Home Brands Products Deals Promo Finder Store Features Forums Add Review What's Knoji? Sign Up Login

Technical Writing Basics: Being Concise

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
How to be more concise in your writing.

This article is not intended to replace a full Technical Writing course. It is offered as a quick and dirty guide outlining the basic techniques and styles used within the technical writing field. This guide is for people who do not normally write technical documents.

For clarity and ease of use I am breaking this information into 5 articles that cover the basic techniques used in Technical Writing including:

Knowing Your Audience

Top Down Structure

Writing Clear Sentences

• Being Concise

• Using the Active Voice

Being concise simply means getting the main point or idea across to your audience without using a lot of extra words. Sounds easy but most people use styles and constructs that are wordy. This article will demonstrate 6 methods to make your writing clear and concise.

1) Nominalization

Nominalization is a fancy way of saying “Get rid of abstract nouns and replace them with verbs”. An abstract noun is a thing that cannot be touched and they usually end with “ness”, “ion”, “ity”. Two examples of abstract nouns are "exploration" and "happiness".

By using strong verbs instead of abstract nouns the sentence becomes much clearer and more concise.

For example:

Excavation of the Thompson site must be effected before the end of the year.

Excavate the Thompson site before the end of the year.

Use nominalization to get rid of the abstract nouns.

2) Noun versus Verb

Technical writing is mainly about action based writing. What is this object? What does it do? How do I use it? These are questions that by their very nature are action oriented. As such, action words “Verbs” work much better in technical documents. Nouns are usually part of a noun phrase.

A noun phrase is a combination of a noun, usually abstract, and another word. In most cases noun phrases can be replaced with verbs.

Noun Phrase

 Verb Substitute
Assessment of  Assess
 Establishment of  Establish
 Verification of  Verify
 Documentation of  Document

Sentences that use verbs are shorter and easier to understand. They are consice.

3) Wordy Phrases

Wordy phrase are small groups of words that are used as stock phrases. They are cliché. Some writers add these phrases because they believe it makes the document sound more intellectual. Technical writing is about efficient, effective communications, save the aesthetics for your poems. Most wordy phrases can be replaced with a single word.

Wordy Phrase Substitute
Due to the fact Because
During the course of During
For the purpose of For
In the final analysis Finally
In the event that If
With regards to About
In the proximity of Near

More words mean more reading for the end user before they can get to the information they need. Not what you want in a technical document.

 4) Constructs to Avoid

Avoid these common constructs in technical writing.

“THERE ARE” plus “THAT

“IT IS” plus “THAT

Both of these constructs delay the delivery of information about who or what is doing something.

For example:

THERE ARE many reasons THAT this construct should be avoided.

Avoid this construct.

IT IS a well know fact THAT electrical elements can cause server burns.

Electrical elements can cause sever burns.

By avoiding these constructs, the information is more concise and the sentence is shorter. As a technical writer you are not paid by the word.

5) Delete Extra Words

Deleting words is easy, knowing which ones are extra is the hard part. Words are extra if:

a) The word does not add a necessary transition between ideas.

b) The word does not provide new information to the reader.

For example:

Due to his position as head of public relations at Example Company, he planned such that he would be able to attend the meeting.

As head of public relations at Example Company, he planned to attend the meeting.

Most technical writing jobs do not have a minimum number of words. Cover the information in the most efficient manner possible.

6) Parallelism

Parallelism means using a similar style for each item listed in a sequence. By having the items listed in the same style, the information is easy to comprehend and the reader has a sense of knowing what is coming.

Turn off the VXI Power down the VXI
Power down the PLC chassis Power down the PLC chassis
Shut down the CEC chassis Power down the CEC chassis
Shut off the RTE computer Power down the RTE computer
Power off the monitor Power down the monitor

Pick a style that is concise and easy to understand and then apply it to all of the items.

Parallelism also applies to the overall document. This article is an example. Each item, or main point is listed with a number, 1, 2, 3, etc. If the items had been listed like the example below, the user would have been confused.

1) Nominalization

B) Noun versus Verb

iii) Wordy Phrases

IV) Constructs to Avoid

Is "B" a sub-section of "1"? Is "IV" higher in the hierarchy than "iii"? Why make the end user's task more difficult? Parallelism eliminates the confusion and can be applied to the document as a whole, right down to individual items within the document.

Making the end user's task easier by providing relevant information in an easy to find, easy to understand manner is the main objective in technical writing. Using these 6 methods to make your writing more concise goes a long way to acheiving that goal.

9 comments

Guest
Posted on Mar 23, 2011
Andre Hartslief
0
Posted on Mar 11, 2011
lucia anna
0
Posted on Dec 2, 2010
ol
0
Posted on May 4, 2010
Nick Carter
0
Posted on May 4, 2010
ol
0
Posted on May 4, 2010
Sylvia W. Perry
0
Posted on May 3, 2010
thestickman
0
Posted on Apr 12, 2010
Daniel Snyder
0
Posted on Mar 25, 2010

About This Article

Nick Carter

Explore Top Fitness Equipment Brands

Expand more
Top-ranked fitness equipment brands