Some General Guidelines for Technical Writing in English

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Transcript Some General Guidelines for Technical Writing in English

Some General Guidelines
for
Technical Writing in English
Dr. Arthur Chiou
College of Science & Engineering
National Dong Hwa University
Shoufeng, Hualien, Taiwan
[email protected]
Effective Oral Presentation:
All you need to know
To become a confident & joyful speaker
Dr. Arthur Chiou
College of Science & Engineering
National Dong Hwa University
Shoufeng, Hualien, Taiwan
[email protected]
Outline
• The way we learn how to write (a technical paper) :
what’s wrong?
• The No. 1 problem in our writing : the logical structure &
the logical link
• The structural principles
• Active vs. passive
• The strong verb vs. the weak verb + the abstract noun
• Write the way you talk: write (and read) with your ears
• Parallelism
• Conciseness
• The English grammar: the tenses
• The English grammar: the dangling modifiers/participles
• The ambiguity
• The generic vs. the specific
• What scientists said vs. what they meant
• The general components of a typical technical paper
• References
The Way We Learn How to Write
(a Technical Paper) : What’s Wrong?
• Lectures on Technical Writing in
English
– The teachers
– The students
• The 3 C’s: Correct, Clear, and
Concise
– The readers: The readers do not
just read; they interpret.
The No. 1 Problem in Our Writing :
the logical structure & the logical link
• Technical or Business Writing vs.
Mysteries: The Readers’ Expectations
• From Old to New: The Stress Position
• The Logical Link: The Transitional
Phrase or Sentence
Sentence # 2
Sentence # 1
B
A
C
A
(or)
B
(or)
C
D
E
George D. Gopen & Judith A. Swan,
“The Science of Scientific Writing”,
American Scientist, Vol. 78, 550 (1990).
• The misplacement of old and new
information turns out to be the No. 1
problem in American professional
writing today.
• Put in the topic position the old
information that links backward; put
in the stress position the new
information you want the reader to
emphasize.
The Structural Principles
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Follow a grammatical subjects as soon as possible with its
verb.
Place in the stress position the “new information” you want
the reader to emphasize.
Place the person or thing whose “story” a sentence is
telling at the beginning of the sentence, in the topic
position.
Place appropriate “old information” (material already stated
in the discourse) in the topic position for linkage backward
and contextualization forward.
Articulate the action of every clause or sentence in its verb.
In general, provide context for your reader before asking
that reader to consider anything new.
In general, try to ensure that the relative emphases of the
substance coincide with the relative expectations for the
emphasis raised by the structure.
George D. Gopen & Judith A. Swan,
“The Science of Scientific Writing”, American Scientist, Vol. 78, 550 (1990).
From Old to New: An exercise
Brewery Effluent in China
 With an estimated annual production of 6 million cubic meters,
China has become the fifth-largest beer-consuming nation in the
world, after the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and
Russia.
 As a result of this heavy output of effluent, the brewery
industries has become one of the major polluters in China.
 As the standard of living has improved in the last ten years, beer,
a Western beverage, has become very popular in China.
 For each cubic meter of beer produced, these plants in general
generate 20 to 30 cubic meters of effluent, much more than that
reported to be produced by modern plants in Western nations.
 Of the thousands of breweries in China, most are located in rural
areas, use outdated technology, and until recently, have been little
concerned with pollution.
Find the Missing Logical Links:
An example
Biomedical fiber-optical sensors attract a lot of
attentions in last ten years. Bending fiber-optic
sensors are simple and cost effective.
The
fiber-optic bending sensors can be applied to
measure many physical quantities, such as
voltage, strain, temperature, pressure, etc.
With the wavelength division multiplexing
techniques intensively grew up, the multichannel high-speed WDM distributed fiber-optic
bending sensor become an important issue.
Such WDM fiber bending sensors can be applied
in biomedical sensor systems.
Active vs. Passive Voices
• Bees disperse pollen.
• Pollen is dispersed by bees.
• Three phases of analysis are included in their
approach.
• Their approach includes three phases of analysis
• I was robbed (by somebody).
• Somebody robbed me.
• The building was completely destroyed in the second
world war.
• Leonard was rushed into the operating room.
• Three hospital attendants and the ambulance driver
rushed Leonard into the operating room.
