3 Writing Process TP

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3 Writing Process TP

    Chapter 3

    Technical Writing Process

    The technical writing process can be thought of as a problem-solving taska series of questions to

    be considered and answered. Writing a technical document is not an isolated process. You need to work with other people for many reasons: to get the necessary information, to verify your approach, to confirm technical accuracy, and to check readers’ reactions. Initially, you can talk with others to

    evaluate what you know about the subject and identify your purpose and audience. You can then select content and begin to organize the material. At various stages in the process, you can use feedback from othersreviewers as well as actual readersto consider necessary changes.

    The following list provides the elements of a process that you might use. Experienced writers of technical documents typically use these elements in their process, although they may change the specific elements to suit their individual approach and the requirements of a particular project.

    1) Exploring and inventing探索与构思

    2) Planning and organizing计划与组织

    3) Drafting打草稿

    4) Revising修改

    5) Editing编辑

I. Exploring and Inventing

    Exploring and inventing means searching information and creating ideas. In searching relevant information, you may assess your knowledge, read and review available background references, ask questions and discuss ideas, make observations, conduct experiments, and take notes. You may also explore writing problems related to a particular document. After recognizing and defining a problem, you need ways to formulate possible solutions, that is, to create new ideas. There are usually four possible problem-solving strategies.

    ; Brainstorming开动脑筋

    ; Synectics 共同研讨法

    ; Five W’s plus H5W+H问题分析法?人、事、时间、地点、原因、方法?

    ; Cause-and-effect analysis因果分析法

1. Brainstorming

    Brainstorming is a problem-solving technique that encourages you to suggest as many ideas as possible about a given problem without making any judgments until after a number of ideas have been produced. In brainstorming you uncritically write down every idea about a subject that comes to your mind without thought of organization. The key to successful brainstorming is that you do not attempt to evaluate or arrange your ideas. Evaluation or arrangement at this stage may cause you to discard an idea that could prove valuable later on. The process of brainstorming follows these steps.

    1) Write down the general topic at the top of your paper.


    2) Then make a list of every idea that comes into your mind about that topic and keep the

    ideas flowing. Even if you write down some idea that is completely off the topic, don’t

    worry about it because you can cross it out later.

    3) Use words, phrases, or sentences, and don’t worry about spelling or grammar.

    4) Rewrite the list, group similar ideas together and cross out items that don’t belong or that

    are duplications.

    Brainstorming is an effective process in exploring and creating ideas. It can help you find out a good deal more information than you ever thought you possessed. It can quickly reveal gaps in your knowledge, which can be filled with information you gather later.

2. Synectics

    Synectics means bringing together different people and different ideas. This method encourages professionals of different expertise to work together and combine unrelated ideas as a means of analyzing a particular problem, which can often provoke creative thinking and result in new ideas and new solutions. This strategy is often used in business and government think tanks.

    Synectics requires that you first define a particularly difficult problem. Then you put yourself into the problem by creating a metaphor or an analogy or by acting out a component of the problem. Synectics encourages analogies of the following kinds.

    ; Fantasy analogies: searching for the ideal solution

    ; Personal analogies: imagining you are the subject

    ; Direct analogies: comparing the subject to something concrete

    ; Symbolic analogies: comparing the subject to something abstract

3. Five W’s plus H

    Five W’s plus H is a problem-analysis strategy that requires clear statements on the person, thing, time, place, reason and method involved. It is a formula frequently associated with journalism. The strategy begins by asking and answering the following questions.

     WHO: Who is involved? Who should be involved?

     WHAT: What is involved? What is to be changed? What should remain the same?

     WHEN: When should it be done? When is the most appropriate time?

     WHERE: Where should it be done? Where is the most convenient place?

     WHY: Why should it be done?

     HOW: How should it be done?

    These questions concern the major factors involved in almost all kinds of problems. By examining these questions you get better understanding of the problem and thus may produce the most appropriate solution.

4. Cause-and-Effect Analysis

    Cause-and-Effect Analysis is a strategy commonly used by quality control circlessmall groups of

    people meeting regularly to identify, analyze, and solve problems connected to the work they do. It


    focuses on the causes of a particular problem. The initial causes are separated into four categories: machine, employee, material, and method. Any of these four possible causes can be further analyzed through deeper causes.

II. Document Planning

    When you plan a document, you need to make decisions about a variety of elements: context背景,

    purpose, audience, content, organization, and design. You should first identify the contextthe

    situation or background for the document. Then, you should examine the document’s objectives and

    analyze the intended audience. Thirdly, you should define the content and determine the document’s

    scope. You should also test your decisions in outlines to determine if the selection and sequence of material are logical, suitable for the audience, and faithful to the purposes of the document. The following questions reflect the most important aspects of each element.

Figure 3-1 Planning Elements and Reviewing Questions

    Planning Elements Questions

    Context What is the situation that makes the document necessary?

    How does this situation influence your planning?

