll know later which one it was, if you come back to it.

Now answer the following questions about it: 1. Why did you write it?

2. What particular person or class of people was it addressed to?

3. Exactly what level of knowledge and experience does this reader have in the subject you are writing about?

4. Did you make any effort to find out exactly what your audience expected from you when you wrote this?

5. Can you form a clear picture of a particular reader and hear that reader saying something while he reads your paper? What is he saying?

6. What specifically did you want your reader to do differently as a result of reading your piece?

7. Are there any specific responses from your reader that you want to avoid?

8. What do you think it might take to get the response you want from your reader?

9. How will you know if your writing had the effect you intended; that is, what particular feedback mechanisms tell you whether your writing accomplished its objective?

10. How might you change your document to more clearly tell your reader your purpose in writing?

11. Might you have communicated the same message more efficiently, and at the same time provided for immediate feedback, by personally contacting your audience, instead of writing?

Have you ever thought specifically in these terms before you begin a writing task? I assume that when you sit down to write, you have some reason for doing so. Maybe you just feel like getting something off your chest. Or maybe your boss told you to write something. Or maybe you think it's time you recorded some result or thought for posterity. Because none of these reasons expresses a specific outcome, none is really a valid reason for writing.


In Lesson 2, I asked "Why bother to write clearly?" Here we examine a related question: Why write at all? The wrong answer to this question can get you into a trap that wastes a lot of your time and others' time too. Here are three common wrong reasons for writing: TO VENT THE URGE Untold thousands of useless memos are generated every day just because people want to get something off their chest. The same can be said for many journal articles and technical reports. You can prevent this kind of waste by asking before you begin: "Is this really necessary?", "What do I want to accomplish?" or more simply, "Who cares?" Often a phone call or a personal contact will do the job, and probably better. Remember that writing deprives you of the most valuable aspect of any communication -- feedback. Whenever possible, substitute two-way personal communication for one-way writing. TO PLEASE THE BOSS

Many organizations reward paper generators, both because memo and letter writers get more visibility and because report and article writing is used to measure productivity. But unless you have a better reason for writing, playing this game will eventually get you into trouble, because most of your writing will lack substance and purpose. TO RECORD YOUR RESULTS OR VIEWS FOR POSTERITY This may at first seem like a reasonable reason for writing, especially if you've just made some measurements or discovered something new. Many people like to imagine that their work will someday be uncovered and carried on by some later generation. Not very likely. We'll see later, however, that without the focus of a specific, well defined audience, your paper or memo can easily turn into a pointless "memory dump". Your readers will invariably ask, "So what?" So these are all the wrong reasons for writing. They may have some therapeutic effects on you, but they won't help you get the results you want from others.


Have a clear, specific reason for writing, whether it's a landmark journal paper or just a memo to the boss. Answer the questions above before you start your next writing assignment, first of all, to help you decide if writing is really what you need to do. Then, if you do decide to write, make sure you clearly understand what you want to accomplish by doing so.

The next step in tuning your writing to your audience is creating the most logical package for your message. In other words, what is the most effective way to organize the information you have to present? Your package must be carefully designed if it is to accomplish your purpose in writing. Alice: Will you tell me which way I ought to go from here? Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to go. Alice: I don't much care ... Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't matter which way you go. -Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

-- End of Lesson 5 -Beginning of Lesson 5 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 6

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 6

How to Organize Your Paper or Report

In this Lesson:

The most frequent complaint -- poor organization Just the facts, Ma'am! Pitfalls of the traditional approach The Analytical Outline How to get started It's what's up front that counts!

In this lesson, you'll learn that organization just means creating a logical structure to fit your facts or data into, and that the most sensible structure is determined not by the facts or data themselves, but by your purpose in writing. You decided what that purpose is in the last lesson, so half of your organization problems are solved already.


Poor organization is probably what's wrong with your paper when you hear people say: "I can't figure out what he's trying to say! Why doesn't he get to the point?" Complaints like that might make you think that most people go about writing their papers backwards. How can such a thing happen? Remember the myths about writing that we covered in Lesson 3? Some of them were habits you carried over into your scientific and technical writing from Sophomore English Composition. One of those habits is unfolding what you have to say like a story, complete with suspense and a punch line at the end. Look at this business letter and notice how long it takes you to find out what the message is:

Dear Mr. Snarf, Six months ago, we bought some temperature transducers from your company to monitor the temperatures in our brewing vats. As these transducers are constantly on line, the solid-state sensing element (part number 75-8354) is subjected to an abnormally corrosive environment. Something in our beer seems to eat through the stainlesssteel case and short out the transducer. As a result, these transducers have been failing at an average rate of one a month. We usually keep at least a dozen transducers in stock for routine replacement purposes, but through an oversight of our storeroom manager, the stock has dropped to three. Because it usually takes a month or two to reorder these parts, we are in danger of running out before new sensors arrive through normal purchasing processes. Therefore, we wish to special order two dozen transducers and ask that you ship them at once by air express. Very cordially yours, J. B. Gronk, Production Supervisor JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM!
Poor Mr. Snarf! Let's hope he doesn't have to deal with too many of these sad stories every day. Unlike the audience for a play or novel, he has no use for suspense. How much easier his life would be if all his orders looked like this instead:

Please ship 24 Model 75-8354 temperature transducers immediately by air express. Here is our purchase order.
Although this example is a short business letter, it illustrates a structural flaw that shows up in many longer scientific and technical reports. All of us learned how to back into our writing assignments in school when we wrote essays and stories, and later, scholarly papers and college theses. The structure we were taught goes something like this:

THE TRADITIONAL OUTLINE 1. Introduction (Historical background) 2. Statement of the problem (Why are you doing this?) 3. Technical background (How far have others gotten on this problem?) Usually a historical account 4. Description of your analysis, development, or measurements (What have you done? How did you do it?) ..................... ..................... ..................... Supporting details ..................... (the bulk of your paper) ..................... 5. Results (What did you find out?) 6. Discussion and interpretation (What do your results mean and how do they relate to the stated problem?) 7. Conclusions and recommendations (What should be done next?)
If you follow this outline, that is, if you write in answer to this sequence of questions, then your paper may come out OK. At least it will conform to the classical conventions for organizing a report on a technical project or a scientific investigation.


The first is that you are forcing your reader to wade through the same process you did to get to your results and conclusions. It's almost as though you were saying, "I had to go through this painful process to reach my conclusions... why shouldn't you?" When you let the facts or the data themselves determine the structure of your writing, your paper, in effect, says no more than "Look at my wonderful data!" How many papers have you seen that seem to say nothing more than this? Aren't they really just catalogs of undigested facts? So many writers simply catalog facts that readers, in defense, have learned a trick to subvert the problem: To find the main conclusions, results and recommendations, they skip to the end! If they can't find them there, they often give up, because they don't feel like digging through the whole text to find the few important facts they're looking for. Take a longer report or paper you have written, and underline the sentences that give your main resuls, conclusions, interpretations, and recommendations. Before you begin, start timing yourself. Go ahead... I'll wait here for you. ...dum-de-dum... Done? How long did that take you? Now multiply that number by 10: That's roughly how long it will take someone not familiar with your paper to do the same thing. Are your readers likely to hang around that long? Where in your paper did you have to go to get that information?

That exercise assumed that you can in fact find sentences that clearly tell what the results, conclusions, interpretations and recommendations are. You could find them, couldn't you? If you couldn't find them, think how frustrated your readers will be when they try! In an environment where your paper is competing with the millions of others that form the literature explosion, can you really afford to hide what you have to say?


A recent innovation in the business and technical writing world is the Executive Summary. It's designed to avoid the tantrums busy executives throw when they can't find what they're looking for quickly. It takes all of a report's important results and conclusions and puts them up front on one page where they can be easily found. What a remarkable idea! Executive summaries work just fine, but such fixes wouldn't be necessary if reports were informatively organized in the first place. Here's a different kind of structure for your reports and papers.

It's called THE ANALYTICAL OUTLINE. It looks like this:


1. The problem (What have you done and why?) 2. Your results and conclusions (What did you find out, and why is it important? What's your solution to the problem?) 3. Your recommendations (What should the reader do about your results?) 4. The two or three major details of your analysis, investigation or development (Here are the details of what I did and how I did it.) 5. Your conclusions (Restatement, in which you answer these questions: SO WHAT? and WHO CARES?) 6. Appendices (The rest of the details) Notice that explicit BACKGROUND and INTRODUCTION sections are missing. Such material is most effective if it is interspersed in sections 1, 2 and 4 to contrast with and reinforce the new developments, as you will learn to do in Chapter 13 about paragraphs. Here are just a few advantages of the Analytical Outline over the traditional one: 1. Your readers can find what they're looking for quickly and easily ....namely what's new... without skipping to the end. They can quit reading after the first couple of paragraphs and be rewarded in proportion to the time they have spent. In fact, the first three sections are so self-sufficient, they can stand alone and even be distributed separately to readers who don't care so much about the details. 2. When you begin with the concrete results, you immediately get your readers' attention, instead of boring them with a general introduction. 3. You can immdediately expose your readers to your point of view, so that they can judge all that follows in the light of your conclusions. If you don't, then they judge what you say according to their own preconceptions. 4. Your article tends to be shorter and easier to write. After you write the first three sections (which should be short and sweet), the rest is just supporting detail. You're much less tempted to pad those details after you've given the punch line away. 5. By putting most of the minor details in appendices, you avoid cluttering your writing and obscuring your main points. The readers who are interested in those details can find them more easily, too. 6. You distinguish between the order of doing and the order of reporting.


If you have trouble deciding how to answer the first question -- telling what's important and why -write a cover letter to accompany your paper or report. Address this letter to the person you most want to understand and appreciate your message. You have only one page to get it across. When you finish, you will have your first couple of sections. Here's another exercise to help you organize facts into a coherent, logical and informative structure. This is a list of key sentences from a research paper on a new kind of ocean buoy that echoes its drift speed when interrogated by a special radar. The sentences are jumbled up, so they're out of order. Your job is to reorder them so they conform, as nearly as you can make them, to the Analytical Outline. You don't have to rewrite the sentences; just list the new sentence number in the blank ahead of the old. The Doppler shift of the radar echo from a moving target is proportional to its radial velocity. High velocity resolution is possible using very short echo samples through the use of Maximum-Entropy Spectral Analysis. The 40-Watt pulse transmitter uses VMOS transistors and a solid-state T/R switch. Doppler transponders offer tracking abilities superior to systems using passive reflectors and don't cost much more. A unique feature of the transponder is the frequency offset of the re-radiated signal, designed to remove the echo from the frequency range occupied by the sea clutter. One use of such a transponder might be to help monitor ship traffic in congested areas, such as the English Channel. We have developed a compact Doppler radar transponder that can be mounted on ships or small buoys to provide a larger radar target and to permit instantaneous velocity measurements. Field tests of a prototype transponder in Puget Sound show that radial position can be tracked within 10 meters at a range of 20 km. The cost of production transponders should not exceed $250 per unit. More tests are necessary to precisely establish the range limits under many sea conditions. When ordinary radars attempt to track buoys or floating objects, their echoes are often obscured by echoes from the sea itself, so that small objects cannot usually be detected to ranges greater than a few kilometers. To improve signal-to-noise ratio, the complexreceived signal is averaged over 128 pulses and weighted using a Blackman-Harris window. Our transponder consists of a small transceiver, a delay line, and a whip antenna, all packaged in a 5cm diameter cylinder 80 cm long.

When you finish, read the sentences in the new order to make sure they follow the Analytical Outline. Can you see what a difference you can make in clarity, simply by rearranging the sentences in a logical order? Find a paper you have written or are working on. Let's find out how it is organized. First, number each paragraph sequentially. Then look at each paragraph and label it according to the subjects described in the Analytical Outline above. For example, write a "3" next to a paragraph if its content falls under "recommendations," or a "5" if it seems to fall under "conclusions." If it does not fall into any of the Analytical categories, put an "X" next to that paragraph. Then list those labels below in the order in which they appear in your paper, for example 4, 4, 3, 5, 2, X, 6, etc.

Is your outline Analytical or Traditional or something else?

Now rearrange the paragraphs you just classified to make your paper's organization more Analytical. Put all the (1)s together, then all the (2)s, etc. If a paragraph or section does not fit any category (X), leave it out. YOUR NEW PARAGRAPH ORDER:

Now rearrange your paper according to this outline (cut and paste, if you want) and ask yourself if this new version gets your message across more effectively.


In this section, you'll learn how to write informative opening paragraphs -- the most important part of any writing you have to do. Based on what your readers find in your title, abstract (if you have one) and opening paragraphs, they will decide whether to go on or not. If they don't, then you've lost them, no matter how important your message was. In other words, assume that you readers are buried in paper and that you have no more then a minute or two to get their attention and convince them that the rest of your paper is worth their time to read. So, in any kind of writing you do, you would do well to put a disproportionately large part of your work into your opening paragraphs. The most informative opening transmits a very simple message: "I want you to know about something new that has happened. After I tell what has happened, I'll tell you why it's important, and then I'll give you the details." In constructing an informative opening, you can learn a lot from the old questions every newspaper reporter learns to ask: WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? and WHY? For scientific and technical papers, however, the order of importance is shifted a bit. There, the WHAT and WHY (that is, the significance) of your result or development is usually of primary importance. The WHO, WHEN and WHERE are not usually what your audience wants most to know, so make them supporting details. Another element, the HOW of your message, is usually more important in a technical paper than in a newspaper story, but it's not as important as the WHAT and WHY.

Basically, your first paragraphs should answer these questions:

What do you want your readers to know?


Why should they be interested?

After this "punch line", begin to fill in the details, along the lines of the Analytical Outline. Here are some other guidelines to follow as you put your opening paragraphs together: 1. Don't clutter your opening with a lot of technical details. 2. Keep the language simple, so that your opening can be understood by the largest possible audience. 3. Explain any terms your title contains whose meaning is not obvious. Answer any questions your title implies. 4. Devote at least one paragraph to the WHY of your message. Be sure to tell all readers the reasons what you've done is important to them. 5. Orient your readers by connecting to something familiar, but keep the new development in the spotlight.

Here's an exercise to help you apply these principles. These opening paragraphs for a product announcement are badly organized and are littered with useless details (which should come much later). Go through them and mercilessly cross out all the deadwood, leaving only the most important information about the what and why of the new product:

1. Production of a revolutionary new portable microcomputer, the GORN-3, has been announced the the Data Products Department, Industrial Research Division, of the Megabux Corporation, a Peoriabased electonics company with worldwide branches. The new machine, a product of three years of intensive research, is housed in a tan, molded plastic case. It is small enough to fit under an airplane seat and can be operated from internal battery packs. 2. Manufacturing has begun in the Megabux 75,000 square-foot factory in Uggabugga, Tanzania, where local labor costs are expected to keep the unit cost under $5000. 3. Each unit, which is one-third the size of a standard desktop computer, contains its own keyboard, video display and two diskette drives, which can store word-processing programs, text, accounting and scientific software, as well as

'space monsters.' The machine's advanced CPX-3000 operating system is compatible with many existing business and scientific software packages, but also features advanced graphics capabilities and a voice synthesizer. 4. Megabux president, I. C. Sparks reports hundreds of advance orders for the new product from business and industrial firms that see a wide variety of uses for a low-cost, portable microcomputer like the GORN-3. Deliveries are expected to begin this fall.

Now look at the opening paragraphs from a longer article you have written. Attach them here and go through the same weeding-out process, leaving only the essential what and why of your message. If you can't find that information in your opening paragraphs, add the appropriate sentences.


You can organize most of your writing tasks by answering the few questions in the Analytical Outline. The rest of your writing is just elaborating on that structure. You should spend most of your writing energy on the opening paragraphs of your paper, because they get the most exposure. Notice that the parts of the Analytical Outline are not all the same size. Naturally, the details of what you did or found out will form the bulk of your final text. How do you organize them? In the next lesson, you'll learn how to think more carefully about your readers' needs, so you can decide which details are most important (so you can put them first), which come next, and which you can safely leave out or put into appendices. "Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it's not all mixed up." Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

-- End of Lesson 6 -Beginning of Lesson 6 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 7

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 7

How to Handle All Those Details

In this Lesson:

Where's the beef? How much detail? Which details? Ranking details

Here you'll learn how to communicate details efficiently. This means giving your audience exactly the amount of detail they need -- no more, no less -- and in the order they expect.


In sharp contrast with the other kinds of writing you learned about in school, the essence or "beef" of scientific and technical writing lies in its details. But no one wants all the details, and besides, you can't include all the relevant facts anyway. So how effective and informative your technical writing is depends critically on how you select, reject and arrange details. Too many, and you put your readers to sleep. Too few, and you leave them uninformed. Put them in the wrong order, and you leave them confused. You have to answer three questions about details when you write:

How much detail? Which details? How to rank details?

To answer these questions, you obviously have to know something about your readers. (Remember the top-down approach?) Specifically:

Who am I writing for?


What are they looking for?

Suppose, for example, that you want to write a paper on some recent scientific results. Here are some possible audiences for your paper:

1. Your boss 2. Scientific peers 3. Specialists in your field 4. The general public 5. Potential users of your result 6. Scientific administrators 7. Congressmen 8. Students
Naturally, the audience you select will determine not only your choice of details, but also your publication medium.


When you start thinking about the different possible audiences for your writing, you should notice that there is an inverse relation between the size of your audience and the amount of detail that is appropriate. In other words, the largest audience gets the least amount of detail, and vice-versa. Is that obvious? Maybe not. Here's an exercise that should clarify the principle. How much detail about an automobile would you expect to see in each of these publications? Put number 1 next to the one that would have the least amount of detail and so on, up to number 6 for the one with the most detail. a Motor Trend magazine ad the manufacturer's engineering specifications

a showroom brochure the owner's manual a TIME magazine ad the shop manual

Now go down the list again and add a second number to each box that tells how big the audience is for each document. Put a 1 next to the one with the largest audience and so on, up to number 6 for the one with the smallest audience. If you did it right, you should end up with the same numbers paired up next to each document, or be off by no more than one. Now do you see how the amount of detail is related to the size of the audience? If you have a specific person in mind as your audience, and if you are able to place yourself in his position, you should be able to evaluate every detail by asking how much he wants to know about it. One way to do this is to start out by listing your details (just some key words) and scoring them according to the level of interest you think your audience has in each. If your interest score goes from 1 to 10, cut out the items that score less than 4 or 5. If your imagined audience has little or no interest in a particular detail, leave it out, even if it represents years of your hard work.


Here's an exercise to clarify the connection between specific details and the audience you have in mind. Below I've listed a collection of details about a research project you have just completed on thunderstorms. Imagine that you're having a conversation with each of the 8 audiences listed above. What information about thunderstorms might each ask you for? As you go down the two lists, write in the blank spaces in front of each detail the numbers that correspond to the audiences that you think would score that detail at least a 7 (on a scale of 1 to 10):

DETAILS ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH PROJECT ON THUNDERSTORMS: The dollar damage caused by thunderstorms each year. A history of your previous research on thunderstorms. Descriptions of calibration procedures for your instruments. Some basic physics of how thunderstorms work. How much your project costs. A log of all your measurements during the whole project. A list of everyone who worked on the project. Specifications of a new instrument to measure hail size. A new result showing a connection between lightning intensity and total rainfall. A new result showing how to suppress hail. New insights into the flow patterns around thunderstorms. Procedures you used to avoid statistical biases in your data. Your plans for further measurements. Your recommendations for future research. Now, imagine that you are writing, in turn, to each of those 8 audiences. Go down the list of details and notice which ones are the most interesting to each audience. Those are the details you would most likely emphasize in the early sentences you would write to those audiences. Notice also which details you could leave out or relegate to subordinate roles.

