Technical Writing Rhetoric Basics

Report
Technical Writing
Rhetoric Basics
Dr. Brian Gastle
Western Carolina University
The Goals
 Clear

No Ambiguity
 Accurate

Precise and Correct Detail
 Professional
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Correct – Grammatically and Syntactically
Balance – Graphics, Text, Layout
Honest
 Concise
Writing Issues
 Verb Choice / Use
 Modifier / Phrase / Clause Use
 Sentence Length
Verb Choice / Use
 Active vs Passive
 Professional Verb Choice and “Vague” Verbs
Active vs Passive Voice
 In Active Voice the subject is “doing” the verb
 In Passive Voice, the subject of the sentence
is “being done” by the verb; acted upon

Form of “to be” plus the past participle
 I blew up the office
 The office was blown up
Active/Passive and tenses
 Active
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Teri embezzled money
Teri embezzles money
Teri will embezzle money
 Passive
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Money was embezzled
Money is embezzled
Money will be embezzled
Replace Verb to Change Voice
 Sometimes you may want to replace the verb to switch voices,
or rewrite the sentence for clarity
 State lotteries are used to fund education.
 States use lotteries to fund education.
 State lotteries support education.
 She was called into the teacher’s office.
 The teacher called her into her office .
(notice problematic pronoun ref)
 The teacher summoned the student into the teacher’s office.

Passive vs Active Voice
 Most of the information you need will be gathered as
you document the assembly process.
 You will gather most of the information you need as
you document the assembly process.
 Documenting the assembly process will provide most
of the necessary information.
 When choosing multiple programs to record, be sure
that the proper tape speed has been chosen to
accommodate the length of all programs.
 When recording multiple programs, choose a tape
speed that will accommodate the length of all
programs.
To Be Verbs
 Try to use specific action verbs rather than forms of to be (similar
to ditching passive voice)

You can often use the noun following the “to be” as a
verb
 He is the editor of two magazines.
 He edits two magazines.
 Major League Baseball was the first sports organization to institute
the concept of free agency for its players.
 Major League Baseball became the first organization to
institute free agency for its players.
 MLB instituted free agency before any other organization.
“Real” Subjects
 There has been a decrease in the number of
students enrolled in our training sessions
 The number of students enrolled in our
training sessions has decreased.
 The use of in-store demonstrations has
resulted in a dramatic increase in business.
 In-store demonstrations have increased
business dramatically.
Expletives and Nominalizations
 Avoid Expletive Construction
 “There are . . .” “There is . . .”
 There are many service locations across the country.
 Many service locations are located throughout the
country.
 Avoid Nominalizations
 Turning a verb into a noun
 He made a change to the schedule
 He changed the schedule
Nominalization – the “real” verb
 Pollution constitutes a threat to the Wilson Wildlife
Preserve.
 Pollution threatens the Wilson Wildlife Preserve.
 Evaluation of the gumming tendency of the four tire
types will be accomplished by comparing the amount
of rubber that can be scraped from the tires.
 We will evaluate the gumming tendency of the four
tire types by comparing the amount of rubber that can
be scraped from the tires.
Use of vague verbs
 Examples
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To be (is, was, be, etc.)
To do (did, done, etc.)
To make (made, will make, etc.)
To have (had, has, etc.)
 Each of these materials has a unique
property.
 Each of these materials possesses a unique
property.
 Attendance policies are helpful to the
company in many ways.
 Attendance policies help the company in
many ways
 The product’s main focus is on reducing material
waste.
 The product focuses on reducing material waste.
 It is not the responsibility of this document to predict
all possible service problems
 This document can not predict all possible service
events.
 When someone gets a job, they have to know how to
maintain a schedule.
 When someone acquires a job, he or she must know
how to maintain a schedule.
 Proper lubrication is effective in preventing the
product from breaking.
 Proper lubrication can prevent product malfunction.
Formal vs. Informal Language
 The learning modules were put together by a couple of professors in
the department.
 The learning modules were developed by two professors in the
department.
 Two professors in the department developed the learning modules.
 The biggest problem faced by multimedia designers is that users freak
if they don't see a button - or, heaven forbid, if they have to make up
their own buttons!
 The greatest problems faced by multimedia designers is that users
become anxious if they fail to see a button or if they are required to
make their own buttons.
 Two of the greatest problems faced by multimedia designers are that
users become anxious if:
1. users fail to see a button
2. users are required to make their own buttons
Sexist Language
 Each doctor is asked to make sure he follows the standard procedure
for handling Medicare forms.
 Each doctor is asked to make sure he or she follows the standard
procedure for handling Medicare forms.
 All doctors are asked to make sure they follow the standard procedure
for handling Medicare forms.
 All doctors should follow the standard procedure for handling Medicare
forms.
 Policemen are required to live in the city in which they work.
 Police officers are required to live in the city in which they work.
 Police officers must live in the city in which they work.

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