Your work vs. work done by other researchers
The Action Verb
vs.
the Abstract Noun + the Weak Verb
• To investigate
• To carry out an investigation of
• An investigation of … has been carried out
• To decide
• To make a decision of
• To explain
• To provide an explanation of
• To understand
• To facilitate the understanding of
Write the Way You Talk:
Write (and Read) with Your Ears
If you read your manuscript (or paper)
aloud to life audience, would it sound
like a natural oral presentation ?
See, for example, D. A. B. Miller, “Quantum well optoelectronic
switching devices”, International Journal of High Speed
Electronics, Vol. 1, No. 1, 19 – 46 (1990).
The Action Verb
• The departure of the airplane is thought to be dependent
on the weather.
• Bad weather may ground the airplane.
• To think that an answer that would be satisfactory had
taken so long to arrive was something that put him into a
state of deep resentment.
• He deeply resented the long wait for a satisfactory answer.
• It is clear that Deanna is in need of practice before the
concert. The last time she played her violin was three
weeks ago, and she is familiar with only the first
movement of the Mozart symphony on the program.
• Clearly, Deanna needs to practice before the concert. She
has not touched her violin in three weeks, and she knows
only the first movement of the Mozart symphony on the
program.
Parallelism
• She liked games, movies, and going to picnics.
• She liked games, movies, and picnics.
• He was intelligent but a boring boy.
• He was intelligent but boring.
• The trip had been both difficult and a great expense.
• The trip had been both difficult and expensive.
• A time not for words but action.
• A time not for words but for action.
Parallelism
Either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also,
first/second/third
• Either I am always in doubt or I am always in
trouble.
• I am always either in doubt or in trouble.
• I am always in either doubt or trouble.
• They hoped to go not only to London but also
to Paris.
• They hoped to go to not only London but also
Paris.
• For love, for honor, for fame, or for money.
• For love, honor, fame, or money.
Parallelism
President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom,
symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as well as
changes ….
……
So let us begin anew, remembering on both sides that civility is not a
sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never
negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
Now the trumpet summons us again – not as a call to bear arms, though
arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are; but a call to
bear the burden of a twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in
hope, patient in tribulation,” a struggle against the common enemies of
man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you;
ask what you can do for your country.
Conciseness: Make Every Word Count
• There is a slight difference in terms of speed between
the two methods.
• The two methods differ slightly in speed.
• It is important to develop a more effective approach to
solve the complicated problem.
• A more effective approach must be developed to solve
the complicated problem.
• There is a comparison made in this article of the major
differences between commercially successful keyboards.
• This article compares the major differences between
commercially successful keyboards.
• It is interesting to note that ….
• There is increasing evidence that ….
• It has long been known that ….
Conciseness: Make Every Word Count
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
red color, or red in color
round in shape
falling down
join together
actual fact
very unique, or quite unique
in a position to
despite the fact that
a length of 5 mm
It is interesting to note that
It is obvious that
It is our opinion that
There is a necessity for
red
round
falling
join
fact
unique
can
although
5 mm long
interestingly
obviously
we believe that
must
Conciseness: Make Every Word Count
To All Employees
The management of this company after due and careful consideration of
certain regrettable practices which have recently been brought to our
attention, is desirous of again reminding you of the fact which of course
has been pointed out on several previous occasions but which nevertheless
has apparently been overlooked or ignored by an all too preponderant
proportion of our present personnel that all members of this firm should
make an earnest, sincere, continuous and persistent effort to eschew and
avoid all excessive wordiness, repetitive phraseology, unnecessarily
complicated sentence structure and lengthy involved or obscure
paragraphs in transcribing internal communications of any nature
whatsoever to one or more fellow employees.
The Management
P.S. In other words, make it brief.
Present, Past, and Present Perfect
• Use present tense for well established fact
e.g Smith (1975) showed that process A is faster than process B
by more than a factor of 5.
• Use past tense for un-established results or results that
cannot be generalized
e.g. e.g. -
In our study, the damage threshold was about 10KW/cm2.
Jones reported that 25% of the sample was damaged.
• Use present tense to refer readers to your figures or tables.
e.g. e.g. -
Table 5.2 shows that ....
The peak occurred at m = 5, as figure 6 indicates.
• Use present perfect tense for events that have been
repeated or continued from the past to the present
e.g. Optical phase conjugation has been studied for aberration
correction since the first concept demonstration in 1978.
Present, Past, and Present Perfect
An example
Abstract
Digital data-page holograms consisting of 1024 x1024 arrays
of binary pixels have been stored and subsequently retrieved
with an optical exposure consistent with a data rate 1Gbits/s.