Now that you have coded each detail according to the audiences it appeals to, make 8 lists, one for each audience, in which you write out the top four details that you want to present to each audience. In addition, rank the details by putting the most important one (to that audience) first, and so in. The list you come up with for each audience is the order you would present these details if you were writing to that audience. 1. Your boss

2. Scientific peers

3. Specialists in your field

4. The general public

5. Potential users of your result

6. Scientific administrators

7. Congressmen

8. Students

Take the same paper or report you used to answer the questions about your audience in Lesson 3. Make a list of key words or phrases that describe all the details you have reported. Now rank those details according to how interested you think your audience is in those details. Throw out the bottom half. Now compare that list with the details that actually appeared in your paper or report.


Select your details by ranking them according to your the interest level you expect your audience to have in them, then throw away the ones with low scores. Present the remaining ones in order of decreasing interest. The next lesson contains checklists for specific writing tasks, to help you be sure that you answer all the questions your readers are likely to have.

-- End of Lesson 7 -Beginning of Lesson 7 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 8

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 8

Checklists for Specific Writing Tasks

In this Lesson, you'll learn how to answer the most important questions about seven different writing tasks. You can design your whole document around your careful answers to these questions. Every writing task you tackle is different. Here are the most common writing jobs scientists and technical people face:


Some have large audiences; some very limited audiences. All of your readers will have different levels of understanding about your area of expertise and different needs and predispositions toward what you have to say. Yet the audiences for each of these categories tend to have some needs in common. That makes it possible to make a checklist for each category that addresses those needs -- the most important things to pay attention to as you put your pencil to paper (or finger to keyboard). You can use these checklists in three ways: Fill one out before you begin work on your next paper, to form the core outline. The more detailed and specific your answers, the more useful they will be for putting your outline together, and the less work you will have to do to flesh it out. You can also use it to check completed papers. And third, you can even attach a blank checklist to copies you submit for review or approval, to speed the review process.

Here, then, are seven checklists you can use on the job to make sure you're including the essential elements of your particular writing task. Look them all over. Then we'll practice applying one of them to a writing task of your own.


When you write a proposal, you are usually offering to do some work or produce some product at a specified price for a specific customer. Your proposal has the best chance of succeeding if your product closely matches your customer's need, the price is one he can afford, and if you can deliver on time. Here are some questions to answer while you are writing a proposal. Make sure the answers are prominently spelled out where your customer can easily find them. SUPPOSE YOU HAD TO REVIEW THIS PROPOSAL AND TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO FUND IT. WHAT WOULD YOU LOOK FOR FIRST TO HELP YOU MAKE THAT DECISION?















When you report on your research or investigation, you are telling a specific audience what you have found out and why it is important. Some audiences are interested in how much it cost and other administrative details. Make sure you clearly answer all these questions where your readers can quickly and easily find them: WHO, SPECIFICALLY, ARE YOU WRITING TO? DEFINE A TYPICAL READER OF YOUR REPORT.















Instruction manuals and product documentation, more than any other kind of writing, require you to have a clear grasp of the needs, the level of intelligence, and training of your audience. Because your readers will generally have a very different understanding of your product than you have, putting yourself in their place may be especially difficult. Therefore, you should make full use of feedback from representative users of your product during both the design and the documentation phases. DOES YOUR TITLE CLEARLY TELL WHAT THE MANUAL IS FOR? COMPLETE: "HOW TO...."
















Progress reports are a part of all scientific, industrial, and business activities. They're supposed to keep managers or sponsors informed about progress toward some goal. Most progress reports are much longer than they need to be, often, ironically, to cover up a lack of progress. The only essential parts of a progress report are a restatement of the goals and subgoals, a statement of how many of the subgoals have been reached, and any changes in plans since the last report. Because your audience is generally busy executives, make sure your progress report answers these questions concisely, where they can be easily and quickly found: HAVE YOU REMINDED YOUR READER WHAT THE MAJOR GOALS AND MILESTONES ARE?









You might want to give this form to those who write progress reports to you.


You write a feasibility study to help someone make a choice. Your job as the writer of such a study is to make that choice as easy as possible, without influencing or biasing it. Choices are easiest when all the alternatives and their consequences are clearly visible and easy to compare. Make sure your feasibility study answers these questions: SUPPOSE YOU ARE THE ONE WHO HAS TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO ABOUT THIS STUDY. WHAT DO YOU NEED MOST TO HELP MAKE THAT DECISION EASIER?










Journal articles have the largest audience of all the kinds of writing we consider. Therefore, you have to very carefully select your details for the broadest possible interest. In a journal article, it is most important to state the problem and the reasons behind your work, up front and in words that every reader of that journal will understand. Most of the questions you have to answer are the same as for a research report. These additional questions also apply: SUPPOSE YOU ARE A TYPICAL READER OF THIS JOURNAL. WHAT WILL YOU LOOK FOR TO HELP YOU DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO CONTINUE READING THIS PAPER?












If your job requires you to keep up with lots of letters and memos every day, you can quickly get buried in paper if you don't have systematic ways to process it all. Here's how to keep memos and written orders you generate short and to-the-point: FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT: IS THIS LETTER OR MEMO REALLY NECESSARY? (OR COULD I ACCOMPLISH THIS MORE EFFICIENTLY WITH A PHONE CALL?)











Now that you've looked over the checklists, pick a sample of your own scientific or technical writing that falls into one of the seven categories. Apply the appropriate checklist to your sample and note with an "N" or "Y" on the checklist which items your piece clearly addresses -- and which have been left out. After each "N," briefly explain how you will take care of each point you left out.


The checklists in this lesson should get you well on your way toward deciding WHAT TO SAY in your paper or report. Once you have your detailed answers, the rest is just filling in the details.

Now you're going to spend a lot of time learning HOW TO SAY IT. The impact of your message depends as much on the way you choose your words and put them together into coherent sentences and paragraphs as it does on the message itself.

-- End of Lesson 8 -Beginning of Lesson 8 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 9

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 9

Write to Analyze, Not to Catalog

This lesson will prepare you for the next twelve lessons, which make up the largest part (Part III) of this
course. They show you how to construct coherent sentences, paragraphs and sections -- in other words, the nuts and bolts of actually doing your writing. Lesson 10 shows you how to select the simplest word that will do the job and how to weed out gobbledygook. Lessons 11 through 13 show you how to use three powerful tools for constructing analytical sentences. Lessons 14 through 17 give you four ways to put together coherent paragraphs and sections. Lesson 18 makes a case for being personal in your writing.


So far, you've practiced some tools that help you select and analyze your audience, organize your thoughts, and decide WHAT TO SAY. Now, you'll learn and practice using some of the most powerful, yet easy-to-use tools for putting together coherent sentences, paragraphs and whole papers. These specific tools will help you make the second major decision you have to make about your writing: HOW TO SAY IT. You'll find that the way you put your words together to form these fundamental building blocks makes the difference between writing that informs and writing that merely catalogs. In Lesson 7, you practiced selecting the details that are the most appropriate for your particular audience, throwing out the ones that audience doesn't care about, and arranging them in the most logical order. But informative writing goes farther than merely selecting and sorting details. There's a big

difference between simply listing or cataloging details and analyzing and interpreting them for your reader. I talk to many writers who feel that if someone doesn't understand their writing, "That's his problem. The information is there, if he will just read it." They fail to recognize that a technically correct and precisely written paper can at the same time be incomprehensible to everyone but an expert in the field. They also fail to realize that the only test of a document's success is whether the desired audience will actually read and understand it and take appropriate action. The Analytical Writer acknowledges his responsibility to his readers. Instead of throwing them some undigested data and saying, "Here are my results...you figure them out," save your readers the work by analyzing and interpreting those results for them. To appreciate this point more fully, place yourself for a moment in the role of a busy scientist as he browses through some journals and technical reports that have shown up in his morning mail: All of the material that has reached your desk is of broad interest to anyone in your field, or it wouldn't have reached your desk in the first place. What now determines which articles and reports you will read and how carefully, and what impact each one will have on you? You may at first think that it is solely the technical relevance and significance of each article to your own work that determines how much attention you pay to it. But suppose that you come across an article that direcly relates to your field of interest, but that its author forces you to wade through a long catalog of technical details without defining terms, without telling you which are important and why, or how they relate to what you already know. Suppose the writer hasn't bothered to analyze or interpret any of the information he presents. You quickly get the impression that you've been presented with a list of facts and told, "Here are the results. You figure out what they mean." You decline to accept the challenge and move on in disgust, or perhaps ask one of your engineers to figure it out because you don't have the time. To show you that such things actually happen, here is an abstract of a technical report that I actually encountered in my work. An abstract is supposed to tell you enough about a paper's contents to let you decide whether to go on or not. Read this one and see if you can tell what the paper is about:

New and old system designs are distinquished by how well the inerrelations among the variables that are available for observation are exploited. It is, therefore, reasonable to expect new system designs to be closely coupled to improvements in techniques for representing and analyzing these interrelations. The algorithm discussed in this paper is an example of such an improvement. It is designed to extract information about the spatial and/or polarizational characteristics of the fields of emitters in a multiple-emitter environment. Its capability to determine the number of emitters

present, the strengths of their fields, and the direction of arrival of their fields is an example of one of its applications. However, many aditional applications suggest themselves.
At this point, you may feel only a vague sense of discomfort and annoyance on reading this. But can you identify specifically why this abstract fails to inform?

This abstract doesn't do its job because it's a list or catalog of indigestible generalities. The difference between cataloging details and analyzing them shows up in this example on all scales -- from the choice of words and sentence structure to the way the paragraph is organized. You can be sure that the paper it refers to is poorly organized as well.


To better understand what kinds of writing inform most efficiently, it is useful to study writing and speaking that is deliberately designed to avoid informing, and whose main purpose is instead to pacify. This is the craft of politicians, diplomats, many government officials, and some corporate executives. Here, for example, is a diplomatic communique purporting to summarize a meeting on nuclear arms limitation:

Representatives of the United States and the Soviet Union met in Geneva this week for the third round of negotiations on Strategic Arms Limitation. The meeting was cordial, and discussion was reported to be frank and open, with both sides reiterating their commitments to easing the international tensions produced by the nuclear arms race. The negotiators agreed that the critical issues to be examined are the questions of verifying warhead quotas and arriving at mutually satisfactory methods of on-site inspection Discussions will resume in two months.
What really happened at this meeting? Nothing, of course! The purpose of the communique was to assure the public that the two countries were still speaking to each other, and to report what didn't happen at the meeting (a total breakdown of negotiations). Look at this President's Message from a mutual fund annual report:

Despite one of the most volatile years in the domestic economy, characterized by swings in business activity and interst rates, your Fund moved forward into the new decade, overcoming several of the challenges with which it was confronted during the past year. I am pleased that the steady progress we have made on your behalf is evidenced by major steps toward strengthening of the Fund portfolio for the ultimate realization of the long-term objective of capital appreciation.....
Everyone knows the name for this kind of writing -- it's simply bullshit. It's easy to assume that diplomats, politicians and executives talk this way because they don't know what they're talking about. Don't be fooled. Usually, such people have risen to positions of power precisely because they know how to communicate ambiguously, and so that anyone hearing the message will interpret it positively, in terms of his own values. This is known as content-free communication. It is specifically designed to let the receiver supply its substance and meaning. Such a strategy is perfectly appropriate for anyone who has to keep a large audience happy. Laying all your cards on the table simply doesn't work if you can't afford public criticism and dissent. Television networks and airlines have developed this ability to a fine art. Notice the properties of these special languages that keep them from informing -- vague, nonspecific nouns, impersonal and passive constructions (to avoid responsibility), and usually a special jargon designed to keep the reader ignorant of the facts. If your goal is to write to inform, you would do well to notice and avoid all these devices.


Analytical Writing, by contrast, means telling your readers what's important and why -- by differentiating, interpreting, contrasing and specifying. This means that your words are concrete, specific, objective and unambiguous. In Lesson 10, you will learn that plain, down-to-earth words are more informative than pretentious, impressive ones. Your sentences state relations among ideas, not just disconnected facts.

Your tools for writing more informative sentences will be: THE DEPENDENT CLAUSE (Lesson 11) THE ACTIVE VERB (Lesson 12)


Your paragraphs tell your readers all they need to know about an idea, in a logical way, without wasting their time with irrelevant details.

Your tools for writing more effective paragraphs will be: ORIENTING YOUR READER (Lesson 15) TYING IDEAS TOGETHER (Lesson 16) CUTTING DOWN TECHNICAL DENSITY (Lesson 17) ARRANGING IDEAS IN A LOGICAL SEQUENCE (Lesson 18)
And your overall organization is a design for informing quickly and efficiently. We covered that in the last lesson. In Lesson 19, I'll show you how to make your illustrations inform rather than baffle, and in Lesson 20, I'll give you some hints about the mechanics of getting started on your writing jobs.

-- End of Lesson 9 -Beginning of Lesson 9 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 10

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 10

Use the Simplest Word That Will Do the Job

In this Lesson:

Trim fat words Dump awkward phrases

Find the overblown words Will the real word please stand up? Loaded words Meaningless comparatives What about building my vocabulary?

Whether you know it or not, you've already started writing your paper by answering the questions in Lesson 8. (Now you don't have to worry about getting started!). Chances are, your answers are already in plain language, because you thought you were just carrying on a conversation, not writing your paper (fooled you!). The lesson here is that when you write the way you talk, you usually choose the plain, simple words that everyone can understand. Keep it up. You don't have to shift gears to that dull, formal style you're used to writing in.


Go down this list of overworked words that show up in a lot of business and technical writing. You job is to write in the space following each one its simple, straightforward equivalent:

accelerate accumulate acquire adjacent anticipate approximately ascertain characterize component concept culmination demonstrate designate determine disseminate endeavor (v) evaluate expedite expenditure fabricate facilitate facility finalize formulate impact (v) implement (v)

indicate initiate interface (v) necessitate operable personnel presently prioritize projection requirement subsequent terminate
Do you see how you can simplify your writing by substituting the short-and-sweet word for its lofty equivalent? How many of the words in the list above clog up your writing? Who will miss them if you use the simpler versions instead? Even our machines are being taught to speak in inflated language. I recently noticed an ad for a new copier that coos: "Replenish paper!" when it's out of paper.


Just as you have learned to streamline your words, you can also short-circuit roundabout phrases. Look at this list of phrases that are just long-winded ways of saying something very simple. Write in the space following each one the single-word equivalent:

a large/small number of a sufficient quantity of along the lines of at an early date at this point in time be cognizant of due to the fact that for the purpose of has an ability to in conjunction with each other in order to in spite of the fact that in such a manner in the event that in the near future in this day and age increased by a factor of two is capable of leave out of consideration

most of the time of the order of magnitude of rate of speed reiterate again subsequent to surround on all sides taken into custody with respect to FIND THE OVERBLOWN WORDS
Now read these sentences, paraphrased from real-life business and technical writing and find the overblown words and phrases. Then write the simple and direct equivalent below each one:

Three-quarters of those surveyed answered in the affirmative.

Please find enclosed the decoder ring you ordered.

We should formulate an alternative plan in the event that the stockholders vote the president out.

Good systems programmers are in short supply.

In view of the fact that solar energy is not yet fully developed at the present time, we will have to continue utilizing fossil fuels well into the next century.

The tests were conducted in conjunction with the employees' routine checkups.

The report recommended a substantial reduction in the remuneration received by the vicepresidents.

It has been brought to my attention that the employees' cafeteria needs to be painted.

The voltage at the amplifier output is limited by means of a negative-feedback circuit.

In the majority of instances, component failure was caused by cigarette smoke.

Aluminum is used for transmission lines in order to reduce weight and corrosion.

The new project is designed to institute improvements in the taste of cat food.

Prior to the time when the chairman of the board submitted his resignation, stockholders were of the opinion that it was time for a change.

In the event that the photo lab cannot accommodate the increased work load, it is within the realm of possibility that their facility will be enlarged.

Please call me at your earliest convenience.

The number of stars in our galaxy is of the order of magnitude of a hundred million.

The two results are found to be in agreement.

The chemicals exhibit a tendency to accumulate in the liver.

This is to acknowledge receipt of your order for a new model 505 copier.

It has been shown by Smith and Brown that high-speed neutrons retard the spoilage of guacamole.

Building a microcomputer involves the necessity of packing thousands of components on microscopic chips of silicon.

New writers frequently encounter difficulty in organizing their thoughts.

The committee will finalize its report tomorrow.

It seems reasonable to assume that the radar target is much larger than a breadbox.

The team decided to perform an analysis of the car's wind resistance for the purpose of reducing aerodynamic drag.

It is often the case that migrating whales gather in the vicinity of nude beaches.


Euphemisms are sanitized names for socially unacceptable or politically incorrect things, acts, or ideas. Many writing situations require you to soft-pedal touchy subjects, but it's usually overdone. The result is obscured information. Here are some euphemisms that can usually be replaced by their real names. Write the no-nonsense equivalents in the spaces provided:

accept the resignation of account executive custodial engineer deplane

execute, put to sleep, terminate, rub out gay halitosis inoperative economically disadvantaged ladies of the night, call girls, hookers limited success misinformed, misguided pacification pass away, pass on, expire personal flotation device pre-owned print-media center protective reaction strike rest room, powder room, commode senior citizen smoking materials underachiever
Write down here five commonly used euphemisms for war:

You may not need to use many of these words in your work, but this will give you an idea of how we camouflage and soften unpleasant ideas with foggy words. In the scientific and technical world, we often invent special jargon to cover up situations or facts that we may not want our audience to be exposed to directly.

Another kind of word to avoid in business and technical writing is the word that is loaded with positive or negative emotions. When you use such loaded words, you guarantee that each reader will interpret then according to his own feelings and biases, not the meaning you intended. Look at this list of words and mark a plus next to the ones that you have positive feelings about and a minus next to the ones you have negative feelings about. If you think you are neutral about a word, put a zero next to it:

crackpot creative thinker poor and needy lazy bums working class communists freedom fighters terrorists politician statesman delapidated rustic firm obstinate conglomerate diversified industry conservationist eco-freak

Do you see that each pair of words on the same line often refers to the same thing? If your scientific and technical writing is to remain objective, you have to avoid words that reveal your own emotional biases and stir up those of others.

Avoid using comparative or relative words whose meanings depend on your readers' subjective interpretations of quantity or quality. Here are the more common comparatives to avoid:

large, small high, low most, some few, many slow, fast near, far good, bad seldom, often long, short hot, cold sooner, later

To find more specific substitutes, ask yourself how large, how fast, or compared with what Also avoid using words that imply value judgments without specifying what the value is, compared with what, or who is making the judgment. Here are some examples of these words:

significant important valuable useless useful beautiful accurate efficient

Please don't...
Actualize, verbalize, finalize, prioritize, schedulize, contemporize, utilize, formalize, qualitize, containerize, operationalize, parameterize, concretize, conceptualize, definitize, militarize, annualize, accessorize, computerize, or standardize. IZE is a drug consumed in large quantities by business and technical speakers and writers. It turns ordinary people into officialsounding authorities and lets them talk for hours without saying anything.


