Engineers from regional corporations, agencies, universities, schools, and professional associations, came together to kick off Engineers Week 2017 at The Chattanoogan conference center. E-Week is designed to help the world understand what engineering is and how it impacts us at multiple levels: from cars to bridges, electric blankets to electrical grids, or farms to supermarkets. Whether chemical, electrical, mechanical, or civil, engineers shape our lives.
There are two key items that are essential for a successful report. The first is having a step-by-step timeline that maps out the process. The second is choosing a topic that interests you enough to do the research and writing required. Our 10-Step plan combines both elements using a famous writer’s philosophy …
“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.” ~ Mark Twain
STEP #1: RESEARCH POSSIBLE TOPICS – If the specific topic isn’t assigned, read a minimum of 3 articles on an assigned or chosen topic. Circle 3 ideas that you’d like to read more about as you write the paper. Choose the one idea that interest you the most and make a list of similar articles to read for the paper.
STEP #2: CHOOSE A TITLE – Write down three possible titles for your report. Choose one of the titles or keep writing until you have a title that you think will work. If you do this now, the rest of the paper will flow from it. If you do the title last, you will end up rewriting substantial portions of your paper because it lacks focus. When in doubt, read the title choices out loud to a friend for feedback.
STEP #3: TABLE of CONTENTS – Whether you are given the elements of the Table of Contents (TOC) or create it yourself, draft a TOC early in the writing process. The TOC is your writing plan. A short paper may not require page numbers in the TOC. For longer reports, insert page numbers.
STEP #4: SECTION CONTENT – Write each section in sequence. Consider the related tables, figures, and footnotes as part of the content. Don’t jump around or try to write several chapters at once. Focus & Finish!
STEP #5: ABSTRACT – Write an abstract/executive summary only when you’ve finished writing the report, including the bibliography.
STEP #6: THE DRAFT – When you’ve finished writing, think of the results as a rough draft. Sleep on it. Give your brain some distance from writing before reviewing and finalizing it.
STEP #7: CONTENT EDIT – Review your writing to make sure that you defined your terms, described your methodology, and analyzed the results so that readers can follow your thinking. You can catch many of the problem areas by reading it out loud.
STEP #8: FORMAT & COPYEDITING REVIEW – Review your report for technical problems such as grammatical mistakes and formatting errors. If possible, have a friend or colleague read it at this point.
STEP #9: FINALIZE – When you’ve made all the necessary corrections, take a break. Then read your paper one last time for both content and format. Make corrections as necessary.
STEP #10: DEADLINE – Get known for meeting deadlines and producing quality work! Schedule backwards from the deadline, putting the date for completion of each step on your calendar. Budget extra days for complicated sections. If you don’t need those extra days, you’ll finish early. If they are needed, you can still meet the deadline.
© Deborah Levine
Want to improve your writing skills and keep on improving? Avoid these 8 mistakes by using my strategies for giving readers what they need and expect. Remember, technical writing is not about self expression. It’s all about clarity for the reader. As a famous writer once said …
“Easy reading is damn hard writing. ” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mistake #1: Not having a point
• Decide on a Title before writing.
• If you tweak the title after writing the paper, review and edit the paper to make sure your intended point is consistent throughout the paper.
Mistake #2: Not having a linear writing process
• Create an Outline
• Create a Table of Contents that reflects your outline before writing.
Mistake #3: Making paragraphs too long or too short.
• Paragraphs more than 5-7 sentences may lose the reader.
• Paragraphs of only 1-3 sentences should either be expanded or folded into another paragraph to make the paper easier to read.
Mistake #4: Using vague words to define terms.
• Confusing comparisons: Similar to, just like, unlike, almost as much as …
• Unquantifiable measurements: A lot, marginally, hardly, almost all …
Mistake #5: Stating opinions vs. facts.
• Don’t tell the reader what you feel, believe, think, or hope.
• If an application asks about your plans and aspirations, be specific and give short and long term details.
Mistake #6: Mixing verb tenses.
• Use the future tense rarely, the present tense occasionally, the past tense often.
• Separate the different tenses by paragraphs, not by sentences.
Mistake #7: Using colorful language to add emotion.
Non-technical idioms: Colloquial phrases that are fun and catchy are distractions.
