Developing Technical Writing Skills

Technical writing is a specific style of writing that often appears in the form of proposals, manuals, web pages, reports, newsletters, and other professional documents. It is commonly used in both undergraduate and graduate programs, so you should practice and develop this writing skill before you enter graduate school as a PhD student. Technical writers should consider the following as guidelines:

Be engaging. Write in third person with active voice and present tense.

Be logical. Organize your thoughts, and stay on topic.

Be precise. Use the most effective language to explain your ideas.

Be objective. Avoid opinions and biases.

Graduate students often use technical writing to explain quantitative results. Writing about quantitative results is necessary for research. The following are some tips to remember when you write about quantitative results:

• Present results using text, tables, or figures.

• Do not use text to present more than three or four numbers.

• Use words for whole numbers below 10.

• Use text to explain important information in tables and figures.

Practice makes perfect, so you should practice your technical writing skills. Keep a record of the mistakes you consistently make so that you can evaluate your progress and so that you know what to watch for when editing. You can also practice by changing your perspective. Instead of writing, you could try editing or researching the work of other technical writers, which will allow you to compare your writing with that of others and to learn about other types of technical writing. In addition, editing or researching other technical writers will help you to be aware of changes and to apply those changes to your own writing. Staying up to date on changes in writing style will allow your technical writing skills to evolve.

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