How can you use the simplest word that will do the job and still maintain and demonstrate a reasonable vocabulary? What will yourreaders think if you write with a sixth-grade vocabulary? It's well known that there's a strong connection between the size of a person's vocabulary and his success in the business and technical worlds. Knowing and using the precise word for your intended meaning always enhances communication and shows

people that you know what you're talking about. Since we tend to think in words, a large vocabulary also makes your thinking more precise and expands its range. The trick is to use words that are designed to express rather than to impress. If you know a big word that exactly expresses your idea, and no little word will do, use it. Your readers will appreciate your precision. But if you have a simple idea that can be expressed in a few one-syllable words, putting it in flowery, convoluted language just reveals your insecurity with the language. The pompous words and phrases you've corrected in this lesson are examples of puffing up the language to impress people. But when are high-powered words justified? Here's an exercise to give you practice choosing the precise word and recognizing when such words are necessary. Listed below are some definitions that are specific enough that only one word will fit it exactly. Try to find that word and write it in the space following each definition:

To force into or deter from some action by inducing fear A confusing network of interconnecting paths or passages The external boundary of any surface or area Continuing or enduring forever or indefinitely Composed of parts of widely different elements Derived from experience, experiment or observation alone LESSON SUMMARY AND WHERE WE GO FROM HERE
Words, of course, are the basic modules of all writing. The care you use in choosing them reveals a lot about your background, your competence, and the crispness of your thinking. Generally, the simple, direct word should replace the stuffy, impressive one. But there are many times when you'll have to dig deep into your vocabulary and pull out precisely the word you want. In the next lesson, you'll learn to substitute specific, concrete words for vague, abstract ones. "Short words are best, and old words, when short, are best of all." -Winston Churchill

-- End of Lesson 10 -Beginning of Lesson 10 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 11

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 11

Pin Things Down with Concrete Nouns

In this Lesson:

What's an abstract noun? Use terms your reader can picture Eliminate vagueness and costly ambiguity If you must generalize...

In this lesson, you'll learn how to substitute specific and concrete ideas for vague, abstract ones. When you do so, you'll eliminate one of the most common sources of fog in business and technical writing. The more specific and concrete your words, the more informative your writing will be.


First, let's make sure you understand how to recognize abstract nouns when you see them. Abstract nouns are the names of things you can't visualize. They are usually the names of a condition or quality, like:

efficiency reliability attention relationships performance situation knowledge function

Verify for yourself that you can't form a picture of these words without attaching them to some personal experience of your own. A noun is usually abstract if it ends in one of these suffixes: -tion -ity -ism -ment

-ness -ance/-ence -ability

-age -ship -acy

These suffixes "kill" verbs and adjectives by turning them into nouns.

Write the verbs that are the roots of these commonly used abstract nouns: Relation Recommendation Improvement Observation Reference Application Development Connection Analysis Utilization Variability Conformity
Whenever you see a word with one of these suffixes, see if you can rewrite the sentence to use the verb root instead.


Because there is a continuous spectrum between the totally abstract and the totally concrete, some words cannot be clearly called one or the other. So many words -- like music, life, test cannot be labeled either abstract or concrete.

Look at this list of words and number them, with 1 indicating the most abstract and 8 indicating the most specific and concrete: machine station wagon product vehicle conveyance Edsel car rusty green Volkswagen If you had trouble, go back and try to form a picture of each word. Use the clarity of your picture to guide your numbering.
Look at this abstract for a technical paper and try to identify specifically why it fails to inform as well as it could:

The recent identification of high concentrations of aged urban pollutant haze in the Arctic Basin suggests the possibility of climate modification through the interaction of the haze with solar radiation. The presence of the absorbing aerosol layer over a high-albedo surface will lead to an enhancement in the absorption of solar radiation by the atmosphere and surface surface system. This additional heating will manifest itself as an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere and an increase in the rate of ice melt in the spring.
Notice all the abstract nouns in the passage above. (If you have trouble, look for words ending in the suffixes in the table at the beginning of the lesson.) Virtually all of the information in this abstract is buried in its abstract nouns. Although you can figure out what it is trying to say if you read it carefully, the stilted tone that results from all those abstractions hinders understanding rather than making it easier. What if the abstract were rewritten this way?

Recent increases of urban pollutant haze in the Arctic Basin could modify the Arctic climate by absorbing more sunlight. The additional heating could make the ice melt faster in the spring.
What do you think about this new version? Does it contain all the information the first one had? Does it sound somehow "less professional"? Is it easier to read? Is it clearer and more informative? Write your impressions as specifically as you can in the space below:


The more concrete you make your nouns, the more specific, and therefore informative your writing will be. On the other hand, if you use only abstract nouns, your writing will be vague and open to many interpretations. Remember... writing that seeks to inform should say precisely the same thing to each reader. When your writing is full of abstract nouns, you'll get as many interpretations as you have readers. As a side benefit, using concrete nouns forces you to clarify your own fuzzy thinking. Be aware, too, that if you use a lot of abstractions, you may have hidden motives for keeping your reader in the dark. Read through this passage and use your green highlighter pen to mark all the abstract nouns:

This laboratory is conducting research with certain new materials that may combine one or more properties previously requiring separate production processes. These developments promise improved efficiency in manufacturing and will eventually lead to products with exciting new possibilities and even some that are revolutionary in concept.
Now rewrite this passage, making up some concrete facts to substitute for all the abstractions in the passage.

Which version would you, as a reader, prefer, assuming that you wanted to be fully informed about this laboratory's activities? Which one would you, as a writer, use if you wanted to confuse your reader and keep the laboratory's work secret?


Abstractions often show up when you want to make some kind of generalization. If you must make a general statement, there are two ways you can help make it more informative:

1. Remove as many abstract nouns as you can. 2. Sharpen its focus with representative examples and concrete illustrations.
Look at these "before and after" examples and learn how to replace generalizations with concrete specifics. Mark the abstract nouns in the "General" examples with your green highlighter. Underline the concrete nouns in the "More specific" examples: General: New circuit-testing methods are much faster than the old procedures, but they often overlook faulty components. More Specific: The computer-controlled circuit tester checks out our memory boards ten times faster than technicians could, but it passed twenty percent more faulty regulators last month. General: Pesticides increase crop yields, but often cause damage to the environment and sickness in people.

More Specific: Since 1975, when malathion was introduced in India, 65 percent more corn was produced, but birth defects increased fourfold. General: With reference to your request for information about our new product line, we are happy to send you our new catalog, in which prices have been substantially reduced. We would appreciate your business. More Specific: Thank you for asking about our new copiers. We think the Snazzo Model 820 will suit the needs of an office your size. Our new catalog describes a special 20-percent discount on copiers purchased during December. May we call you to demonstrate the 820 in your office? Notice how often abstractions appear in the general statements above and how they contribute to their vagueness.

For practice, notice in each of the following examples how:

1. Abstract subjects attract weak verbs. 2. Awkward phrases find their way into the sentence. 3. The real subject of the sentence has been relegated to a subordinate detail (usually the object of a preposition). 4. The sentence structure becomes convoluted and loses its force.
In this exercise, mark all the abstract nouns in green. Then rewrite each sentence to remove all of the above faults: The situation with regard to the fish in the water cooler came up in the meeting.

The process of retyping manuscripts is disliked by most secretaries.

All responsibilities connected with the recruiting of new members rest with the club chairman.

The results of the experiment demonstrated the soundness of his theory.

The condition of the reactor is such that extensive repairs are required.

The nature of the offense is such that capital punishment is mandatory.

The reason the missile was not launched was due to the fact that mice had eaten the cables.

Find a couple of paragraphs from your own writing, and mark all the abstract nouns with your green highlighter, and underline the weak verbs and awkward constructions that accompany them. Rewrite the passage, removing as many of the abstractions as you can, and amplify any general statements with concrete examples. This space is for your rewrite:

Here is a table of some common abstractions that often show up in scientific and technical writing. Avoid them. Look through it and check the ones that you use most frequently: ability approach character concept condition course effect employment extent intent manner measure nature order position practice procedure reason relation responsibility situation use activity case circumstance concern connection degree effort environment instance interest dummy method necessity policy possibility problem question reference respect result substance utilization

And here is a table of awkward phrases that creep into a lot of scientific and technical writing. Read through the list and check the ones you recognize from your own writing:

as regards of the order of by means of relative to in connection with the nature of in case of to the extent that in the form of with respect to

in view of as to on the part of for the purpose of the fact that in relation to through the use of in the course of with regard to in the light of

associated with on the basis of due to the fact that such that in order to the reason for in terms of with reference to in the interests of with a view to


Abstract nouns are never as informative as concrete, specific nouns. The more concrete facts and specific examples you put into your writing, the fewer people will misinterpret it. In the next lesson, you'll learn how to make your sentences more concise and more informative by using active verbs.

-- End of Lesson 11 -Beginning of Lesson 11 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 12

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 12

Put Active Verbs to Work for You

In this Lesson:

Active is good; passive is bad Passive verbs attract abstract nouns Passive verbs attract awkward constructions When to use passive verbs Liberate disguised verbs

In this lesson, you'll learn how to eliminate most of the passive verbs in your writing. It's not that passive verbs are bad in themselves, but when they are overused, they hide the identity of the doer, they invite roundabout sentence construction, and they lead to awkward, unnatural-sounding prose. At least half of the passive verbs in scientific and technical writing should be changed to active forms.


First, let's make sure you know how to recognize passive verbs when you see them. Look at these two sentences:

Frisky ate my homework. My homework was eaten by Frisky.

In the first sentence, the subject of the sentence, Frisky, is also the doer of the action -- in this case, eating. The verb ate is an active verb. In the second sentence, the subject of the sentence, homework, is the recipient of the action, and Frisky, the doer, is the object of the preposition by. The verb was eaten is a passive verb.

ACTIVE VERB --- ate PASSIVE VERB --- was eaten by

Notice that the flow of action in the first (active) sentence seems more natural:

Frisky > ate > homework

whereas the order in the second (passive) sentence seems "backwards":

Homework < was eaten < Frisky

Notice also that the word by often (but not always) follows a passive verb. You can use by as a signpost -- there's usually a passive verb nearby. To make sure you understand, check the one of these two sentences that has an active verb.

The explosion was caused by a kerosene lamp. The technicians demanded longer coffee breaks.
The first sentence has a passive verb was caused, and the second sentence has an active one demanded. Notice the flag by in the first sentence? Now let's practice converting passive verbs to active ones. Each of the following sentences has one passive verb. On your printed copy of this lesson, use your pink highlighter to mark each passive verb, then rewrite each sentence so that the verbs are all active.

A voltmeter was used by the electrician to monitor the line fluctuations.

A new computer has been installed by the accounting section.

Sixty-five new comets were discovered by amateur astronomers last year.

The wiring in the electric chair was found to be faulty.

When the atmospheric pressure drops, the barometer needle is observed to swing to the left.

A micrometer was used to make sure the machine parts were within tolerances.

Did you notice that finding a new subject for these sentences was easy when the word by followed the passive verb? You just used the noun that followed by. But when no by was present, you may have had to imagine a subject. Another tip for finding passive constructions is to look for forms of the verb to be, for example, is, am, be, being, were, was, been.


In the last lesson, we learned how to substitute concrete nouns for abstract ones. Passive verbs seem to attract abstract nouns, so that when you eliminate one you often have to change the other. Here are some sentences with abstract noun/passive verb pairs. On your printed copy of this lesson, mark the abstract nouns in green, as before, then mark the passive verbs in pink. Finally, rewrite the sentence to remove both.

The practice of filling out work orders in triplicate is disliked by the machinists.

The flexibility of the new computer was emphasized in the advertisement.

The ability of the aircraft to survive spears and arrows was stressed in the design.

The chief measure of the new economic program's success will be indicated in the reduction of inflation.

It is recommended that adequate shielding be placed around the reactor.

Separation of the steel from the brass is performed magnetically.


When you decide to write a sentence with a passive verb, you often get trapped into using awkward constructions like:

through the use of in order to on the part of as to whether in the case of for the purpose of

In the following sentences mark and remove each passive verb, noticing how, at the same time, you no longer need such awkward constructions:

In the laboratory, a high safety record is achieved through the use of double-shielded walls.

A new power supply was required in order to fix the robot.

No knowledge of calculus is required on the part of the students.

The pilot was questioned as to what action would be taken in the event that he saw a UFO.

When disinfectants are used in connection with hospital cleaning programs, supplies seldom become contaminated.


Sometimes you want to emphasize the object of an action more than the subject. Then you'll want to place the object of the action first in the sentence (that is, make it the subject of the sentence). That usually requires a passive verb. Look at these two sentences:

(1) The Cosmic Company installed a new word processor. (2) A new word processor was installed at the Cosmic Company.
Which sentence emphasizes the word processor, and which focuses attention on the company? You naturally expect the sentence following (1) to continue talking about the Cosmic Company, whereas the one following (2) would logically talk some more about the word processor. Suppose you wanted to write about the 85% accuracy a forecaster achieved in predicting snowstorms. How would you write the sentence to emphasize the forecaster?

Now suppose you were writing mainly about snowstorms and wanted to emphasize them?

Can you see how the emphasis you want affects how you choose the subject of each sentence and consequently your choice of an active or passive verb?


Weak verbs like do, make, perform, have and forms of the verb to be convey practically no sense of action, and so waste the function of the verb as the sentence's power source. Whenever you can, substitute verbs that create a clear sense of action. This is easy when you see nouns that are really verbs in disguise. Look at these examples of weak verbs coupled with nouns that are really strong verbs in disguise. Write in the blank after each one the strong verb that you can substitute.

make a recommendation formulate an argument raise an objection make restitution express resentment arrive at a conclusion perform an analysis develop a plan exercise conformity undertake a development find a solution make a decision
Find a few paragraphs you have written recently and use your pink highlighter to mark all the passive verbs. Notice how the passive verbs have attracted awkward constructions and abstract nouns. Rewrite those paragraphs using the techniques you have learned in this lesson. Get into the habit of using your pink highlighter to flag passive verbs in your own writing.


As you write, keep in mind that the word passive means the same as submissive, inactive and inert. Are these the qualities that you want your writing to have? If more than about one-third of your verbs are passive, you writing probably sounds stilted and unnatural and doesn't inform as forcefully as it could. Substitute strong verbs for weak, inert verbs whenever you can. The next lesson describes a powerful tool for analyzing and specifying the relations among details -- the dependent clause.

-- End of Lesson 12 -Beginning of Lesson 12 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 13

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 13

The Dependent Clause -- A Natural Way to Write Analytically

In this Lesson:

What's a dependent clause, anyway? How they amplify, explain, and analyze Find the dependent clauses Defining relations among ideas The enemy: prepositional phrases Avoid strings of adjectives

In this lesson, you'll learn how to use a powerful tool for analyzing the details you have to write about. It's called the dependent clause. Don't worry about the formidable name -- it's just the same way you use to describe relations between ideas in ordinary conversation.


First, let's make sure you know how to recognize a dependent clause when you see one. Here are some examples of sentences with dependent clauses in them. The dependent clauses are in boldface.

The project was not completed on time, because the machine parts were stolen. If at first you don't succeed, try something else. A helium nucleus has two protons, whereas hydrogen has only one. Although Klingon battle cruisers are not very maneuverable, they can make themselves invisible.

Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated? Energy supplies will dwindle, unless we conserve.
Notice how each dependent clause can't stand by itself, even though it has a subject and a verb of its own. Instead, in some way it amplifies or qualifies the statement in the main part of each sentence. The first boldface word in each case is the key. It goes by the horrible name of subordinating conjunction, but don't worry about that. Dependent clauses can also begin with relative pronouns, as in these examples:

Where are the parts that I ordered? The uranium nucleus, which contains 92 protons, is unstable. Most people don't know who their senators are. What the aerospace industry needs now is more friends in Congress. HOW THEY AMPLIFY, EXPLAIN AND ANALYZE
You don't need to worry about the grammatical terminology -- you just need to understand how dependent clauses qualify, limit, expand and explain detail -- how they highlight the important and suppress the incidental. And that's what Analytical Writing is all about. All you really have to remember are these surprisingly short tables of words for linking ideas and showing how they are related: SO ALTHOUGH AFTER BECAUSE IF WHERE THAN SINCE AS BEFORE THOUGH WHEN WHEREAS



These are the good guys! If you start using these words to introduce dependent clauses, I guarantee that your writing will improve. Copy this list and keep it in front of you during your writing assignments. Make a conscious effort to use words from this list to relate and amplify your ideas.


In the following examples, underline the dependent clauses and circle the subordinating conjunctions. If you can, write down also the function of each clause in the sentence (for example, does it function like a noun, and adjective or an adverb, and is it the subject, object or a modifier in the sentence?) If you can't, it doesn't matter.

I want you to remember how you tuned the transmitter. The reaction took longer than he expected. If I have time, I will buy the dynamite. We found the parts that you ordered, but they were radioactive. Chamberlain defied the pessimists who predicted that he would fail. We searched the spot where I lost the bagels. Employees who work hard will receive a gold star. Michelson said that he knew why the experiment burst into flames. That the cast-iron airplane would fly was doubtful. DEFINING RELATIONS AMONG IDEAS
There are many ways to combine related ideas. The best ways are the ones that precisely define relations among ideas, by explaining, contrasting, limiting and expanding. Consider the string of ideas in these isolated sentences:

Eunice set fire to the cat. The cat jumped into the pool. The cat could not swim. Rodney rescued the cat.
You could combine the ideas, linking them with semicolons:

Eunice set fire to the cat; the cat jumped into the pool; the cat could not swim; Rodney rescued the cat.
Or you could combine them as independent clauses, using only and:

Eunice set fire to the cat, and the cat jumped into the pool, and the cat could not swim, and Rodney rescued the cat.

Using but and so clarifies the relations a bit more:

Eunice set fire to the cat, and he jumped into the pool, but the cat could not swim, so Rodney rescued him.
Finally, dependent clauses make things even more vivid:

After Eunice set fire to the cat, he jumped into the pool, but because he couldn't swim, Rodney rescued him.
Do you see the difference between simply listing the four ideas and linking them together with words that define precisely how they are related? Practice forming dependent clauses by combining each of the following sets of isolated ideas into one sentence. Use the subordinating conjunctions from the above list (or make up ones of your own) that best describe the probable relations among the ideas.

The airplane landed. We got off. We discovered we were not in Pittsburgh. We were in Havana.

The program was written in FORTRAN. It is longer than a machine-language version. It can run on many different computers.

Computer maintenance costs kept increasing. Georgette complained about peanut butter on the diskettes. Mr. Figby banned food from the computer room.

Doppler radars measure radial velocities. A conventional radar cannot. Doppler radars are useful for remote sensing.

The goat ate Bertha's leotards. Bertha couldn't perform in the comapany ballet. Bertha went to the movies instead.

The operating manual contains some simple maintenance procedures. We urge you to call a service man for repairs. Unauthorized service may void your warranty.

Another useful linking word is but. Technically, it's a coordinating conjunction, used to join independent clauses. Use it, along with your other tools, to contrast ideas, as in the following exercises:

Word processors permit efficient manuscript typing. They make revisions a lot easier. They require an investment of several thousand dollars. The operators must be trained for a week.

Janice read the instruction manual very carefully. She hit the ! key. The terminal exploded.

CAUTION: I am not generally urging you to patch several short sentences into one long one. You will need to decide in each case whether doing so will help you define more clearly the relations among ideas.

Find a paragraph or two that you have written recently and underline all the dependent clauses. If you don't find very many, you can be sure that your sentences aren't informing as well as they could. Try rewriting your paragraphs so that at least half the sentences contain dependent clauses.


Before we go on to some more exercises to give you practice using dependent clauses, let's look at the usual, less informative alternative to the dependent clause. It's called the prepositional phrase. Here are some examples:

You learned in grammar school about simple, compound and complex sentences. It's too bad that sentences with dependent clauses in them got the label complex. Most people are frightened by the word complex, because it usually means complicated. Why use a "complex" (meaning complicated) sentence when you can use a simple one? Well, here's another fine mess grammatical terminology has gotten us into!

in progress on the floor beside the garage between the cities of data-processing equipment to a Martian by walking on hot coals

The first word in each phrase is the preposition. Notice that these phrases have no verbs in them. Clauses always do. (In the last example, walking is formally a noun.) One way to tell that ideas are being merely listed or cataloged is to notice how many prepositional phrases you have. When there are too many of them, you know that all ideas are being treated as grammatically equal. There's no discrimination, no emphasis among qualifying details. When you don't supply that discrimination and emphasis, your readers have to do that themselves. And that's just what you want to avoid.