Conversational-only adjectives & adverbs: Really, very, important, very important …
Mistake #8: Inserting confusing punctuation.
• Semi-colons should be used rarely if ever.
• Count your commas. If you used more than 4-5 commas in a sentence, break it up into shorter sentences.
© Deborah Levine
Few Technical Writing errors are as annoying to readers as abbreviations, acronyms, and initials that are either not defined or send them hunting for an explanation. This common mistake is compounded when using your report as the basis for an oral presentation. What are obvious short cuts to you may make your readers and/or audience resentful rather than admiring.
Avoid the jargon trap!
What is the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym?
Abbreviations are shortened versions of a word, for example, Jan. for January and etc. for etcetera. Acronyms are abbreviations that can be pronounced as words, for example, NASA and OPEC. There are also abbreviations based on initials which are not intended be pronounced as a word, for example, FBI and UTC. All acronyms are abbreviations, but only a relatively small group of abbreviations are acronyms.
How do I use abbreviations in technical writing?
The first time you write an abbreviation or acronym in your paper, spell out the full phrase for the reader. Follow the phrase by the abbreviation in parentheses, for example, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) and College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS). You can then use only the abbreviation throughout the document unless there are stand-alone sections. In that case, repeat the process for that section. Consider adding a glossary if you have multiple acronyms and abbreviations.
WRITE FOR SUCCESS!
Join Deborah Levine, who began her technical writing career in 1969 as a research correspondent at Chemical Bank headquarters in NYC. She has published articles in The American Journal of Community Psychology, The Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, and The Journal of Bermuda Maritime Archeology. As Research Coordinator of the College of Engineering and Computer Science/U. of TN at Chattanooga (CECS), she advised faculty on writing articles for publication. Deborah also taught technical writing, and coached students on technical writing.
Teaching technical writing included sharing my time-proven strategies for giving your readers what they demand and expect. Remember, technical writing is not about self expression. It’s all about clarity for the reader. Click on the links below to see my 3-top technical writing strategies.
by Award-winning Author
Deborah J. Levine
This service is available to writers signed up for content editing services. Coaching session are 1-hour one-on-one with Deborah Levine, either in person or in a ZOOM chat room (easily accessible on your computer – call in number provided by e-mail).
You receive Expert Advice designed specifically for you:
- Writer’s block
“Award-winning author and lecturer Deborah Levine’s coaching is a must for anyone who wants to learn how to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and come up with readable, enjoyable pieces of professional level books and articles. Her guidance is steady and patient, her comments are on point and her expertise shines through each lesson. I enjoyed every minute and learned enough to have the self-confidence to try my hand and come up with a truly good piece of work. I would highly recommend Ms. Levine to anyone who wants to start writing now.”
~ Cathryn Cohen
Coaching spots are limited. Please complete the application to qualify for a coaching spot.
Cost: $75 per hour session
20% Discount on 3-session package = $179.00
Want to improve your writing? Finish that book?Award-winning author Deborah Levine will edit your content & style to match your audience.
How does it work?
- You e-mail Deborah what you’ve written
- Deborah provides expert editing line-by-line
- Deborah shares her secrets for improving your work
- Your writing gets Better & Better!
COST: $50 per hour. Sign up for additional sessions and take advantage of our discount pricing!
WANT YOUR STORY WRITTEN?
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There are only a limited number of opportunities are available in 2017 to have that story written for you.
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Mary Moore’s personal story of entrepreneurship is an inspiration to all aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders who hope to make a difference for themselves and their communities. Her journey to success is admirable for its creativity and innovativeness. Her path has not been easy or simple. Yet, the difficulties and disappointments along the way have taught her how to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. And now, she is teaching us.
Deborah Levine, Editor of the American Diversity Report, interviews Mike Green, co-founder of ScaleUp Partners. His great passion is competitiveness and moving a 1% needle that has never been moved. All black-owned businesses today produce less than 1% of GDP and virtually no job growth. That 1% for the African-American sector has never been breached in the history of this nation. Combined with Hispanic businesses, the number is less than 4%. By mid-century that will mean 42% of the US population is producing 4% of its business productivity. That equation undermines America’s global competitiveness.
Click to hear podcast with Mike Green …
For more information, go to ScaleUp Partners.