The 5Ws and 1H Technical Writing Approach

What should report writers consider in order to come up with a complete account of events? This article describes one of the popular technical writing approaches called the 5Ws and 1H. Read more to find out how it works.

While technical writing may be a challenge to many, there is a systematic way on how to go about it using the 5Ws and 1H approach. This technical writing approach helps you avoid missing the important details in your technical report.

Although I have not personally learned the 5Ws and 1H approach in technical writing while I was studying in the elementary, high school or college, I recalled that time the head of a security agency approached me and said something that changed the way I write about particular events that need clarification.

I was guilty of not being able to clearly explain the case of burglary in the place where I worked. And he pointed out to me, without directly telling me, that my report is inadequate.

Here’s a brief description of that simple message and how I learned to write better about events or any topic of interest.

The Event

Someone broke in the research facility laboratory and robbed it out of valuable items. It was only in the morning that the burglary was discovered. As the person tasked to take charge of that laboratory I was asked to prepare a report. I did so and gave it to the head of the security agency. He found my report inadequate and explained why it is so by briefly explaining how they usually make a report on incidents like this.

The head of the security guard agency quipped that in any event during crime investigation, like someone breaking into a house, or generally, a crime was committed to persons, the security guards are advised to provide answers to the 5 Ws and 1H.

I evaluated my report and it, indeed, is insufficient in providing the required information. I have to be conscious of the basic questions to ask and got to know the 5Ws and 1H of technical writing.

The Technical Writing Approach: The 5 Ws and 1 H

The 5Ws simply refers to the What, When, Where, Who, and Why of an incident and the 1H is the How of that event. If the answers to these questions are arrived at, the situation will be well understood enough to resolve a case.

Efforts must then be made to exhaust all the possible What questions that can be asked, ascertain the When, exactly find out the location to answer the Where, determine Who did the crime or Who was the victim, Why did it happen or Why was the victim victimized, and How was it done.

Using these basic questions as a guide, a technical writer can therefore effectively provide the required information to the reader as all facets of inquiry are covered. There may be some items that may be missed but the point is that at the very least, the basic questions are asked and accurate answers are provided at least as starting points for more rigorous discussion or topic exploration.

Now, practice this technical writing approach and you, as well as your peers, will right away notice that your technical writing skills will be better than before. This is a very useful tool you can use in writing your research paper.

© 2012 November 25 P. A. Regoniel

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