So here's a simple rule for improving the way you present details:


Here are some sentences that put their details entirely in prepositional phrases. Use your yellow highlighter to mark all the prepositional phrases. As a check, I note the number of phrases after each sentence. Then rewrite each sentence to give the same information, but using no prepositional phrases:

In their specifications for engine parts, titanium is often requested by engineers because of its resistance to the effects of high temperatures. (6)

Uncertainties in the market for American cars is of concern to leaders of the industry, due to the increases in the costs of labor and raw materials. (8)

In the design of components for warp drives for starships, increasing attention is being given to the employment of dilithium crystals because of their high power output in relation to their weight. (9)

The emphasis of this research is on new ways of measuring currents in the ocean with radar for the purpose of studying their effects on climate.(8)

Take a paragraph or two from your own writing and mark all the prepositional phrases in yellow. Try rewriting your paragraphs, removing as many of the prepositional phrases as you can.


Scientific and technical writing are nortorious for cataloging details by stringing bunches of adjectives in front of nouns. These are sometimes called noun strings. Here are some examples I extracted from actual technical writing:

development flight instrumentation recorders

agency management planning system enhancements inferior product labeling requirements multichannel complex maximum-entropy (autoregressive) spectral analysis digital 8-pole variable-bandwidth lowpass filter surface water quality protection procedures development canister/missile launch support stand (TSE4508) interface design
They don't make any more sense when you see them in context, either. Here are a few sentences that cause most readers to do a double-take. Underline the piled-up adjectives:

The QX-7 is the first extra-long range (800-1000 miles), low-silhouette pilotless target aircraft to be built entirely of fiberglass. The top-level fire-control-related generic requirements are stated explicitly in the proposal. The detail media measurements are particularly useful in the continuous refinement of one and two-dimensional laser peformance calculations. It was necessary to run the transient counterflow program to obtain the average temperature history of a mass averaged nozzle and the deuterium coolant exit temperature history. The closed-cavity power data base was used to establish the gain generator run conditions at the various power points specified.
In these examples, technical adjectives are so crammed together ahead of nouns that it's not even clear what they mean. What can you do about strings of technical adjectives? If you're tempted to translate them into strings of prepositional phrases, don't! That's sometimes an improvement, but as you just learned, prepositional phrases are catalogers of ideas, too. The first example above can be rewritten using a dependent clause:

The QX-7, which is the first pilotless aircraft to be built entirely of fiberglass, combines a range between 800 and 1000 miles with a low radar silhouette.
Go ahead and rewrite the other four sentences, using dependent clauses to clarify the relations among ideas.

Now, take a paragraph or two of your own writing and underline any strings of technical adjectives. Rewrite those sentences using more analytical constructions.


When you use dependent clauses (that is, complex sentences), you write in the most natural, yet informative style possible. You bring the important ideas into the spotlight and analyze their interrelations. Listing ideas in strings of adjectives or prepositional phrases, on the other hand, just catalogs them. The next four lessons are short ones. They'll show you four simple steps for making your sentences hang together in coherent paragraphs. The same analytical principles apply to these larger writing units as to words and sentences.

-- End of Lesson 13 -Beginning of Lesson 13 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 14

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 14

Step 1 to More Informative Paragraphs -- Orient Your Reader

In this and the next three lessons, you'll learn how to assemble sentences into coherent packages called paragraphs. An informative paragraph should tell your readers all they need to know about a single idea, in a logical sequence, without wasting their time with irrelevant detail.

In this Lesson:

Should rules determine paragraph length? Make your reader comfortable Use orienting words and phrases Let the new amplify the old Add explanatory words and phrases

Groups of paragraphs make up the sections of your paper, which are its next larger logical units. Most of the principles for writing informative paragraphs apply to whole sections, too, so we won't deal separately with putting sections together. Whatever I say about putting sentences together into paragraphs applies also to putting paragraphs together into sections.


The most commonly cited rule about paragraphs is keep them short. One article I read said to make your typewritten paragraphs no longer than your little finger. Rigid rules like that are, of course, substitutes for thinking, and most of them are nonsense. If your paragraphs seem too long, it's probably because you've wandered from the logical thread you started at its beginning. Check the final sentences and see if they are still directly related to your topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph. If not, break it up. If your paragraphs seem too short and choppy, you're probably jumping around between unrelated ideas. Try to combine logically related ideas from different paragraphs into larger units. Length in itself has nothing to do with informing efficiently. A long paragraph can well be a sound and informative logical unit. Cut off your paragraphs where there is a logical break in your reasoning. The only good reason I know of to keep your paragraphs short is that long stretches of words present a formidable visual image and make your writing appear hard to read. So, when in doubt, start a new paragraph. There are hundreds of other rules about how to write informative paragraphs. Most are just too general or complicated to be practically useful. Besides, you aren't likely to remember more than about four. Here, then, are four useful principles to keep in mind as you assemble a paragraph:

Orient your reader to the subject. Tie your ideas together. Take it easy through technically dense passages. Arrange your ideas in a logical sequence.

Now we'll go through these four steps, one-by-one, and find out exactly how to incorporate them into your own writing.


Everyone needs to take stock of the present situation and to have some idea where they're going before plunging off in a new direction. That's why you need to give your readers signposts that tell them where they are and where you're going to lead them, not just at the beginning of your paper, but frequently along the way. Have you noticed that, at the end of each lesson in this course, I stop and summarize what we've just covered and tell you what's coming next? This is one kind of orienting signpost to help you keep your perspective as you work through the lessons. Since paragraphs and sections are the logical modules of your paper, each one should contain some kind of orienting material to keep your readers in touch with the old and familiar, as you lead them into new and unknown territory. Whenever you introduce a new idea, your readers will appreciate definitions, examples and comparisons with things they already know. They will feel more comfortable with your new information if they have a familiar reference to hang on to. Three ways to do this are with orienting words and phrases, by letting the old amplify the new, and by adding explanatory words and phrases, where necessary.


Here are a few orienting words and phrases you can use to introduce familiar concepts and to make your readers comfortable by touching base with things they already know:

of course as you know until now obviously normally previously everyone is familiar with remember that

In this exercise, ideas labeled THE OLD and THE NEW are paired together so that THE OLD idea introduces and forms the background for THE NEW idea. Fill in the blanks with the most suitable orienting word or phrase from the list above. Pick the one that best introduces THE NEW idea. THE OLD: drifting buoys have been used to monitor surface currents in the ocean. THE NEW: Now, high-frequency radars based on the shore can remotely map currents over large areas. THE OLD: microcomputers have been getting smaller and lighter. THE NEW: The latest models are so light you can carry them around like a notebook. THE OLD: our typewriter cases have been made of cast aluminum.

THE NEW: They are now molded in structural plastic.

THE NEW: This year's widget sales jumped to 86,000. THE OLD: last year, we sold only 42,000 widgets. THE OLD: standard periodogram analysis, which gives the frequency components of a time series. THE NEW: The fast Fourier transform gets the same results with much greater computational efficiency. THE OLD: computing the payroll for 500 employees would take two days. THE NEW: The new computer does it all in an hour. THE NEW: Our new camera automatically determines shutter speed and f-stop for every shot. THE OLD: you can still set your exposures manually, if you want to. If you think of words like these while you write, orienting material will naturally come to mind.


As you link the old with the new, avoid the traditional chronological approach that lists the old things before the new. Usually, you are interested in the old merely as a contrast with the new. For example:

The new Videx compact video disk player weighs one-third and costs less than half of the 1992 model. Furthermore, it can hold up to six times as much programming and uses tiny 3-inch disks instead of the bulky 12-inch ones.
Isn't this version much more informative than one that would begin by listing the undesirable characteristics of the old machines, then told you what the latest ones are like? How often do you begin your news with a long historical background? Such background information is most useful if it is strategically placed to reinforce and contrast with your message, not as a single lump at the beginning.


Often, when you are introducing new ideas, you will have to expand and clarify them with definitions and explanatory material. Generally, the more complex the ideas you have to present, the more explanatory material you will need. This sentence needs to be broken up with orienting and explanatory phrases:

The EC-153 aircraft will be developed to provide electronic countermeasures (ECM) in tactical theaters for the purpose of defending ground-support aircraft against radar-vectored SAMs.
Depending on what audience is being addressed, the meanings of these terms may not be clear: electronic countermeasures, tactical theaters, ground-support aircraft and SAMs. If not, the passage should be expanded with definitions, like this:

In local military actions called tactical theaters, aircraft that provide reconnaissance for ground troops are vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) guided by enemy radars. The EC-153 aircraft will generate jamming signals to confuse enemy radars -- a function known as electronic countermeasures (ECM).
To decide how much explanatory material you need, you have to form a clear picture of your audience and how familiar they are with what you're saying. In general, it's a good idea to put in more explanations than you think you need, because your writing is often read by people outside your expected audience. For example, the first version of the passage above would probably be OK for military field commanders, but woefully inadequate for a congressional briefing to secure funding for such an aircraft. Now find a sample of your own writing and underline any technical terms that need to be expanded, explained, or more clearly defined for the particular audience you were writing to. Write down those technical terms and explain and amplify them with a few words that give that audience a clearer picture of what you're talking about. Try using explanatory phrases like in other words, for example, that is, and this means that...:

Here's an exercise to give you practice constructing coherent paragraphs that contain enough orienting material. The list below gives some facts that you want to communicate to your customers about a new computer system. Construct one or more paragraphs incorporating these facts, along with any amplifying material you make up. Make sure you pay attention to all the principles you just read about, namely:

Use orienting words and phrases Let the old amplify the new Make full use of explanatory material

Here are the facts:

Our new ZXM computer lets you put up to 10 users on your processor. It offers 50% more disk-storage space, with removable backup. You can trade in your ZXQ single-user system for what you paid for it. Secure accounting files are available. New word-processing software allows file-merging. Deliveries will begin in January.

Write your paragraph below:


When you begin writing each paragraph and section, think about your readers' needs for orientation. Tell them how your message is connected with what they already know, using orienting words and phrases, by explaining technical terms, and by using the old to amplify and support the new. The next lesson gives you some specific ways to tie ideas together so your paragraphs look like logical units.

"If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it." -Abraham Lincoln

-- End of Lesson 14 -Beginning of Lesson 14 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 15

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 15

Step 2 to More Informative Paragraphs -- Tie Your Ideas Together

In this Lesson:

Connectives Intensives

As you build paragraphs, you'll need some "glue" to bind your sentences together. Otherwise, your readers will have trouble making the logical jumps from one sentence to the next. Even though the connections between your sentences may be clear to you, you can't count on your readers to supply those links. Remember that a paragraph should form a single logical unit. If it doesn't create a single idea in your readers' minds, it's not doing its job.

English supplies us with useful linking words called connectives, which form the logical bridges between ideas. If you keep these verbal guideposts in mind and use them as you write, you will almost automatically provide the interrelations among ideas that every reader looks for. Here is a list of some connectives. Like the subordinating conjunctions, these are the good guys; use them liberally (but correctly and appropriately), and I guarantee that your writing will become more effective. They are hard to overuse. Connective words that describe relationships: ALSO INCIDENTALLY LIKEWISE MOREOVER NEXT HOWEVER THEREFORE THUS USUALLY WHATEVER ALTHOUGH BESIDES MEANWHILE FURTHERMORE GENERALLY

YET INSTEAD Connectives that give a sense of time: FIRST






All of these words and phrases link ideas and assure continuity in your writing.

Another useful principle to assure continuity in your writing and tie your sentences together is:

One easy way to follow this principle is to use pronominal adjectives like these to refer to nouns in previous sentences: THIS THESE THEIR ITS For example: THAT WHICH HIS HER

Dr. Quark testified that the only scientific value of creationism lies in its position among primitive superstitions and mythologies. His testimony helped strike down laws requiring its teachings to be included in biology textbooks.
Another way to assure continuity in your writing is simple repetition; that is, carry the same nouns from one sentence to the next. For example:

Scientists map the winds and precipitation inside hurricanes by flying specially instrumented aircraft through them. These aircraft must withstand stresses of up to six times the force of gravity.
If you try to use these connective devices in your own writing, but have difficulty, be suspicious that the ideas that you're trying to link together in a single paragraph are merely a sequence (that is, a catalog) of logically unrelated ideas. Rearrange or rewrite them until you can logically tie them together. Remember: All the sentences in a paragraph should be logically related.

Another way to tie ideas together is with intensives. Intensives help you emphasize what's important and to set the important apart from the incidental -- a major goal of all scientific and technical writing. Compare the following two sentences, the first without intensives and the second with intensives added:

The whale is the largest living mammal. The largest whales weigh over 150 tons, are 100 feet long, and consume 5 tons of food each day. The whale is by far the largest living mammal. In fact, the largest whales weigh as much as 150 tons and grow as long as 100 feet. These enormous animals consume 5 tons of food each day.
Notice how the bold words that have been added emphasize certain points the author deemed important. Here is a list of some useful intensives: ESPECIALLY INCREASINGLY AS MUCH AS BY FAR EVEN IF/THOUGH SO...THAT




CAUTION: Misusing or overusing intensives (most notoriously, the word very) can weaken your writing. Use them like garlic -- sparingly. Eliminate intensives that are thrown in gratuitously or that don't make a definite contribution by emphasizing an important fact or idea. Littering your writing with intensives where they are not needed makes your writing sound trite and strains your credibility. Here is an exercise to give you practice linking your ideas together. Add connectives, intensives (from the lists above, or make up your own) and repeated words to the following sentences to make a coherent paragraph:

Global Airlines carried three-million passengers last year. They expanded their routes into the Pacific Northwest and Canada. The new DC-12 aircraft proved more fuel-efficient than the older 737's. Older, unprofitable routes were dropped. Passengers seem to like on-time flights and automatic ticketing. Only one-million passengers flew Global two years ago. Their record has been accident-free since 1950. Global planes have averaged 80-percent full last year. Profits were up 60 percent, in spite of increased fuel costs.



For your paragraphs to appear as logical units, they have to hang together and convey a single idea. Use connectives and intensives to link ideas and to make the important ones stand out. Next, we'll look at how to handle complex technical ideas in your writing. This is the easiest place of all to put your audience to sleep.

-- End of Lesson 15 -Beginning of Lesson 15 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 16

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 16

Step 3 to More Informative Paragraphs -- Take it Easy Through Technically Dense Passages
In this Lesson:

Break up and expand technical terms How to handle mathematical formulas Replace technical terms with ordinary equivalents

Most of us see an example of mind-numbing technical density every day. It's the weather part of the TV news. The format is so familiar that we accept it without challenge. Most weather shows have just two or three minutes to present an incredible amount of information tailored simultaneously to hundreds of different local regions. The best they can do under such constraints is to present charts and diagrams designed to let each viewer pick out the information that applies to his locality. Unfortunately, these maps are cluttered with numbers and weather symbols that most people don't need or even understand. Instead of extracting the desired information, what most people do is go into a trance. When they wake up, they find themselves asking "What did he say about tomorrow's weather?" Much scientific and technical writing has the same numbing effect. The more technical terms there are in a passage, the more difficult it is to hold your reader's interest and the harder it is to understand. Most scientific and technical writing packs technical detail so densely that even the most interested and informed reader finds it difficult to follow without rereading. But how can you eliminate or soften the impact of all the specialized jargon that seems so essential in technical papers, without burdening your readers with prolonged explanations and definitions?

Two relatively easy ways you will practice here are to break up and expand technical terms to decrease their density and to eliminate as many technical terms as possible by replacing them with everyday equivalents.


You've already found out how to break up and expand technical terms by inserting explanations and orienting material. Go back to the example about the EC-153 aircraft in Lesson 14. Notice how the orienting material that was added to the second version spaces out the technical terms and makes them easier to digest than they were in the first version. Here's a passage that is so littered with technical jargon that you probably won't understand it unless you're a specialist. Most minds just "blow a fuse" from the overload:

A complete asymptotic analysis is carried out for the flow field produced by the instantaneous release of energy, at a point on the ground, in an isothermal atmosphere. A double-integral expression for the flow is constructed from the Laplace-Hankel transforms of the linearized equations. An asymptotic approximation to the integral is obtained by two successive applications of the method of stationary phase.
What he said was that he modeled the waves from an explosion in the atmosphere using a mathematical approximation to the equations governing the air's motions. The remaining specific details would be interesting to mathematicians, but even they might have to read it twice. Even if none of the technical terms was changed, however, the passage can be made more digestible just by breaking it up into shorter, active sentences and inserting some plain-English words. For example:

Using a complete asymptotic analysis, I computed the flow field produced in an isothermal atmosphere by the instantaneous release of energy occurring at a point on the ground. Beginning with the linearized equations of motion, I first applied the Laplace-Hankel transforms to obtain a doubleintegral expressing the flow field. Then I twice used the method of stationary phase to obtain an asymptotic solution.

This may not be the exact meaning the author intended, but this reconstruction using the words he gave us certainly seems less frightening. Why? Go back over the paragraph and underline the phrases that have been added to the first version. The way the author wrote the first passage above assumed that his audience knew in advance what he was talking about. How often do you write as though you assumed your reader already understood what you have to say?


A particular kind of technical density that can be especially intimidating is an unbroken chain of mathematical formulas. Because they are taught that mathematics is the language of science, many scientists and engineers believe that technical ideas are best (if not most impressively) communicated in the rigor of mathematical formulas. To be sure, both technical terms and mathematical symbols are linguistic shortcuts whose meanings we agree upon so we can communicate without getting bogged down in the language. But when you lay out page after page of solid mathematics, no matter how profound, you end up with technical density of the most impenetrable kind. How often have you seen pages full of mathematical symbols with nothing tying them together but phrases like:

it is obvious that it can be shown that similarly thus it follows that after considerable manipulation define suppose that combining equations (3), (10) and (29), we obtain

If you write with a lot of mathematical formulas, try to put in at least an equal weight of English words to balance out the math. The best words to insert between formulas are explanations introduced by phrases like:

in other words what this means is for example that is

Often you face a decision about whether to state an idea or concept in English or in mathematical terms. If you feel more comfortable with mathematical symbols, you might be tempted to use mathematics where English would be easier to follow, and vice-versa. Many technical writers imagine that they're making a point more clearly and precisely by translating it into mathematical symbols. This seldom happens. Imagine instead that you're translating your information into a foreign language. Then ask yourself how many of your readers are actually fluent in that language.

Remember that the original reason for using mathematical formulas was to make things clearer, not more obscure. So the question to ask yourself when you're deciding whether to present an idea in English or in mathematical formulas is: which language is likely to enhance communication with your audience, and which is likely to obscure it? If you have written a paper or report with a high concentration of mathematical symbols and formulas, take a page from it and answer these questions about each formula on the page:

1. Was it really necessary to express this idea in mathematical symbols, or could you have made your point more clearly using English words? 2. Have you adequately defined all your symbols? 3. Have you clearly explained the significance of this step in the development of your paper? 4. Does this formula contribute to the mainstream logic of your paper, or is is just a detour in a mathematical derivation that could be in an appendix? 5. Try writing a sentence beginning with This means that ... following each formula. Does that help clarify things?
Here is an example of technical writing that expresses complex mathematical concepts in a nonthreatening way. It is from Wind Waves by Blair Kinsman (Prentice-Hall, 1965).