Each input pixel was precisely registered with a single
detector pixel, and a raw bit-error rate as low as 2.4 x 10-6
was demonstrated with global-threshold detection. To our
knowledge, this is the first demonstration of the often-cited
goal of holographic data storage of megabit data pages and a
gigabit-per-second data rate.
R. M. Shelby, et al., “Pixel-matched holographic data storage with megabit
pages,” Opt. Lett., Vol. 22, 1509 (1997).
Dangling Modifiers/Participles
As a mother of five, my
kitchen is always busy.
As a mother of five, I am always
busy in my kitchen.
No bacteria were observed
using this technique.
Using this technique, we do not
observed any bacteria.
Young and inexperienced, the
task seemed easy to me.
Young and inexperienced, I
thought the task was easy.
Following experimentation,
bacteria multiplied.
Following experimentation, we
found the bacteria multiplied.
Being in poor condition, we
were unable to save the
animals.
We were unable to save the
animals because they are in poor
condition.
Using this method, a strong
correlation peak was observed.
Using this method, I observed a
strong correlation peak.
In drawing the picture, his wife In drawing the picture, he used
was used as the model.
his wife as the model.
The Ambiguity:
•
•
He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center.
He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug.
•
You can call your mother in London and tell her all about George’s
taking you out to dinner for just sixty cents.
For just sixty cents, you can call your mother in London and tell
her all about George’s taking you out to dinner.
•
•
•
New York’s first commercial human-sperm bank opened Friday with
semen samples from 18 men frozen in a stainless steel tank.
New York’s first commercial human-sperm bank opened Friday
when semen samples were taken from 18 men. The samples were
then frozen and stored in a stainless steel tank.
•
•
All the members were not present.
Not all the members were present.
•
•
He only found two mistakes.
He found only two mistakes.
To avoid ambiguity, keep related words together.
A Dozen Fumblegrammar Rules for Scientists
1. It is recommended by the authors that the passive voice
be avoided.
2. Subjects and verbs even when separated by a word
string has to agree.
3. Writing science carefully, dangling participles must not
appear.
4. If you reread your writing you will find that a great
many very repetitious statements can be identified by
rereading and identifying them.
5. Avoid using “quotation” marks “incorrectly” and where
they serve no “useful” purpose.
6. The naked truth is that editors will read the riot act to
any Tom, Dick, or Harry that uses cliches; avoid them
like a plague.
7. In formal scientific writing, don’t use contraction or
exclamation points!!
A Dozen Fumblegrammar Rules for Scientists
8. If we’ve told you once, we’ve told you a thousand times,
a writer who uses hyperbole will come to grief.
9. In scientific writing, and otherwise, avoid commas, that
are, really, unnecessary.
10. Subjects and their verbs whenever you notice and can
do so should be placed close.
11. Remember it is better not to, if you can avoid it, split
an infinitive.
12. Proofread your manuscript carefully to be sure you
didn’t any words out.
The Generic vs. the Specific
• Action of antibiotics on bacteria
• Inhibition of growth of mycobacterium
tuberculosis by streptomycin and neomycin
• The temperature changed.
• The temperature increased from 15C to 23C.
Ten Principles for Improving Clarity & Precision
of Written Documents
(Writing with Precision, by Jefferson D. Bates)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Prefer active voice
Don’t make nouns out of good, strong “working verbs”
Be concise
Be specific
Keep related sentence elements together; keep
unrelated elements apart
6. Avoid unnecessary shifts of number, tense, subject,
voice, or point of view
7. Prefer the simple word to the far-fetch, and the right
word to the almost right
Ten Principles for Improving Clarity & Precision
of Written Documents
(Writing with Precision, by Jefferson D. Bates)
8. Don’t repeat words, phrases, or ideas needlessly, but
don’t hesitate to repeat when the repetition will
increase clarity
9. Use parallelism whenever it is appropriate – that is
when you are expressing similar thoughts, make sure
you write your sentences so that the elements are in
similar or parallel forms. But do not use parallel
structure when expressing thoughts that are not truly
similar
10. Arrange your material logically
What Scientists Said vs. What They Meant
•
•
It has long been known that ….
I have not bothered to look up the original reference, but …
•
•
Of great theoretical and practical importance …
Interesting to me or important for me to publish …
•
•
Typical results are shown ….
The best results are shown ….
•
•
It is clear that much additional work will be required before a
complete understanding of …
I do not understand it.
