Effective Strategies for Engineers Writing Technical Reports in English

The paragraphs should be built to facilitate understanding of an idea. Any idea which is not supporting the main idea compromises clarity. This could be achieved in a number of ways. I describe some tips in the next paragraph.

Avoid too lengthy paragraphs. Additionally, the sentences in a paragraph should not be hanging, without any link to each other. If ideas are dumped together without showing any link between them, it could lead to confusion and misunderstanding on the readers’ part. Most importantly, digressions must be avoided. Digression is a temporary departure from the main subject.

Linguistics markers for clarity and linking

The clarity and linking of ideas is achieved by using some features like transitional words and phrases. Their use would depend upon the link existing between various ideas. Usually, markers like “additionally” and “furthermore” are used when adding up ideas; “whereas,” “however,” “but,” and “in contrast” show contrasting ideas.

This text has used plenty of linguistic markers to facilitate readers’ comprehension like the use of “conversely,” “contrary to that,” “however,” and “additionally” in the paragraphs above. The addition of these linguistics markers has made the text more reader friendly.

Sentence cohesion could also be achieved by pronoun references like “this” and “that.” The repetition of key words or terms of the subject could also contribute towards the overall coherence of a text.

Tone

Tone refers to the overall feeling the text conveys through its language. There are various tone types like sarcastic, cynical, joyful, sad, pessimistic, and so on.

Technical writers are recommended to adopt an unbiased and objective tone to distance themselves from the findings and eliminate any chances of personal bias. Clarity of expression and correctness of information should be reflected from the tone. A technical text should be free of any emotional language usage, so the tone should ideally be neutral.

Given below is an imaginary letter which exemplifies the kind of effect tone has on its reader. Look at the stiff and insulting tone of this letter written by a housing authority officer to a tenant who has failed to pay the house rent. The letter lacks any courtesy or empathy towards the tenant.

Dear Customer:

We have been notified that you have not paid your house rent for the past two months. As per our regulations, the failure to pay the rent would not be tolerated and you must immediately empty the house by the end of this month. If you fail to do so, we will cut your electricity and other legal actions would follow.

B. Jones
Vice President, Housing Department

The tone is also reflective of the authority the sender of the message assumes on the receiver and the kind of relationship that exists between them. The same message in the letter above could be conveyed in a milder tone by maintaining self-respect of the receiver through the use of words showing courtesy like “please” and avoiding the use of “must” which reflects authority.

The tone is especially important in technical writing as researchers often need to build their claims by negating others. A negative insulting tone of other researchers might compromise the objectivity of the information and draw negative feedback from the research community.

Grammatical aspects

Technical writers should make sure that the grammatical aspects are well taken care of. Too many grammatical errors may result in comprehension difficulties. This may cause irritation and loss of interest among the readers. It is advisable for the non-native English technical writers to get their report proofread before publishing them in reputable journals.

The choice of tense is also crucial. Mostly, technical writers should be using simple past tense when discussing their research and present perfect tense when discussing what they have done during the writing of the manuscript. Jumping between tenses must be avoided. Uniform grammatical structure should be preferred.

Conclusion

Writing to gain recognition in a technical field is not merely a matter of doing outstanding research but also projecting that in a research report in a convincing manner. Great care must be taken during the writing process by ensuring reader understanding of the composition. This can be achieved by going through post-writing phases like revising and editing several times before publishing the report.

Novice technical writers need not convince readers of their expertise by bombarding their audience with ideas through lengthy complex sentences. They should prefer unity, simplicity and objectivity in writing their technical report in English.

Reference

Wallwork, Adrian. 2011. English for writing research papers. New York: Springer.

©2014 November 8 Farzana Masroor

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