Suppose that h(t) is the surface elevation of the water measured at some fixed point x for all time (t equals minus infinity to plus infinity). It is obvious that a knowledge of h(t) is beyond human compass. Instead -- neglecting the signature of an imperfect instrument -- what we can hope to know is the truncated function h'(t) given by h'(t) = h(t) for |t| < or = T and h'(t) = 0 for |t| > T The reference time t=0 has been centered on the sample length, which is 2T. This formulation suggests that we consider that, during the period of measurement, the truncated function coincides with the water elevation and that outside the period of measurement it be defined as identically zero. Do not be alarmed. The equation above does

not say that there are no waves when you are not observing them. It is really descriptive of your state of knowledge of the waves, which is zero when you're not looking at them and h(t) when you are. The concept here is certainly much less artificial than the one that repeats the record at exactly at intervals 2T, so that a Fourier series analysis can be made. Since T is finite and the waves, h(t), never become infinite, h'(t) can be integrated.
You may not appreciate the beautiful clarity of this passage unless you have a background in Fourier analysis and have stumbled through fog that pervades almost all mathematical writing. Kinsman's book is a fine example of clear yet precise scientific writing in a personal style that informs by involving the reader.


You may be surprised to learn that most of the technical terms you use without thinking in your writing are unnecessary. Look at this technical description of a heat-transfer process:

The heat energy transferred between two bodies is proportional to the difference in temperature between the bodies and the thermal conductivity of the material interface between them.
If your background is in engineering or physics, you didn't have any trouble with the passage, because you've been trained to express technical concepts in that stilted style. You may be comfortable with it, and so may other technical people, but what about the uninitiated? We can say the same thing without so many technical terms:

More heat flows from a hot body toward a colder body if the temperature difference between the two is large and if they are joined by a good conductor of heat.
To be sure, many technical terms are the only way to make precise definitions and distinctions. But many others are just obscure ways to say ordinary things. How many you use depends on the level of technical precision you need to communicate and how familiar your readers are with technical terms. Writing the above passage for engineers, for example, you may need to mention the concept of thermal conductivity explicitly and even add a formula that quantifies the heat transferred. For a lay audience, on the other hand, both would be superfluous.

As a rule, it's a good idea to use no more technical terms than your least educated reader will understand. You can put more technical details for your sophisticated readers in an appendix or as a hypertext link. In this exercise, find simpler ways to say what these technical sentences are trying to say:

The composition and homogeneity of the strata are of primary importance.

At its maximum ceiling, the aircraft may exceed its operational safety envelope.

The concentration of contaminants was such that the optical properties of the fluid prevented significant light transmission.

Changing the tuning parameters may result in transmitter emissions that exceed FCC standards for frequency stability.

Electron beam convergence can be optimized by adjustment of the grid potential.

The probability of detecting missiles with the new radar has been marginal because of effective enemy countermeasures.

Nutritional intake has been found to be correlated with physiological hardiness.

The bacterial colony exhibited a one-hundred-percent mortality response.

Find an article you have written that deals with technical concepts and circle as many technical terms as you can. Then make a table that lists each technical term, followed by an ordinary, nontechnical word that means the same thing. List some of your substitutions here:



The more technical terms you put into your writing, the harder it will be to understand. Mathematical formulas are especially intimidating. Eliminate as many technical terms as you can by replacing with ordinary equivalents, and space out the rest with explanations and definitions. Next, you'll learn some ways to arrange your ideas in the most logical order for your reader to digest. They will help you organize your paragraphs as well as your whole documents.

-- End of Lesson 16 -Beginning of Lesson 16 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 17

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 17

Step 4 to More Informative Paragraphs -- Arrange Your Ideas in a Logical Sequence

One of the most frequent complaints about scientific and technical writing is that ideas aren't arranged logically. Thoughts are often thrown in at random, with no particular connection with with what has come before or with what follows. This is particularly confusing when the ideas are complicated and technical. The way you order ideas is not only a way to hold your readers' interest, it's yet another way to emphasize what's important and suppress the incidental. You may not realize that there are different logical sequences, or frameworks, in which to present your information. Without thinking, many people present things chronologically, as though to reproduce the way events actually happened. This is especially tempting after you have labored for months or years to produce your final product or result. You might want your readers to appreciate every painful hurdle and obstacle you encountered along the way. Sadly, however, few of your readers care. In fact, you do them a great disservice to drag them over that same tiresome ground with you. Instead, think of all your hard work as saving them the trouble. Here are just a few examples of logical sequences that you might find useful in your own writing. Write in the blank following each one a couple of examples of subjects that might best be organized that way:

A TEMPORAL SEQUENCE: for emphasizing the time relations among things or events:

A SPATIAL SEQUENCE: when you want your reader to see the way different aspects of your subject
are spatially interrelated or lie in contrast: Examples:

STEPS OF A PROCESS: when you want to focus on a process itself, not the end result:

INCREASING COMPLEXITY: a sequence that leads your readers gently into a complex subject:

DECREASING ORDER OF IMPORTANCE: when you want to tell your readers that
something new has happened and why they should be interested -- then fill them in on the details: Examples: Whatever sequence you select for your purpose and audience, a good way to make sure that your sequence is, in fact, logical is to make sure the connectives are there. If they aren't, and if you can't work them in, let that be a signal that your sequence is not a logical one. Here's an exercise to make you think about the right logical sequence for presenting various kinds of information. Write in the blank following each subject the sequence you would choose from the list above. Make up a sequence of your own, if you think it is more appropriate. Some complex subjects require more than one sequence, one nested inside another. Mention such cases, where appropriate. Also be aware that you might use different logical arrangements of the same material when writing for different audiences.

A memo telling the programming staff how to submit jobs to the new computer A press release describing your new video camera A proof of a mathematical theorem A technical report documenting a computer program for controlling a milling machine A proposal to the National Science Foundation asking them to fund your genetic research A description of improvements to a steelmaking process A summary of the results of the latest census A journal paper describing your discovery of a new drug for curing acne A technical report analyzing the effects of the solar cycle on climate A trip report An instruction manual for your word-processor A report to the President on national unemployment statistics
Notice that there are no ironclad "right" answers to these questions. The way you arrange ideas for one audience may not work for another. In the end, you have to decide which arrangement best matches your readers' needs. You will be better equipped to do that if you keep all the choices in mind, rather than being locked into one. Examine each arrangement and assess how each one serves your purpose in writing.


When you find the most logical framework for your message, your readers will feel comfortable reading it, because the reasoning flows naturally. An easy way to test for logical flow is to look for and try to insert the logical connectives. Next we ask how personal you should get in your scientific and technical writing. This sticky question is hotly debated wherever scientific and technical writing is taught.

-- End of Lesson 17 -Beginning of Lesson 17 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 18

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 18

Should You Use a Personal Style in Scientific and Technical Writing?

In this Lesson:

How did scientific and technical writing get so impersonal? Does impersonal mean objective? Bureaucracies stifle personal expression Why put people into your writing? Who dunnit? How to put people into your writing Some warnings about personal style Why fight it? How to convince your boss

In this lesson, you will learn that if you put people into your writing, you will not only create a closer link with your readers, but you will also make your message easier for them to understand. What is impersonal writing? It means simply that your writing has no people in it. Experiments are done. Results get interpreted. Decisions are made. No one makes them. In personal writing, people play an important role -- not just individuals, but any group, such as a company, a committee or institution.


Impersonal writing has entered our culture as a way to create an image of objectivity. Some scientists and businessmen fear that if you read about people doing something, you might think that human biases and subjectivity might have influenced the outcome. The result might be questionable. By removing the people, you supposedly create an air of professionalism, credibility and authority. This belief is probably rooted in legal traditions. Impersonal writing is also a way to obscure who's actually responsible for an act. Large corporations and governments use it to create an illusion of uniform efficiency and machinelike inflexibility. To see how this works, check which of these executive pronouncements seems less flexible and makes you feel less like arguing with it:

The new administrative policy shall be to reimburse the use of private automobiles at a rate of 8 cents a mile.

I have decided that anyone who uses his private automobile on company business shall be reimbursed at a rate of 8 cents a mile.
Which one is easier to understand and remember? Of course, you may sometimes want to issue orders that you want accepted without argument. Then which form would you use?


The myth behind impersonal writing is that impersonal equals objective. Everyone knows that people are always involved in any business, scientific or engineering activity. Yet somehow they get left out of writing about those activities. It has not always been so. Many of the most prominent scientists of earlier centuries wrote in a very personal style. Here's a well known paragraph from The chemical history of a candle, written by Michael Faraday:

You see, then .... that a beautiful cup is formed. As the air comes to the candle it moves upward by the force of the current which the heat of the candle produces, and it so cools all the sides of the wax, tallow, or fuel, as to keep the edge much cooler than the part within; the part within melts by the flame that runs down the wick as far as it can go before it is extinguished, but the part on the outside does not melt. If I made a current in one direction, my cup would be lop-sided, and the flud would consequently run over, -- for the same force of gravity which holds worlds together holds this fluid in a horizontal position, and if the cup be not horizontal, of course the fluid will run away in guttering .... You see now why you would have had such a bad time if you were to burn these beautiful candles that I have shown you, which are irregular, intermittent in their shape, and cannot therefore have that nicely formed edge to the cup which is the great beauty in a candle. I hope you will now see that the perfection of a process -that is its utility -- is the better point of beauty about it.
Although written over a hundred years ago, this passage remains interesting and informative today, partly because it reveals the personal involvement Faraday felt in his work. Would you say that this passage lacks objectivity?

Somehow, as science and technology became institutionalized, and as governments, large institutions and corporations took control, the roles of individuals in science and technology has faded. This diminished visibility is reflected in the disappearance of personalities from technical literature today.


Anyone who has filled out an income-tax return recognizes the bureaucratic language known as officialese or governmentese. It's a ubiquitous dialect that seems to be designed to intimidate the reader with an image of inflexible authority. Governments, military establishments, and large corporations believe that they have to use such language to make people conform to policies and rules without question. But the language itself often has the opposite effect. Incomprehensible rules, regulations, memos, e-mail, and reports simply frustrate their readers, who may waste their own and other people's time seeking clarification -- or they may just ignore them. As a result, the very word bureaucracy is synonymous with impersonal inefficiency and inertia. Creative, expressive innovators and clear, no-nonsense writing often attract enough adverse attention to discourage such behavior. Ironically, a clearly written, common-sense rule or policy may have a harder time getting approved than an ambiguous one. The more people who are able to read and understand it, the more opposition is triggered. Everyone has to make his or her own decisions about how to live with such inconsistencies in the workplace, and whether to be part of the problem or to contribute to its solution. If you're part of such a system, and occasionally feel a bit alienated, one way to do your part to keep "the system" from swallowing you up is to express yourself as a person, especially in your writing. Accept responsibility for your work and your results. Take your readers and your personal relationships with them into account when you write. Recognize that bureacracies are simply collections of people, and each person can be influenced by personal contact that takes his or her needs into account. Try it -- the results may surprise you! Here are some specific signs of bureaucratic language that keep people at a distance. Ask yourself if your writing:

is excessively formal is impersonal and convoluted avoids responsibility and accountability is anonymous overuses acronyms and jargon seems to be written from the writer's, not the readers' point of view

If your writing has these characteristics, you may be contributing to the problem rather than its solution.

People who write regulations, especially those pertaining to compex technology, have to be more sensitive to the needs of those who have to comply with them. From the isolation and anonymity of

a bureaucracy, it's easy to write regulations that are filled with legal jargon and gobbledygook that only a lawyer can decode. How many of the rules, standards, and regulations that you have to write would be approved by a committee of 12-year olds? I once thought it would be a good idea for all government and corporate regulations to have their originator's name and phone number forever attached to them, so that anyone who wanted to question their wisdom could go immediately and directly to the source. How would you write rules differently, if this were so?.


That's all fine, you may be saying; but impersonal writing is a symptom of our impersonal society, and it's probably here to stay. How can I improve the way I communicate by bucking that trend? What if I could show you that putting people into your writing would make it clearer, easier to read and understand, and let your reader identify more easily with the point you want to make? It's true. The reason is that people naturally belong in science and technology. They're just as involved there as in any other human activity. We leave them out when we write about them, simply because we've been trained to leave them out. When you read scientific and technical writing that has no people in it, you usually have trouble understanding it, because its author had to deliberately use an indirect and circumspect style, to leave the people out.

The most important reason for making your writing more personal is that it makes it more understandable. Impersonal writing is simply less informative.
Here's an excerpt from an instruction manual for assembling an electronic kit. There are three versions. One is totally impersonal. The second has some personal nouns in it, but uses the third person. The third version is very personal and uses the second person, which is often useful in instruction manuals. Read all three and decide which one you would rather use to put this kit together.

IMPERSONAL: Assembly of the final amplifier stage is not difficult if all the steps are followed. After mounting the tuning coil and capacitor on the board, the assembly is secured in the fixture so the remaining parts can be soldered to the board. Then the amplifier components are removed from their plastic bag and placed with their numbered sides up on the table next to the fixture. As each numbered part is called for, its leads are trimmed to the specified length and soldered to the bottom side of the board in the location indicated in the diagram. PERSONAL (THIRD PERSON): Anyone can assemble the final amplifier stage, if he follows all the steps carefully. After mounting the tuning coil and capacitor on the board, he secures the assembly in the fixture so he can solder the remaining parts to the board. Then he removes the amplifier components from their plastic bag and places them with their numbered sides up on the table next to the fixture. As each numbered part is called for, he trims the leads to the specified length and solders them to the bottom side of the board in the location indicated in the diagram. PERSONAL (SECOND PERSON): You won't have any trouble assembling the final amplifier stage, if you follow all the steps carefully. After you mount the tuning coil and capacitor on the board, secure the assembly in the fixture so you can solder the remaining parts to the board. Remove the amplifier components from their plastic bag and place them with their numbered sides up on the table next to the fixture. As each step asks you for a numbered part, trim its leads to the specified length and solder it to the bottom side of the board where the diagram shows you.
Don't you agree that the personal versions are much easier to understand, because you identify with the people mentioned. In the third version, the link with the reader is especially strong, because the personal words are you. Which instructions would you prefer to follow?


Create human interest and a human focus in your writing by using personal nouns and pronouns. Not only I, you, we, he, she, them but also personal words like people, committee, engineers, businessmen, users, and, when appropriate, even names of individuals. Even semipersonal words like company, laboratory, team, Iranians, Congress are better then nothing. Direct and indirect quotes are also effective tools for personalizing your writing.

Here are some more examples of impersonal writing and some rewrites that show how to put people into your writing. Study these examples, and mark the personal subjects in the rewritten versions with your blue highlighter pen. Notice as you read them how the personal versions are easier to understand because people get into the act.

IMPERSONAL: Several tests were conducted on the new rifle. PERSONAL: I conducted several tests on the new rifle. IMPERSONAL: The possibility of an increase in orders for the new tanks was considered likely,
according to the generals. PERSONAL: Most of the generals interviewed said there would be more orders for the new tanks. IMPERSONAL: In the research program, the effects of radiation on birth defects in mice were studied. PERSONAL: In this project, researchers wanted to find out how radiation affects birth defects in mice. IMPERSONAL: The situation in the case of the malfunctioning computer is expected to be resolved by Monday. PERSONAL: Jackie says the computer will be fixed by Monday. IMPERSONAL: If success is not achieved on the first attempt, it is recommended that similar procedures be instituted afterward. PERSONAL: If at first you don't succeed, try again. Did you mark I, generals, researchers, Jackie and you with your blue marker? Here's an interesting exercise: Go back over the five examples above and mark also all the passive verbs (pink), the abstract nouns (green) and the prepositional phrases (yellow). Do you see how the impersonal versions also contain the most of these other undesirable elements? Notice how they all tend to attract each other, so that as you change one the others begin to go away, too. Making your writing more personal makes it easier to avoid all the other pitfalls of foggy sentence construction we have covered in earlier lessons. Do this short exercise to practice expressing yourself in a more personal way. Replace each of the impersonal phrases below with a more personal version by adding some person or group of people to the action:

It was found that

It is concluded that

It was proposed and tentatively accepted that

It is believed that

It is widely held that

It can be seen that

Federal regulations prohibit

There was general agreement that

One can only hope that

A recommendation was made by the Standards Committee that

Look out for sentences that begin with it or there and also the use of the word one as a substitute for some person. These are reliable flags of impersonal construction. Now -- here are some impersonal sentences for you to rewrite. They will give you practice removing the impersonal constructions and indicating clearly who is responsible for the actions. Try, at the same time, to remove as many of the passive verbs, abstract nouns and prepositional phrases as you can:

It is expected that many orders will be received for the new cubes in the course of the year.

An increase of 50 percent in range is anticipated as a result of the installation of the new transmitter.

Great care should be exercised in the selection of a radar operating frequency.

The factory is expected to be closed during the flood.

This memo is to announce the appointment of Dr. Anthrax to the position of director of the biological hazards branch.

To determine the effects of humidity on the speed of sound, a series of measurements was undertaken.

During television antenna installation, it is recommended that the lead-in be routed away from metal objects.

The results of the experiment were inconclusive.

Find a paragraph or so of your own scientific or technical writing and mark with your blue highlighter all the personal nouns you find. If you don't see any such references, your writing is too impersonal. Rewrite your paragraph in the space below, just as you did the 8 sentences above. Replace each impersonal subject with the doer of the action. If you have trouble putting people into your writing, ask yourself who are the people behind the subject you're writing about.


If you're not careful, you can create a lot of problems for yourself as you adopt a personal style. One way is to get so carried away with personal style that your ego becomes all too visible. The way to keep that fine balance, of course, is to keep the interests of your readers paramount in your mind. No one is interested in scientific and technical writing whose sole purpose is to glorify the writer. Signs that you might be doing this are: large doses of your personal philosophy and opinions, frequent citations of your own work, avoiding citations of others' work, and overuse of I and we. Another trap is a failure to distinguish between facts and your own personal feelings and opinions. Each has its place, but you have to make sure the reader knows the difference. Some words that really mean a personal opinion or value judgment are often read more objectively. Be alert for adjectives like these in your writing: important useful valuable beautiful useless accurate

efficient economical simple

good interesting safe

bad easy significant

When you use them, be sure you make it clear to your reader who is making that judgment, and be clear and quantitative about the measure of value. How significant? How accurate? Compared with what? The best way to clarify these value judgments is to give clear examples.


Impersonal writing style has become so deeply entrenched in American business, government and industry, that making any drastic changes now usually meets with fierce resistance. Managers often resent subordinates who write from a personal viewpoint; journals often reject papers written with personal pronouns (though this is changing). It makes sense to ask: Are there really any good reasons to change it? Why fight an uphill battle to change something that's just a matter of principle and doesn't matter anyway? I've given you some arguments for personal writing based on improved understanding and more fully involving your reader. If these aren't enough, there are larger issues. Is the alienation Americans feel from their jobs, their fellow workers, their employers and society in general just a principle? Are the dedication and involvement of Japanese workers just a cultural difference? I'm not claiming that impersonal writing is the cause and that fixing that will change everything. Impersonal writing is, of course, a symptom, not a cause. But what might happen if people started expressing themselves like people, instead of like cogs in the machinery? Seems to me it couldn't hurt.


Once you decide that the benefits of personal writing might be worth the resistance you might encounter, you may face the very real problem of convincing your immediate supervisors. What's a good strategy? The best evidence you can present is some outstanding examples of writing in his field that is personal and effective, yet inoffensive. These may be hard to find, so constantly be alert for examples in your work. Save them for your own clear writing examples and to show others. Do you think the personal style of this course makes it more effective? If so, perhaps you could show it to others as evidence of effective personal writing. Many people who resist a personal writing style harbor fears of repercussions if existing "standards" break down, or if writing style become excessively informal and disrespectful. It's easy to link personal with informal, and to perpetuate old-world taboos about being too personal, but does either of these arguments actually hold water? Slang is often inappropriate and unprofessional, but that's not the same

as personal. Writing can certainly be personal without violating standards and protocols that govern any formal communications.