•
•
It is suggested that …. Or
I think
•
•
Agree to within an order of magnitude ….
Disagree by a factor of …
It is believed that …
The General Components
of a Typical Technical Paper
1. Front Matter
•
•
•
Title
Byline
Abstract
2. Introduction
•
•
•
Stasis – define research territory
Disruption – interrupt stasis so as to create a niche
within territory
Resolution – occupy or defend that niche
3. Methods
•
•
•
Procedures used to occupy or defend niche
Materials used in carried out procedures
Theoretical principles & assumptions behind
procedures
The General Components
of a Typical Technical Paper
4. Results and Discussion (separate or joined)
•
•
•
•
•
Experimental or calculated results in text, tables,
figures
Comparison of results
o Present vs. published earlier
o Baseline vs. altered state
o Experimental vs. theoretical
Reference to previous research for purposes of
criticism or support
Interpretation of significance of results &
comparisons
Explanation for surprising or contradictory results
The General Components
of a Typical Technical Paper
5. Conclusion
•
•
•
Main claims derived from having occupied niche
Wider significance of those claims to research
territory
Suggestion on future work to validate or expand
upon
6. Back Matter
•
•
List of literature cited
Acknowledgement of assistance provided during
writing or research
Title for a Research Paper:
Be succinct & specific
•
•
•
•
•
Optics
Nonlinear optics
Photorefractive nonlinear optics
Photorefractive two-beam coupling
Photorefractive two-beam coupling in barium titanate
crystal
• Photorefractive two-beam coupling in rhodium-doped
barium titanate crystal
• Photorefractive two-beam coupling in rhodium-doped
barium titanate crystal at 1.3mm
• Temperature dependence of photorefractive two-beam
coupling in rhodium-doped barium titanate crystal at
1.3mm
Summary
• The way we learn how to write (a technical paper) :
what’s wrong?
• The No. 1 problem in our writing : the logical structure &
the logical link
• The structural principles
• Active vs. passive
• The strong verb vs. the weak verb + the abstract noun
• Write the way you talk: write (and read) with your ears
• Parallelism
• Conciseness
• The English grammar: the tenses
• The English grammar: the dangling modifiers/participles
• The ambiguity
• The generic vs. the specific
• What scientists said vs. what they meant
• The general components of a typical technical paper
• References
References
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
The Plain English Approach to Business Writing, Edward P. Bailey,
Jr., Oxford University Press, Oxford (1990).
Plain English at Work: A guide to business writing and speaking,
Edward P. Bailey, Jr., Oxford University Press, Oxford (1996).
Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams,
Addison Wesley Longman, Inc, New York (1997).
Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams, The University
of Chicago Press, Chicago (1995).
How to Write, Speak, and Think More Effectively: Your complete
course in the art of communication, Rudolf Flesch, Penguin Books
USA Inc., New York (1946).
Technical Writing and Professional Communication for Nonnative
Speakers of English, Thomas N. Huckin, and Leslie A. Olsen,
McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York (1991).
Style and Readability in Technical Writing: A Sentence-Combining
Approach, James DeGeorge Gary A. Olson, and Richard Ray,
Random House, New York (1986).
Better Scientific and Technical Writing, Morris I. Bolsky, PrenticeHall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs (1991).
References
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, Robert A. Day, ISI Press,
Philadelphia (1998).
How to Write & Publish Engineering Papers and Reports, Herbert B.
Michaelson, Oryx Press (1990).
Successful Scientific Writing: A step-by-step guide for the biological and
medical sciences, Janice R. Matthews, John M. Bowen, and Robert W.
Matthews, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1996).
Communicating in Science: Writing and Speaking, Vernon Booth,
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1985).
Writing a Thesis: Substance and Style, R. Keith Van Wagenen, PrenticeHall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs (1991).
Academic Writing: Working with sources across the curriculum, Mary L.
Kennedy, Hadley M. Smith, Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs (1986).
An English Style Approach for Chinese Technical Writers, Ted Knoy,
Taipei (1998).
An Editing Workbook for Chinese Technical Writers, Ted Knoy, Hsinchu,
Taiwan (2000).
English Scientific Reports and Presentations, C. J. Fraser, Taiwan
(1996).
IEEE Transaction on Professional Communication, IEEE Press, New York
(1982).
A Guide for Writing Better Technical Papers, Craig Harkins and Daniel L.
Plung, Ed., IEEE Press, New York (1982).