Adopting a personal writing style will help your readers identify with your message and will help you say it more clearly, too. When people get into your writing, your reader does, too. Yet there are cultural barriers to being personal, and you have to decide whether the struggle justifies the rewards. Next, we'll look briefly at ways to make the charts and drawings you put in your papers more informative. "We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming." - Werner Von Braun

-- End of Lesson 18 -Beginning of Lesson 18 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 19

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 19

Enhance Your Message with Illustrations and Tables

In this Lesson:

How important are your illustrations? Why authors neglect their illustrations Use captions to inform When to use tables

In this chapter, you'll learn how important your illustrations and tables are in getting your ideas across, and how to make them clear, informative and to-the-point. However, I won't cover details of actually preparing illustrations, such as how to draw graphs and which kinds of charts are best for which

information. There are lots of books to help you do that. One is Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions, edited by David Beer (IEEE Press, 1992). The same analytical principles we've applied to writing apply to your illustrations as well. Be sure you have a clear and practical reason for including each figure and table, and that you're not just throwing something in because you have it lying around. Ask what purpose you want it to serve, and how you want your reader to respond to it. What questions might it raise? Are you presenting information that is easier to understand pictorially than in words? Answer these questions before you begin preparing your drawings, and you will stand a better chance of tuning your illustrations to your readers' needs.


Many business and technical writers think of illustrations, tables and their captions as afterthoughts -something you have to clean up after you've finished the writing, but not really anything to pay much attention to. Consequently, illustrations often end up looking sloppy, unprofessional, and cluttered. Look through any business or technical report that has illustrations and you can usually see what's wrong. If the report has charts or graphs, they are often not even labeled with enough information to let you figure out what they mean. Often, illustrations get tacked onto the end of a report, with their captions listed somewhere else. How often do you see an interesting picture but can't find the caption explaining it? Now ask how important illustrations are to your reader. Usually they're the first thing that attracts his attention in an article or report. Pictures are inherently more interesting than words, even if they're graphs of dull business statistics. Every illustration has the potential for informing quickly, that is, if the information isn't buried. When you pick up a document, don't you flip through it and stop at the illustrations? How do you process the information in them? How long do you spend trying to figure out what the pictures mean before you move on? If you see a clear, informative figure, isn't that often the only thing you remember about a paper?


If illustrations get so much attention, why are they so neglected? Why do most writers fail to take advantage of one of the most powerful tools for getting a point across quickly? Most often, they're simply not thinking about their readers' point of view. They're thinking about what they want to say, not what their readers are looking for. Even when writers do prepare their illustrations carefully, they usually make them too complicated. They grossly overestimate their readers' ability to absorb complex data quickly. Often what happens is that you start out with a simple illustration that makes a single point, then you think of a dozen more things you can add in the same space. It's easy for you to understand because the concepts are familiar, and you've approached it in a step-by-step fashion. But someone seeing the whole collage for the first time is bound to be overwhelmed.

The most important thing to remember about your illustrations is: keep them simple and let each one make only a single point.
If you have more than one main point to make, use separate figures for each.


Captions are a grossly neglected part of most papers and reports. In fact, they are a grand opportunity to give you readers information at precisely the place and time they are looking for it. Many captions refer the reader to the text for further information. (Few readers accept that challenge -- do you?) Many are not even complete sentences. A typical caption might go like this:

Probability distribution of energy vs. distance from the earth (see text).

Sales for August (adjusted for returns).

Do you agree that such captions just raise more questions than they answer? Perhaps you think it's a good idea to withhold information in your captions, to entice your readers to read your paper. Does that really work? What is your response to uninformative captions? And how does your attitude toward a paper change if the figures are clear and you immediately find out what you're looking for in the captions? Write your comments here:

Here are some simple guidelines for writing informative figure captions:

1. Use complete sentences. 2. Try to make your illustrations as well as their captions self-sufficient, not depending on the text to be understood. 3. Explain the significance of all the information shown in the figure. If necessary, repeat and summarize some of the information from the text in the caption.
The captions in Scientific American are beautiful examples of self-sufficiency. You can always get a good idea of what each paper is about just by looking at its illustrations and reading their captions. Scientific American's captions are much longer than those of most papers in technical journals and business reports, because they contain much more information. Here are a couple of exercises to give you practice writing informative captions. Write an informative caption for this figure using the information and guidelines above. It is from a National Science Foundation report and shows how federal research funding is divided among scientific disciplines.

Here's another figure from the same NSF report. It shows public levels of confidence in various institutions. Write an informative caption for this figure.

Checklist for Informative Illustrations and Tables

Tables are notoriously dull and boring. No one likes to extract information from a list of numbers. So if you're going to present your information in the form of a table, make sure it's the best way to do it, and you'd better make it interesting. If you're thinking of making a table with numbers in it, try to think of a way to present the information graphically instead. When people try to extract information from a table, they usually try to make sense out of it by making internal pictures of the relations between the numbers you give them. Why not save them the trouble and make the pictures for them? Then you'll be sure they focus on the relations you think are important, instead of the ones they happen to construct. Simple illustrations like pie charts and bar graphs don't take any longer to prepare than a table, but are much easier to understand. Do you have a clear and practical reason for including this figure or table? What should your reader do about it? Is the main point obvious at first glance? What is it? Does each figure convey a single, well-defined message? Are the captions complete sentences? Does each caption explain the significance of the information in the figure?

Does each figure appear near the One kind of information that you can present better in a table than place in the text that refers to it, so in any other form is detailed specifications that depend on two or that the reader doesn't have to flip more variables. One example is a matrix that shows the features of pages? several new models of handheld calculators. If models are listed at the beginning of each row and the features listed at the head of each column, then a check mark in each "cell" shows at a glance which calculators have a desired

feature, or which features a given calculator has. A potential buyer can compare features at a glance, instead of wasting his time flipping through separate lists of specifications. More detailed information can be put in each cell, for example, if you want to describe the specifications of a number of radar installations. You could list each installation at the beginning of each line and tabulate things like frequency, beamwidth, modulation, range, and antenna type at the head of each column. In each cell there's room to put a brief description or specification, so that the reader can easily select or compare the specifications he's interested in. Other kinds of tables tend to look like the phone book. Few readers will bother to extract the information you've buried in them unless you make it easy for them to zero in on exactly what they're looking for. Avoid tables, if you can. Look at the figures and tables that illustrate a paper or report you have written. Apply the tests from the checklist above, answer all the questions, and note any improvements you could make.


Because your readers spend a relatively large amount of time on your illustrations, you should put a proportionately large amount of work into preparing them. Make sure they make a clear, unambiguous point and that their captions fully explain their significance. Avoid tables unless the form of your data demands it. Next, I'll show you some practical ways to get started on your writing assignments. Once you get going, your momentum will often keep you going, but dealing with the mechanics of writing and overcoming "writers' block" and other forms of inertia can lock you in the starting gate.

-- End of Lesson 19 -Beginning of Lesson 19 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 20

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 20

Some Practical Ways to Get

In this Lesson:

How to avoid habits that trigger writing blocks Your friend, the tape recorder How to get ideas down on paper A word about word processors Card tricks -- a poor man's word processor Sorting it into logical sections

This lesson is about the mechanics of getting your words down on paper and avoiding some of the sidetracks and pitfalls that can get you bogged down in the details.


Everyone has experienced sitting down to write and drawing a complete mental blank. You feel stuck, uninspired and ripe for distraction. Once you've had that experience a couple of times, you condition yourself to have that same response each time you put yourself in that same physical situation. Perhaps it's sitting down at a typewriter, at a particular desk, or in a particular room. Do you often experience complete writing blocks? If so, mentally (and physically, if you can) put yourself in that place and write down here everything you can think of that describes the sights, sounds and feelings you experience in that situation:

The easiest way to avoid that kind of block is to change something about the environment in which the block occurs. If sitting in a particular chair does it, change chairs -- or stand up. Or go for a walk. If some kind of lighting or some sounds do it, change them. If writing with a pencil does it, type or dictate on tape. Be creative in coming up with new writing environments that don't trigger the blocking experience. Often it's just a matter of putting distractions out of reach. Another strategy for getting around blocks is to find or recreate environments where you have done your most inspired and productive work. Not just the physical environment but your whole frame of mind. How can you apply those resources to the task at hand? Form a picture of your finished product and describe to yourself in detail how it will look, what people might say as they respond to it, and how you will feel when you finish it. What do you need to do now to produce the product that will get those responses? Sometimes you might feel blocked just because you can't think of what to do next. Don't worry if you sit down to write and have no specific plan and don't know where to begin. Begin anywhere and sort it out later. The specific procedures I've covered already (such as the many checklists I've given you) will help you out there.


This may sound silly, but when you have trouble writing, try talking. Almost everyone finds talking easier than writing, especially if they're talking to someone they feel comfortable with. Find such a friend and sit down together and talk about your writing assignment and what you want to say. Describe the person you're writing to, what you're trying to accomplish, and how you want your reader to respond. Have your friend play your reader, if he is willing, so you can talk directly to your audience. So you can remember what you said, tape record your conversation. Keep the recorder and microphone out of sight, if you can, so they don't distract you. When you play the conversation back, you should find that you've expressed many of your ideas in a clear, conversational way. Write them down verbatim. What you've just discovered is: if you can say it, you can write it. You should find that not only do your spoken ideas, when transcribed, form the nucleus of your written piece, but also that the conversational style you use when you talk is usually the most natural way to express an idea -and it's a skill you already have! Eventually, you should be able to talk to your tape recorder, even when your friends aren't available. If you have a small, portable recorder, you might find it stimulating to go for a walk and record ideas as they occur to you. If you have a difficult subject to explain, imagine you're explaining it to your mother or to an interested 12-year-old.


Many people get hung-up about writing because they think that when they write something down it has to be right the first time. It doesn't. You can write down any thought as it occurs to you, using any words that will help you remember it. Clean it up and sort it out later. Because some of your best ideas can come to you in unlikely places, it's a good idea to always have some way to record them. If you don't like to carry a tape recorder around with you, carry a little note pad or some blank 3 x 5 cards. Keep some paper at bedside, too.


Computerized word processing caught on around the time the IBM PC was introduced in 1982. It ushered in the age of electronic communication for the masses that most of us take for granted today. If you write with a word processor, you already know how sophisticated these programs have become and how convenient (or complicated, depending on your point of view) they make our writing tasks. Convenience, however, is only one of the advantages of writing with a computer. I want to focus here on how completely they have changed the way we think about the writing process itself. The mechanics of getting our thoughts "down on paper" has always constrained our writing skills. The flexibility of word processing gives the writer new freedoms to explore, for example:

Unconstrained by linear thinking, you can begin anywhere.

You can jot rough ideas down quickly, as they occur to you, and polish or amplify them later. You can transcribe your thoughts and ideas almost as quickly as you can think. You can revise easily by moving and copying sentences, paragraphs, and sections. You can easily experiment with layout and typographical options, like bold, italics, font face and size. You don't have to worry about gaps. Fill them in later. It's easy to tinker with and fine tune wording. You can worry less about spelling and punctuation and concentrate on ideas. You can easily write down all the details, then throw away the nonessential ones later. It's easy to incorporate reviewers' changes .

As you get comfortable with the mechanics of writing with a word processor, practice and cultivate these new skills as well.


Here's a trick I learned about 30 years ago (before word processors) that greatly simplifies the mechanics of producing a first draft, from a letter to a book-length manuscript like a dissertation or a journal paper. If you're computer-phobic, or simply can't afford a word processor, this scheme might work for you. By now you should realize that clear, informative writing really means a lot of rewriting. If you're really paying attention to your writing, you'll rewrite many sentences, particularly the important ones, four or five times, as you play them back internally for different readers. You'll also be constantly adding, deleting, and shuffling sentences within paragraphs and doing the same thing with whole paragraphs and sections, too. Everyone has experienced the problems with this method. After you write a few pages, then begin to cross out, add and move things around, your pages begin to look more like a football team's blackboard. Pretty soon, more changes become physically impossible without rewriting the whole page. Then you find yourself spending a lot of time just copying unchanged parts of the text, just to incorporate your changes. After reaching this point several times myself, I developed a modular approach to writing manuscripts that is much better adapted to changes. Each module is one 3 x 5-inch lined index card. Write one sentence on each card in pencil. Make minor changes by erasing, but larger changes by rewriting the card. A paragraph mark () at the top of a card tells the typist to begin a paragraph with that sentence. Sections and subsections can be color coded with marking pens along the top edges of the appropriate cards, or you can use tab cards with section titles on them. Other instructions to the typist can be written in red pencil. To save cards, use insert marks (^) to add phrases, which you can write at the top or bottom of the card.

Shuffling sentences, even paragraphs and sections, suddenly becomes very easy, and you will become aware that other sentence orders may make more sense than the one you started out with. You can, of course, write your sentences and sections in any order, as a thought occurs to you, and assemble them later. Some people who have tried this scheme catch on quickly and find that it greatly simplifies their writing tasks. Others hate it. They complain that they have trouble maintaining the same mental picture of continuity that they can with a page full of text. If this is a problem for you, you can lay out your written cards in a column on your desk. The visual image then differs only slightly from a handwritten page. If someone else types for you from the cards, you can make minor changes as usual on the typescript. Make major changes (rewriting a long paragraph, for example) by attaching a small card deck to the typescript at the point of change, or by making a notation such as "Insert deck A". Also, you might want to number the cards as insurance against dropping the deck. You can use standard file-card boxes to store your cards and often recall old modules into new service, as new documents require some "boilerplate" text you have written before.


Whether you've collected a lot of cards or notes or typed all your facts into a word processor, you're probably now faced with a hodge-podge of information that doesn't really hang together. So now you want to get them organized into some coherent structure. That structure is called an outline. In Lesson 6, you learned how to create an analytical outline for your paper. If you've followed that procedure, you can sort your modules into bins that correspond to your major outline sections. Any details that don't clearly fit into that structure probably belong in an appendix, and maybe they will ultimately be left out. When you finish this sorting, it will be easier to see any major sections that need to be fleshed out. Within each major section, you have to create logical subsections. Follow the procedures you learned in Lesson 17, to decide what kind of logical sequence is best for your particular subject. Write informative subsection titles and sort your modules to fit those subsections.


You can avoid writing blocks by changing your writing environment and by recreating circumstances where you have done your most creative work. If you have trouble putting your thoughts directly to paper, try talking to a friend and tape recording your conversation. Then transcribe your conversation. Writing on 3 x 5 cards or with a word processor allows you the freedom and flexibility to interact with your writing, neatly add and subtract pieces, and to try different logical structures without doing permanent damage. Next, I'll show you how to edit your writing, which means cleaning up your product and engineering it for your specific audience.

"The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter - 'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." - Mark Twain

-- End of Lesson 20 -Beginning of Lesson 20 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 21

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 21

How to Edit -- And Feel OK About Throwing Most of it Away

The last part of this course has two lessons. One tells you how to edit your manuscript using all the principles you've learned so far. This quality control will let you know when you've got a product you can safely send out the door. The last lesson tells you how to speed approvals for your writing by getting enough feedback from your intended audience as well as from those who have to approve your writing. In this Lesson:

Don't be afraid to cut How to design your writing so it looks easy to read Make your section titles more informative Should you worry about sexism in your writing? Should you use readability formulas? The trouble with readability formulas Getting it all together -- a final checklist Some practice passages

Editing is where you find out how good you are at putting yourself in someone else's shoes and figuring out what your reader needs. Your job as editor is to go through your paper and read it from

your reader's point of view. Cut out or change those things that don't help your reader find the information she's looking for.


After you've worked so hard to finish the first draft of your manuscript, all of your instincts probably tell you not to cut anything. Many writers regard their writing as a kind of offspring, and defend it with the same zeal. But no matter how large your investment in some group of words, they turn into a liability if your reader doesn't care about that particular information. This may be a good reason for not editing your own work -- or at least for letting it sit for a few weeks before tackling the editing job. Remember that cutting just weeds out the parts of your writing that are not carefully designed to do a specific job. And that gives the part that's left a fighting chance. Think of editing as your quality control. If a part doesn't perform up to specifications, you don't want it to go out the door, do you? When you edit your writing, you usually read through it and look for one specific problem at a time. For example, on a given reading, you might look only for misspelled words, inflated words, passive verbs or abstract nouns. You usually make several passes, focusing your attention on a different thing each time. I recommend that you edit your paper or report by using the checklist at the end of this chapter. The checklist summarizes the important concepts you've covered in this book. In this chapter, I'll introduce a few new concepts for you to attend to as you edit.


This section has to do more with form than the substance of your writing, but you should understand how the visual appearance of your written piece affects your reader's attitude and his desire to read it. For example, if you jam all your information into page-long paragraphs with no section headings, few readers will feel like plowing through it. Or if you write pages of solid mathematical formulas, only a mathematician will be inclined to decipher it. The same information can be made more visually appealing by breaking it up and by supplying informative section headings. Look at this course, for example. Can you list the things you can see that make it appear to be easy to read?


After you break up your text into paragraphs and sections of manageable size, you'll have to think of titles for each section. You can conform to tradition and have titles like:

Introduction Background

Procedure Measurements Results Discussion Recommendations

But why not make them more informative? How about section titles like:

Earlier studies of public responses to storm warnings Full-wave solution to the boundary-value problem Humidity profiles measured by radiometers Aluminum cable is stronger and lighter Three reasons for switching to digital thermometers How can we improve the color of our beer?

Look through this course and notice the chapter and section titles. Do you think they work well as signposts to tell you where you are and what's going to happen next? The best way to select a title for your sections is to ask yourself what each one's message is, and then think of the best way to tell your reader in a few words what she's going to find out as he reads that section.


I recently received a computer-generated letter with the salutation: Dear Person.... In his/her politically-correct effort to be gender-neutral, the exasperated writer of this letter no doubt felt that he/she had no choice but to use this absurd salutation, when the sex of the addressee is unknown. Without entering the debate about who should or should not be offended by the use of gender-specific terms, I can offer some reasonable alternatives for those who care. You can often avoid gender-specific terms merely by substituting a genderless equivalent, for example, fireman becomes firefighter, mailman becomes letter carrier, chairman becomes chair, manpower becomes labor force, and foreman becomes supervisor. Sometimes this goes smoothly, but sometimes not. You probably don't want to call cowboys "cowpersons" or "cattle handlers." Or a journeyman a "journey worker." Don't invent bureaucratic-sounding terms that call attention to the problem and make people's jobs sound ridiculous. You also have to deal with gender-specific pronouns and adjectives like him, her, his, he, and she, for which there are no genderless equivalents in English. Once you mention a single person -- engineer, geologist, supervisor -- then all later references to that person must identify that person as either he or she. But repeated use of "he or she" or "he/she" is awkward and annoying. One way out of this dilemma is to rewrite the sentence. For example,

Each department head should file his or her progress report by May 15th.

becomes simply

Each department head should file a progress report by May 15th.

In this exercise, rewrite the sentences to remove gender-specific references: Each pilot must file his flight plan before takeoff.

Tell your reader exactly what he wants to know.

The chairman of the new committee will have his work cut out for him.

When the engineer reads the gauge, he must not allow his body heat to affect the measurement.

If the patient misses his insulin injection, he could easily go into shock.

The serviceman who installed this new modem didn't know what he was doing.

The foreman said that each cowboy would be given his own cow.

Another way is to continue to use him, her, etc., but alternate them randomly, where appropriate.


Wouldn't it be nice to have a magic machine that could quickly and automatically tell you how readable your writing is? You could just drop your scribbled manuscript into its slot, listen to it kerchunck and whirr a bit, and then watch it spit out a slip of paper that says, "Anyone with at least a sixth grade education could read this easily." ...or maybe..."No one with less than a Ph.D. in your specialty is likely to understand this." Measuring readability in a mechanical and quantitative way is an attractive idea, even though everyone knows that the factors that determine how easily something can be read are many and complex and vary from person to person. But numbers have an air of authority and objectivity that some people

accept like a revelation from heaven. So about 50 years ago, writers and educators began trying to come up with a mathematical formula to compute the readability of written text. The earliest formulas were based on the intuitive notion that readability had something to to with the average length of sentences and the number of long words, and also with how many "familiar" words are used. Competing formulas were developed, some simple, others complex. Some were "tested" in reading laboratories, even though no one could say exactly how readability could be objectively measured. One of the most popular and easy-to-use readability formulas was developed by Robert Gunning. He aptly called it the Fog Index. The higher your Fog Index, the foggier your writing. To make the numbers easy to remember, Gunning designed his formula to give the grade level or number of years of education required to read a passage comfortably. It's easy to use and compute because it simply estimates the average sentence length and the average number of long words in a passage. For example, a passage with a Fog Index of 6 could be easily read by a child with a sixth-grade education, whereas one with a Fog Index of 17 is at graduate-school level. Gunning argued that most people feel comfortable reading material whose Fog Index is 10 or lower, and the lower the better. The Bible, for example, tests at 6th or 7th grade level. People magazine scores a 6, and the Reader's Digest and the front page of the Wall Street Journal get a 9.


The problem is not that readbility formulas don't indicate readability. Most indices do seem to be correlated with subjective readability (with certain pathological exceptions!). And most popular magazines today do test out to grade-school levels. The trouble is that formulas are so easy to misuse, if they're applied without thinking. Given a simple, easy-to-use index of readability, most people will abuse it. It's so easy to cross the thin line between an indicator of readability and a writing tool, that most people can't resist. But what happens if you try to write to produce good readability scores? You get short, choppy, simple sentences constructed from a sixth-grade vocabulary. In other words, comic-book style. For this reason and others, many claim that readability formulas are totally useless, especially for evaluating technical writing. These people take the formulas much too seriously. (If you're interested in this debate, see the collection of six papers on the subject in the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, March, l98l.) If readability formulas help you flag passages that need defogging, fine. Go ahead and use them. If you get a bad score, you can be reasonably sure that your writing is foggier than it has to be. But where do you go from there? None of the formulas gives any indication of how to improve readability. As Douglas Mueller says: "The thermometer is not the cure!" And what does readability have to do with informing? Informative writing tends to be readable as well, but the reverse is by no means certain. For example, all readability schemes would give this incomprehensible passage a good score: Find a green day to read, when every cow says not. If any car does too maybe who knows? Do nothing but ever kind bog walks. So any more red cups find wet slugs. Forget page numbers? Divide by seven then die home.

What do you think readability formulas leave out? I suggest that you forget them and concentrate instead on the real attributes of clear, analytical writing -- the ones we've covered in the earlier lessons of this course. The following checklist will help you remember them all.





Here are a few short passages for you to practice your editing skills on. Use only the first three parts of the checklist, because the passages are not long enough to evaluate for overall structure. After you're done editing, if your editing marks are extensive, try to rewrite each passage using the principles of analytical writing. The first two passages are abstracts of actual articles written by professors of English in a journal concerned with excellence in technical communication.

PASSAGE NO. 1 The business or technical writing teacher can mitigate against his pragmatic students' recalcitrance toward language studies by pointing out the utility of knowing how to write well. However, rather than turning to hackneyed arguments or to literary evidence, he can motivate students more effectively by turning to compelling testimonials from leaders in business and industry, to appropriate personal experiences, and to

stimulating classroom strategies that emphasize the importance of language ability in career, social, and civic aspirations. The lively use of such readily available resources can improve student attitude toward the course and should thus improve student performance. PASSAGE NO. 2 For the purpose of continually improving an English teacher training program, an attempt was made to research the expected competencies of reading instructors in relation to technical report writers. Interviews were conducted with those involved in the teaching of technical report writing. The interviews reflected very little familiarity with reading instruction at the college level. The results were coupled with current research findings on training and duties of college reading instructors. This suggested a possible strategy for improving services to technical report writing students. PASSAGE NO. 3
Here is a passage from a popular scientific journal:

A birefringent material has a "fast" axis and a "slow" one. The index of refraction depends on how the light is polarized when it passes through the material. The index is higher if the light is polarized parallel to the slow axis and lower if it is polarized parallel to the fast axis. Suppose linearly polarized light (light polarized along a single axis perpendicular to the ray) is directed through the birefringent material with its axis of polarization at an angle to both the slow and the fast axis of the material. The polarization can be separated mathematically into two components, one parallel to the slow axis and one

to the fast. These two waves are in phase when they entered the material, but because of the different indexes of refraction they probably emerge with a different phase relation. The result is that the emerging light probably has a polarization different from that of the incident light. The new polarization might still be linear but with the axis of polarization oriented differently. The emerging light could also be circularly or elliptically polarized, which means that the axis of polarization rotates about the light ray as the light passes. PASSAGE NO. 4
The following article written by Susan E. Ross (The Washington Post) provides an excellent and humorous writing sample for you to practice translating pretentious governmentese into everyday English:

A BUREAUCRAT'S GUIDE TO CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES Total Lead Time: 35 minutes. Input Modules: 1 cup packed brown sugar 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup softened butter 1/2 cup shortening 2 eggs 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate pieces 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans Guidance: After procurement actions, decontainerize inputs. Perform measurement tasks on a case-by-case basis. In a mixing-type bowl, impact heavily on brown

sugar, granulated sugar, softened butter and shortening. Coordinate the interface of eggs and vanilla, avoiding an overrun scenario to the best of your skills and abilities. At this point in time, leverage flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl and aggregate. Equalize with prior mixture and develop intense and continuous liaison among inputs until well coordinated. Associate key chocolate and nut subsystems and execute stirring operations. Within this time frame, take action to prepare the heating environment for throughput by manually setting the oven baking unit by hand to a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). Drop mixture in an ongoing fashion from a teaspoon implement onto an ungreased cookie sheet at intervals sufficient enough apart to permit total and permanent separation of throughputs to the maximum extent practicable under operating conditions. Position cookie sheet in a bake situation and surveil for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooking action terminates. Initiate coordination of output within the cooking rack function. Containerize, wrap in red tape and disseminate to authorized staff personnel on a timely and expeditious basis. Output: Six dozen official government chocolate-chip cookie units. PASSAGE NO. 5
These paragraphs are from a National Bureau of Standards monograph:

The quality of time and frequency information depends ultimatey on two things: the quality of the clocks that generate the information, and the

fidelity of the information channels that disseminate the information. There is not much point in building better clocks if the face of the clock is covered by a muddy glass. In a sense, we might think of the world's standards labs as the wholesalers of time, and the world's standard time and frequency broadcast stations as the primary distribution channels to the users of time at the retail level. Let's explore the possibility of better dissemination systems for the future. At present the distribution of time and frequency information is a mixed bag. We have broadcasts such as WWV, dedicated primarily to disseminating time and frequency information; and we have navigation signals such as Loran-C, which indirectly provide time information, because the system itself cannot work without it. The advantage of a broadcast such as WWV is that the time information is in a form that is optimized for the users. The signal contains time ticks and voice announcements of time in a readily usable form of information. The formats of navigation signals, on the other hand, are optimized for the purposes of navigation, and the time information is in a somewhat buried form, not so easily used. From the point of view of efficient use of the radio spectrum, we would like to have one signal serve as many uses as possible. But such a multipurpose signal puts greater demand on the user. He must extract from the signal only that information of interest to him, and then translate it into a form that serves his purpose. In the past, the philosophy has generally been to broadcast information in a form that closely approximates the users' needs, so that processing at the users' end is minimized. This means that the receiving equipment can be relatively simple, and therefore inexpensive. But such an approach is wasteful of the radio spectrum, which is a limited resource. Today, with the development of transistors, large-scale integrated circuits, and

mini and micro computers, complicated equipment of great sophistication can be built at modest cost. This development opens the door to using radio space more efficiently, since the user can now afford the equipment required to extract and mold information to his own needs. PASSAGE NO. 6
This is actually a collection of sentences extracted from a government manual of specifications for government jobs. As you read through them, you may understand better why the Federal bureaucracy is in such a mess. Warning: Some of these passages may not be translatable into plain English with only the information supplied.

The requirements for this position reflect the fact that proficiency in application of knowledge and skills at a given level indicates probability of success in similar work at the next higher level.... Many data-processing applications are tailored to the specific requirements of one or more distinct functions at an individual facility; however, an increasing number of applications are developed as comprehensive systems which integrate many functions previously considered separate and distinct.... Judgment is required in selecting the appropriate guidelines for use in a specific situation and in recognizing the occasional situation where existing guidelines cannot be applied.... Individual jobs vary in the specificity, applicability and availability of the guidelines for performance of assignments.... Decisions regarding what needs to be done are complicated by the novel or obscure nature of the problems and/or the special requirements for organization and coordination that are characteristic of projects at this level....

Completed work is reviewed for its effectiveness in meeting user requirements, accuracy of estimated timeframes and projected problem areas, and achievement of harmonious relationships in coordinating the project with other groups.... The assignments consist of various tasks involving different methods and procedures.... The employee must analyze plans to discern deviations or other situations that have a bearing on the choice among established techniques for carrying out the asignment.... The employee plans and carries out the successive steps involved and handles problems and deviations in accordance with agency standards, previous training, established practices, or system controls, as appropriate in the application or specialty area. PASSAGE NO. 7
This is an abstract of a technical talk on "Measurement of wind and temperature with laser light":

Quasielastic scattering of light in the atmosphere is discussed. The velocity can be obtained by aerosol scattering; the temperature from molecular scattering. A diffraction-limited lidar is explained and some virtues given. Laser velocity measuring techniques are briefly reviewed. The effect of the optical wavelength is emphasized. A time-of-flight configuration is described. Examples of transverse velocity measurements with very good spatial and temporal resolutions are given. A system for measuring vertical temperature profiles in the troposphere is presently being investigated. The basic principles and comments on initial observations are given. LESSON SUMMARY AND WHERE WE GO FROM HERE

Put at least as much time and work into editing your writing as you did writing the first draft. This is where you refine your crude product and mold it to the specific purpose you want to accomplish and to the specific needs of your reader. The checklist in this lesson gives you a systematic framework for editing using the principles of analytical writing you've learned in this course. Avoid gender-linked references if you can, but don't use awkward wording that calls attention to the problem. If you find readability formulas useful, use them to flag passages that need defogging, but never use them as a writing tool. The next and last lesson shows you how to include your readers in your writing a bit earlier than you may be used to doing. Getting direct feedback from your intended audience can save you a lot of rewriting and guarantees that you won't have any trouble getting it approved. "I am sorry for the length of my letter, but I had not the time to write a short one." -Blaise Pascal

-- End of Lesson 21 -Beginning of Lesson 21 || Contents || Go on to Lesson 22

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 22

How to Use Feedback to Simplify Approvals -- And Cut Back on Rewrites

In this Lesson:

Get advance approvals in report-planning conferences Take conflicting views into account Who should read your drafts? Questions that help you anticipate your readers' responses The special case of instruction manuals Reporting negative or unpopular results How to benefit from feedback between your research and your writing

How to get along with editors

In this lesson, I'll show you how you can find out more about what your readers want by a simple strategy -- ask them. If someone misinterprets your carefully thought-out scientific paper, your first reaction might be, "What's wrong with him?" But the effect you intended is irrelevant if the effect you produced was entirely different.

The most important thing about any communication is the response it gets. Not the meaning or effect you intend, but the actual response produced.
To find out what responses you're getting, you need feedback. Many writers regard no feedback as the most desirable outcome of their writing. If no one gripes about their reports and papers, they assume that their writing has been successful. No news is good news. Everyone has certain routine writing chores that they approach in this way, but if you maintain this kind of isolation in your important writing, you're sure to miss the target more often than you hit it. Getting advance feedback from your readers is, of course, much easier if your readers are accessible. If you're writing a report to the management of your own organization, you can actually talk to them and find out what they're looking for. (Yes, you really can!). This will usually save you (and them) lots of time and trouble. Try it and see! If some of your readers are not directly accessible, you can ask yourself questions that anticipate their responses.


If your writing requires approvals up the chain of command, you probably find yourself rewriting a lot of your reports, memos and papers many times, juggling conflicting views, and feeling very frustrated in the process. Many scientists, engineers and businessmen play a guessing game with their writing. First, they guess what their audience wants and what will get approved. Then they run it through the system, and see who knocks it down. Next, they guess and try again. In spite of its frustration and waste, people still deal with the approval process in this inefficient way. Is there an easier way? Suppose you knew in advance what everyone who had to approve your writing wanted and expected to see in it. Wouldn't your job be easier? And suppose that everyone who had to review your document saw what they wanted the first time around? Wouldn't you appear more competent in their eyes? Why not start out your writing assignment by making a list of everyone who has to approve it? Then after you make your outline, go to each one and ask for his opinions about what needs to be in you document, what his particular concerns are, and so forth. If you use their time efficiently, most people will appreciate being consulted in advance, and you'll probably get some valuable ideas, too. There may be some implied taboos in your organization against going in and talking to the boss's boss or someone who runs another department. (Some people get upset when they're left out of the chain of

command). If so, you can always set up a conference, offering to include anyone who might feel left out. They may decline, but at least you asked them! Then they won't feel left out. If you have a large, important document to prepare, you should definitely call report-planning conferences that get together all the people involved at the same time. Because meetings are notorious time-wasters, you have to keep it short and to-the-point. It helps to write an agenda on the board or hand one out, so everyone knows what they're there for. Begin by stating the overall purpose of the document and get agreement on that first. This is where it's easy to get off the track and into peripheral discussions, so you have to keep the proceedings on target. Point to the agenda as a reminder if the discussion wanders. Then present your outline and explain how you intend to treat each topic, then ask for feedback. You'll usually get plenty. Write down all the feedback and make sure you take it into account in your new outline and your next draft. A checklist can be useful for noting the comments you get and to make sure you cover everything. If your document is a major one, you should call several meetings as work proceeds, to make sure you're keeping on-track, that your technical conclusions are sound, and that no one's views are being disregarded. Instead of passing out large drafts of your document (which no one will read anyway), summarize the important issues and how you've handled them. If you have to hand out the whole document, do it the day before the meeting and mark the parts that you want each person's feedback on. Assume that each person will read only the parts you mark.


Inevitably, you'll have to resolve conflicting attitudes and opinions among your supervisors. Your meetings (whether individual or group) will bring out different views about technical details, policy, the audience for your document, and even details about how you word things. Your writing has to take all these views into account. Sometimes it's useful to present facts and results, but leave out the conclusions. Then ask everyone at the meeting to voice his own conclusions. You might be surprised at the different conclusions each person draws from the same set of facts. Some will be very different from the ones you were going to write, and you may need to incorporate them as well. Try to avoid fueling open conflict among your supervisors. That will just short-circuit your meeting. Instead, try to identify some positive and constructive aspect of each viewpoint that all can agree on, then suggest a way to add that point to the document. If someone recognizes a point he made in your next draft, he'll be much more favorably inclined toward the whole document, even if there are other things in it that he may disagree with. You've acknowledged the value of his views, and that's what he's looking for. Understanding the wants and needs of your supervisors is a vital part of analyzing your audience. They have to approve your report or paper before anyone else can see it. Asking them the right questions at the right time will save you and them the time and frustration of recycling your writing. You'll get your report approved before the final draft is written.


When you're getting information from your supervisors and conducting report-planning conferences, be careful who you ask to read your preliminary drafts. Apart from wasting people's time, your early unpolished drafts can present an unprofessional and sloppy image, especially if your ideas are not yet well formed. Because your writing is often the only way that some people know you, avoid exposing your unfinished reports and papers where they might damage your image. If you must have someone else look over you drafts, ask a colleague who knows you well. If you don't need technical feedback, show it to an editor or a family member. But don't underestimate your own ability to edit and criticize your own writing. If you feel too close to it, putting your report or paper aside for a few weeks will make you more objective. Before you pick it up again, try to identify one particular reader you are writing for. Put yourself in his place and read it through his eyes.


When people read your paper, they respond in subtle, usually unconscious ways to every word, every sentence. The sum of these small responses is their total response to your paper. Many of those responses are questions about what you're saying and expectations about what will follow. If those questions are soon answered, and those expectations met, your reader is content. If they aren't met, the response he generates is a kind of low-level anxiety about what he's reading. If your writing repeatedly frustrates his expectations, you have a hostile reader on your hands. That's one response you want to avoid. By learning to anticipate the most common stimulus-response patterns, you can read your own paper through the eyes of another and see where you may be making too big a logical jump or forgetting to answer obvious questions. Here is a list of some specific responses you can expect from most of your readers:

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS BEFORE YOUR READERS DO One of the first questions your readers expect answered is "Why are you doing this?" Quickly establish the purpose or rationale behind the work you're reporting. When the title of your paper or a section promises certain information, your reader will be looking for it pretty soon thereafter. Whenever you raise a question in your writing, your reader will expect you to answer it soon, or at least explain how it can be answered. Whenever you pose a problem, he expects some kind of solution or at least some explanation why no solution is forthcoming.

Whenever you mention one element of a cause-effect pair, your reader will expect you to mention the other element. If you make some kind of general statement, it is reasonable to expect you to give some specific examples. When you present a lot of data, your reader will expect you to analyze and interpret it. If you take your reader through a complicated analysis, such as a mathematical development, you will be expected to provide a summary that tells what it all means. Most readers expect you to answer the question "SO WHAT?" at the end of your paper.
If you have trouble asking yourself all these questions while you're writing your first draft, you may find it easier during editing. Go through the list of expectations above and "trouble-shoot" a report or paper you have already written. Mark those places where you may have left some of your reader's questions unanswered.


Today's high-technology products make clear documentation imperative. You might be able to blunder through some muddled instructions for putting your kid's Christmas bike together, but your new business computer is just an oversized doorstop without clear, complete user manuals. In the exploding software market, the choice between competing products might easily be made on the basis of one manufacturer's reputation for clear manuals. So why are most user manuals such a disgrace? Because most product documentation is done backwards. Consider, as an example, how a word-processing program might be developed. A company decides to get into the word-processing business and gives its software design team a broad set of specifications that the finished product must satisfy. Perhaps they look around at other programs on the market to see what features they have, think of a few refinements, and assign the programming tasks. When the programming is nearly finished, management decides it's time to write the user manual -- all programs have user manuals -- so they give the job to a documentation team, or perhaps contract the job out to a documentation specialist. The marketing department has decided the product has to be on the market in three months, so that's the deadline for finishing the documentation. The poor documentation team (whose degrees are in English literature) works furiously to translate the design team's intentions into something a typist can understand. They have trouble because many features of the program were designed for the convenience of the programmers, not the users. What they end up with is a catalog of commands that tells the user how to get the program to do what the designers had in mind. Then the advertising department stamps USER-FRIENDLY on the cover and out it goes.

Many user manuals, for all kinds of products, are actually written that way. Is there a better way? Let's see. What might happen if the user manual were written before the design team began to work on the program? Suppose our company hired a team of experienced word-processor operators. The team would sit down together and decide what's wrong with existing word-processing programs and what new features they want. Then they would proceed to specify exactly how it would function -- from the users' point of view. They would specify what every display and every message would look like on the screen, and what every command would do. Then they would write the first draft of the user manual -- in language they understand. This draft of the user manual would be the design specification the programmers would work from. Their job is to create the program that the manual was written for. Naturally, a few compromises and modifications are necessary, because of engineering limitations and new ideas that come up during the design, but the final version of the user manual will just be a cleaned-up version of that first design draft. Clear, effective user manuals require so much feedback from their intended users, that you should get them involved fully, not only in the document design, but also in the early stages of designing the product itself. Not every product can be completely designed by its users, but paying more attention to their needs will solve many of your documentation problems as well.


Sooner or later, you'll have to break some bad news, report some negative results or state an unpopular viewpoint in your writing. Even competent and intelligent people get negative or disappointing answers in their investigations or have some unpopular axe to grind. Many books show you how to soften the blow and hide the bad news, so your reader doesn't get hit with it all at once. My advice is: Don't hedge or beat around the bush. State the result or viewpoint honestly, completely and straightforwardly. Then turn the negative result into an opportunity for further work. What now has to be done differently as a result? Focus on the positive result you want, and what the negative result implies about how to attain the desired outcome. Explain what you learned from the experience. Present an image of optimism and confidence. Avoid apologies and excuses. Here's an example of a short, no-nonsense corporate financial report with some negative results:

FIRST THE BAD NEWS: Our profits will be down in 1990 after two record-setting years. The recession is one of the reasons why. NOW THE GOOD NEWS: The other reason is we're giving up some of our earnings to invest more heavily in future growth.

We could add more than $2 a share to 1990 earnings just by holding research and development in oil and gas exploration spending to 1989 levels. But we're not going to do that. We're going to spend more on research and development than ever before. About $200 million. 32% more than last year. We're also increasing our capital spending to about $700 million. Up from about $609 million in 1989. And we've budgeted almost $3 billion for oil and gas exploration and development over then next five years. The way we figure it, the choices we're making now are going to pay off later. In the next decade, we expect our growth to be more and more profitable. Then we'll have nothing to tell you but good news. HOW TO BENEFIT FROM FEEDBACK BETWEEN YOUR RESEARCH AND YOUR WRITING
The usual approach to a research or engineering project is to first do the work and then write up the results. Do you remember that sequence when you took laboratory courses in school and then had to write the lab report for homework? But how often do you have the experience of writing up your results and, in the process of putting your thoughts down on paper, gaining new insights that you wish you had during the data-collection process? And how often, while writing up your results, do you find yourself rationalizing faulty procedures and apologizing for inadequate care during the data-collection phase? Usually such insights shed new light on what you were really trying to do. If you had them while you were working on the project, you might have significantly improved the experimental procedure. Because such insights usually come too late, they are sometimes called hindsight. But are they available only after the fact? What if you began writing your paper at the same time you began the project? Aren't the principles that should guide you in organizing and writing your paper the same principles that you should use in organizing and carrying out your scientific or engineering project? In both cases, your thoughts should run something like this:

1. How can I concisely define the problem I'm working on? 2. How will I know when I reach my objective? 3. How do I break down this problem into subproblems and questions of manageable size?

4. What specific procedures should I use to solve these subproblems? 5. What purpose will the results ultimately serve?
Many scientists and engineers wait until they've collected mountains of data, and it's time to write up the report, before asking these questions. At this stage, their minds are cluttered with facts, analyses, opinions and biases. They can't sort out the meaningful things to write because they have too much to say. Often they just write everything. The result is usually a paper that says no more than "See my wonderful data!" If, instead, you consciously and deliberately consider the questions above before the data begin to pour in, you'll not only be better equipped to perform a meaningful experiment, but you'll be half done organizing your report. These days, everyone has to submit some kind of plan or proposal before he can begin his project. Unfortunately, such plans are often so cluttered with grandiose promises, flow charts and budget requirements that the basic questions (like the ones listed above) are never addressed. If you have to write such plans and proposals, why not take the opportunity to begin the kind of thinking and organizing described above? If part of your job is reviewing and processing such proposals, you could do their proponents a favor by insisting that such information be clearly spelled out. When you begin your research prospectus, write a clear and lucid statement of the rationale, objectives and scope of your project. This statement or prospectus would be an excellent first draft of the introduction for your paper. While you're studying how far others have gotten on the problem, write your literature review. Before you actually begin your experiments, write out the detailed procedures you expect to follow. (Typically these are modified beyond recognition in the field, but comparing what you actually did with the original plan might be helpful to others who might later cover the same ground.) Once you determine how you will analyze the data, prepare the data shells and graphic presentations you expect to use. You may find it useful to imagine the most optimistic possible outcome of your project and to carry those results (in writing) through all their logical consequences and implications. What are you expecting others to do about your results? Are those expectations realistic? This sharpens your thinking about where you're going and may stimulate procedural changes. Your paper might well compare the expected outcome with the actual one. If you set up this kind of continuous feedback between your writing and your project, you'll find that your writing tasks are greatly simplified, and that your project itself flows more smoothly, too. If your project involves many people, they will appreciate being in on the rationale and plans behind it.


If your organization has a staff of editors to clean up your grammar, spelling, punctuation and rhetoric, consider yourself fortunate. Instead of regarding them as just another obstacle for your document to hurdle, use them to make your paper more presentable and free of formal errors. Many authors resent the red marks that come back on their manuscripts, and so they ignore all but obvious spelling or punctuation errors. But even though editors may not understand the technical details you're writing about, they usually are trained to recognize awkward or inappropriate wording, poor construction and convoluted or ambiguous sentences. Their red marks are signals that your writing is not as clear and readable as it could be. Take their suggestions seriously. They probably know more than you do about clear writing. Some editors, of course, are overly concerned with enforcing rigid grammatical rules. Others understand that minor rules can be broken in the interests of clarity. Sentence fragments, split infinitives and dangling participles are sometimes the best way to make a point. You, of course, must make the final decision.

Because writing deprives you of direct feedback from your audience, it's a poor way to communicate. You can compensate for that missing feedback by contacting a sample of your audience in person and by learning how to ask yourself the questions they are likely to ask. Your supervisors are an important part of your audience, because they have to approve what you write. You can save everyone's time by finding out in advance what they're looking for. The quality of instruction and user manuals is particularly sensitive to feedback from their intended audiences. Such manuals can sometimes serve as design specifcations.

In the train station at Sendai, Japan

-- End of Lesson 22 (the last lesson) --

Beginning of Lesson 22 || Contents || Afterword

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

We've covered a lot in a short time. Yet we've covered only a small part of what you'll need to learn to become a good writer. Learning how to write analytically is a complex job that demands clear thinking and hard work. You've not only had to learn and practice new skills, but you also had to change some deep-seated attitudes. I've been very careful to select only a few of the most powerful tools you'll need to begin making your writing clearer and more informative. That's because I think it's important for you to get started and see some of the rewards before you have time to get overwhelmed and discouraged by the size of the task. I've arranged this course to make it easy for you to take those tools with you, so you can refine your new skills on the job. To make that even easier, I've summarized the main points we've covered in the final checklist in Lesson 21. Use this checklist as you're writing, together with the checklists from Lesson 8 that appply to your particular writing tasks. After seeing so many examples of atrocious writing, you might enjoy reading some really outstanding technical writing. They're not easy to find, but here are three: Feynman, R.P., R.B. Leighton and M. Sands, "The Feynman Lectures on Physics," (3 vol.) Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., Reading, MA, 1963 (paperback). Kinsman, B., "Wind Waves -- Their Generation and Propagation on the Ocean Surface," PrenticeHall Pub. Co., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1965. Samuelson, P. A., "Economics", Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1973 or later editions. If you're serious about learning how to write well, these books are worth buying, just for the inspiration they provide. As you notice your writing improving and getting easier, your colleagues should notice, too. Be sure to ask them what differences they see and what they like and don't like about your new writing habits. Don't take individual negative comments too seriously, unless you hear the same thing from several people. The reinforcement you get from their feedback is a vital part of your writing effort; the positive results your writing produces should encourage you to refine your skills even further.

To become a really good writer, you'll need to pay attention to the finer points of good grammar and usage. Lots of books cover that subject thoroughly. Look through the bibliography, or check your library. Remember, however, that the point of business and technical writing is to inform, not to conform to rules. Studying the examples of clear writing that you've collected (and building your collection) is probably a more efficient way to hone your writing skills than studying textbooks.

Table of Contents || Bibliography

Analytical Writing for Science and Technology Copyright 1996 by T. M. Georges.

This is a list of books about business and/or technical writing that I have collected during my research on the subject. It doesn't include shorter articles and reports, which are far more numerous. Obviously, I haven't read them all, and many, of course, are part of the problem, rather than the solution. I have marked with an asterisk those which I have looked at carefully and which I think are particularly useful. You can also find a large list of books on technical writing at Amazon.com. I have added to this list a few books that don't deal with writing as such, but I regard them as models of clear technical writing. If you want to read articles about business and technical writing, there are several journals devoted to the subject, including the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, Technical Communication, Journal of Business Communication, Industrial Communications, Journal of the American Society of Information Science, and the British Information Design Journal. Also, be sure to check out the many On-Line Resources for Writers.

Alverez, J. A., THE ELEMENTS OF TECHNICAL WRITING, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, New York, 1980. Barrass, R., SCIENTISTS MUST WRITE, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1978. Bates, J. D., WRITING WITH PRECISION, Acropolis Books, Washington, DC, 1980. Blicq, R. S., TECHNICALLY WRITE! COMMUNICATION FOR THE TECHNICAL MAN, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ,1972.

Blumenthal, L. SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS WRITING, Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1976. Brown, H. M., BUSINESS REPORT WRITING, Van Nostrand Co., New York, 1980. *Brogan, J. A., CLEAR TECHNICAL WRITING, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1973. *Brusaw, C. T., G. J. Alred and W. E. Oliu, THE BUSINESS WRITER'S HANDBOOK, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1975. *Brusaw, C. T., G. J. Alred and W. E. Oliu, HANDBOOK OF TECHNICAL WRITING, St. Martin's Press, New York, l976. Charrow, V., WHAT IS "PLAIN ENGLISH," ANYWAY?, American Institutes for Research, Washington, DC, 1977. Classen, H. G., BETTER BUSINESS ENGLISH, Arco Pub. Co., New York, 1966. Colby, J. and J. A. Rice, WRITING TO EXPRESS, Burgess Pub. Co., Minneapolis, MN, 1977. Coleman, P. and K. Brambleby, THE TECHNOLOGIST AS WRITER -- AN INTRODUCTION TO TECHNICAL WRITING, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1969. Crouch, G. W. and R. L. Zetler, A GUIDE TO TECHNICAL WRITING, Roland Press, New York, 1964. Day, R. A., HOW TO WRITE AND PUBLISH A SCIENTIFIC PAPER, ISI Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1979. Ehrlich, E. and D. Murphy, THE ART OF TECHNICAL WRITING, Thomas Y. Crowell Co., New York, 1964. Elbow, P., WRITING WITHOUT TEACHERS, Oxford University Press, New York, 1973. Ellenbogen, A., LETTER PERFECT, Macmillan, New York, 1978. Emberger, M. R. and M. R. Hall, SCIENTIFIC WRITING, Harcourt, Brace and Co., New York, 1955. Ewing, D. W., WRITING FOR RESULTS -- IN BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT, THE SCIENCES, THE PROFESSIONS, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1979. Fear, D. E., TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION, Foresman and Co., Glenview, IL, 1977. *Feynman, R. P., R. B. Leighton and M. Sands, THE FEYNMAN LECTURES ON PHYSICS, AddisonWesley Pub. Co.,Reading, MA, 1963. Flesch, R., THE ART OF PLAIN TALK, Harper and Row, New York, 1946. Flesch, R., THE ART OF READABLE WRITING, Harper and Row, New York, 1949. Flesch, R. and A. H. Lass, A NEW GUIDE TO BETTER WRITING, Fawcett Popular Library, 1949.

Flesch, R., HOW TO WRITE, SPEAK AND THINK MORE EFFECTIVELY, Harper and Row, New York, 1960. Flesch, R., SAY WHAT YOU MEAN, Harper and Row, New York, 1972. Gilbert, M. B., COMMUNICATING BY LETTER -- A SELF-TEACHING GUIDE, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1973. Gilman, W., THE LANGUAGE OF SCIENCE: A GUIDE TO EFFECTIVE WRITING, Harcourt, Brace and World, New York, 1961. Goeller, C., WRITING TO COMMUNICATE, New American Library, New York, 1974. Graves, R. and Hodge. A., THE READER OVER YOUR SHOULDER, Macmillan Co., New York, 1944. Gray, D. E., SO YOU HAVE TO WRITE A TECHNICAL REPORT, Information Resources Press, Washington, DC, 1970. Gunning, R., THE TECHNIQUE OF CLEAR WRITING, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1968. Gunning, R., MORE EFFECTIVE WRITING IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY, Industrial Education Institute, Boston, MA, 1963. Hartley, J., DESIGNING INSTRUCTIONAL TEXT, Nichols Pub. Co., New York, 1978. Hicks, T. G., WRITING FOR ENGINEERING AND SCIENCE, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1961. Hicks, T. G., SUCCESSFUL TECHNICAL WRITING, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1959. Hoover, H., ESSENTIALS FOR THE TECHNICAL WRITER, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1970. Houp, K. W. and T. E. Pearsall, REPORTING TECHNICAL INFORMATION, Glencoe Pub. Co., Encino, CA, 1977. Janis, H. and H. Dressner, BUSINESS WRITING, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1972. *Jesperson, J. and J. Fitz-Randolph, FROM SUNDIALS TO ATOMIC CLOCKS -- UNDERSTANDING TIME AND FREQUENCY, National Bureau of Standards Monograph 155, U. S. Govt. Printing Off., Washington, DC, 1977. *Johnson, T. P., ANALYTICAL WRITING, Harper and Row, New York, l966. Jones, W. P., WRITING SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL REPORTS, Wm. C. Brown Co. Pub., 1971. Jordan, S. et al., HANDBOOK OF TECHNICAL WRITING PRACTICES, Wiley Interscience, New York, 1971. Kapp, R. O., THE PRESENTATION OF TECHNICAL INFORMATION, Macmillan Co., New York, l957.

*Kinsman, B., WIND WAVES, THEIR GENERATION AND PROPAGATION ON THE OCEAN SURFACE, Prentice-Hall Pub. Co., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1965. Lannon, J.M., TECHNICAL WRITING, Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 1979. Lynch, B. and C. Chapman, WRITING FOR COMMUNICATION IN SCIENCE AND MEDICINE, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., NY, 1980. Mack, K. and E. Skjei, OVERCOMING WRITING BLOCKS, J.P.Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, 1979. Mandel, S., WRITING FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, Dell Pub. Co., New York, 1970. Mathes, J.C. and D.W. Stevenson, DESIGNING TECHNICAL REPORTS -- WRITING FOR AUDIENCES IN ORGANIZATIONS, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, 1976. *Menzel, D. H., H. M. Jones and L. G. Bond, WRITING A TECHNICAL PAPER, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1961. Mills, G. H. and J. A. Walter, TECHNICAL WRITING, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1978. Mitchell, J. H., WRITING FOR TECHNICAL AND PROFESSIONAL JOURNALS, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1968. Monroe, J., EFFECTIVE RESEARCH AND REPORT WRITING IN GOVERNMENT, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1980. *Monroe, J., C. Meredith and K. Fisher, THE SCIENCE OF SCIENTIFIC WRITING, Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co., Dubuque, IA, 1977. Moore, R. H., HANDBOOK OF EFFECTIVE WRITING, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1966. Morris, J. E., PRINCIPLES OF SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL WRITING, Mc Graw-Hill, New York, 1966. *Murray, M. W., ENGINEERED REPORT WRITING, Petroleum Pub. Co., Tulsa, OK, 1969. *Newman, E., STRICTLY SPEAKING, Warner Books, New York, 1974. Newman, E., A CIVIL TONGUE, Warner Books, New York, 1977. Norgaard, M., A TECHNICAL WRITER'S HANDBOOK, Harper and Row, New York, 1959. Pauley, S., TECHNICAL REPORT WRITING TODAY, Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, l973. Paxson, W. C., THE BUSINESS WRITING HANDBOOK, Bantam Books, NY, l98l. Perlmutter, J. H., A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO EFFECTIVE WRITING, Delta Books, Dell Pub. Co., New York, 1965. Provost, G., MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT, Writers' Digest Books, New York, l980.

Rathbone, R. R., COMMUNICATING TECHNICAL INFORMATION, Addison-Wesley, New York, 1966. Redish, J., READABILITY, American Institutes for Research, Washington, DC, l979. Redish, J. C., THE LANGUAGE OF THE BUREAUCRACY, Technical Report No. 15, Document Design Project, American Institutes For Research, Washington, DC, 1981. Roman, K. and J. Raphaelson, WRITING THAT WORKS, Harper and Row, New York, l981. Rathbone, R. R., A WRITER'S GUIDE FOR ENGINEERS AND SCIENTISTS, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1962. Rogers, R. A., HOW TO REPORT RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FINDINGS TO MANAGEMENT, Pilot Books, NEW YORK, 1973. Ryan, C.W., WRITING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1974. Sherman, T. A. and S. S. Johnson, MODERN TECHNICAL WRITING, 3rd Edition, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1975. Smith, R. W., TECHNICAL WRITING, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1963. Souther, J. W. and M. L. White, TECHNICAL REPORT WRITING, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1977. Sparrow, W. K. and D. H. Cunningham, THE PRACTICAL CRAFT -- READINGS FOR BUSINESS AND TECHNICAL WRITERS, Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, MA, 1978. Strunk, W., Jr. and E. B. White, THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, Macmillan Pub. Co., New York, 1972. Tichy, H. J., EFFECTIVE WRITING FOR ENGINEERS, MANAGERS, SCIENTISTS, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1966. Trelease, S. F., HOW TO WRITE SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL PAPERS, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1958. Turner, B. T., EFFECTIVE TECHNICAL WRITING AND SPEAKING, Business Books, Ltd., London, 1974. Ulman, J. N., Jr. and J. R. Gould, TECHNICAL REPORTING, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1959. U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, BE A BETTER WRITER -- A MANUAL FOR EPA EMPLOYEES, U. S. Govt. Printing Office, 1980. Van Hagan, C. E., REPORT WRITERS' HANDBOOK, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1961. Vardaman, G. and P. B. Vardaman, COMMUNICATION IN MODERN ORGANIZATIONS, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1973.

*Wallace, S.F., PRACTICALLY PAINLESS ENGLISH, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, l980. Ward, R. R., PRACTICAL TECHNICAL WRITING, Alfred E. Knopf, New York, 1968. *Weinberg, G.M., AN INTRODUCTION TO GENERAL SYSTEMS THINKING, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1975. Weisman, H. M., BASIC TECHNICAL WRITING, Charles E. Merrill Books, Columbus, OH, 1980. Weisman, H. M., TECHNICAL REPORT WRITING, Charles E. Merrill Books, Columbus, OH, 1966. Weiss, A., WRITE WHAT YOU MEAN, Amacom, New York, l977. Weiss, E. H., THE WRITING SYSTEM FOR ENGINEERS AND SCIENTISTS, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1982. Willis, H., STRUCTURE, STYLE, USAGE: A GUIDE TO EXPOSITORY WRITING, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1964. Woelfle, R.M. (Ed.), A GUIDE FOR BETTER TECHNICAL PRESENTATIONS, IEEE Press, New York, 1975. Woodford, F. P., SCIENTIFIC WRITING FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS, Rockefeller University Press, New York, 1968. Wydick, R. C., PLAIN ENGLISH FOR LAWYERS, Carolina Academic Press, Durham, NC, 1979.