    Purposes Do you want to inform or persuade?

    What arguments are you making?

    What is the best way to accomplish your purpose?

    Audience Who are the readers of your document?

    What are the characteristics and needs of these readers?

    How will the readers use the document?

    Content and scope What do you already know?

    What do you need to learn to produce this document?

    What information do you want to include?

    What’s the range or extent of the document?

    Organization What is the most effective way to organize the information?

    Which information should be presented verbally?

    Which information should be presented visually?

    Design How can the design reinforce the purpose of the document?

    What design features will make the document easily accessible,

    comprehensible and usable?

    The process of document planning is not linear because each element affects the others. While you are working on a document, you can change your plans, but you need to begin with a sense of what you’re doing and where you’re going, because changes in one element influence the other

    elements. Although writers often replan as their work progresses, careful planning can minimize the number of changes that are needed later.

    Collaboration is a productive way in document planning, even if you are going to draft the document independently. Working with someone else often generates ideas and approaches that you might not come up with alone.


III. Drafting

    Drafting means drawing up a preliminary version of the document. At this stage, you begin to write the text and prepare graphics. Different writers may have different ways in drafting their documents. Following methods are commonly used by many professional writers.

     Compose the draft from beginning to end without interruption.

     Process slowly, thinking and polishing every phrase, sentence and paragraph.

     Prepare an outline as the framework of your draft and then stick to this outline.

     Create bits and pieces of the draft during the planning stage, writing down key sentences.

    When your planning is done, take these ideas, develop them, and fill in the spaces.

     It is better to try several approaches in order to find out which way works best for you. Drafting is not an isolated stage. It overlaps with the next stagerevising, because writers also replan when

    their drafts develop in a different direction from their original plan.

IV. Revising

    Many writers do some revising as they write, but most of their revising occurs when they have finished their first draft. If you are at this stage, you should consider arrangement, content, logic, style, graphics, and document design. In some situations you should also present your work to others and seek their advice.

1. Arrangement

    In checking the arrangement, you should try to put yourself in your reader’s position and make sure

    your arrangement is easily accessible and comprehensible. The following questions may help you check for that purpose.

     Are there any links of thought missing?

     Are there any questions left unanswered that the reader will want an answer?

     Have you provided smooth transitions from section to section, paragraph to paragraph?

     Are there any paragraphs need to be divided, while others to be combined?

     Does your discussion take too much for granted?

     Have you avoided irrelevant material or unwanted repetitions?

     Is there any vital thought buried in the discussion when it should be put into a prominent


2. Content

    In checking your content, you should make sure that you have been specific enough and your information is accurate. You should not simply rely on a good memory for facts and figures that you are not totally sure of. Check and double-check your data and equations. Take the following questions into consideration.

     Is your information accurate?


     Have you quantified when necessary?

     Have you adapted your material to your audience?

     Have you replaced the vague and nonspecific expressions with clear, accurate and specific


     Have you given enough examples, facts, and numbers to support your argument or


3. Logic

    Try to be strict in logic of your argument and be careful not to let yourself fall into a logical fallacy. Examine your discussion for every conceivable weakness of arrangement and content, and be ready to criticize it. You may find it difficult to be critical of your own work, but a critical eye is important in technical writing.

4. Style

    Style is a customary manner in writing, which is composed of a series of specially chosen rhetorical skills. The style of technical writing should follow the criteria of accessibility, comprehensibility and usability. It is important to remember that you are trying to write understandably, not impressively. Your writing should carry your ideas to the reader’s brain by the shortest, simplest path. The

    following general principles of style and rhetoric for technical communication can be of help.

     Rewrite clumsy sentences into simpler and clearer ones.

     Change unneeded passive voice sentences into active ones.

     Cut out words that add nothing to your thought.

     Cross out the pretentious words and substitute simpler ones.

     Be sure the diction and sentence structures are suitable to the occasion and the audience.

5. Graphics

    Much technical information is presented in tables, graphs, and diagrams. When you have numerous statistics, particularly those used for comparison, you should display them in tables or graphs. When dealing with content that has visual components, you should present the content in diagrams. For details about such matters, see Chapter 8, Graphics.

6. Document Design

    Document design refers to the effective use of tables of contents, headings, the right typeface, proper spacing, and so forth, which is integral to good technical writing. Detailed guidance for document design is offered in Chapter 9, Document Design.

7. Seeking Advice

    Technical writers often share their drafts with colleagues and ask for their opinions. Often, someone who is not as familiar to the material as the writer spots flaws far more quickly than the writer does. When you are writing instructions, for example, you should share an early draft with a sample audience, people who are similar in knowledge and intelligence to those for whom the instructions are intended. See how well they can follow the instructions. They can tell you where they have trouble carrying out your instructions or where poor vocabulary choice or insufficient content cause


any difficulties, which can be invaluable to your revision.

V. Editing

    Editing is the final step in writing. You begin your editing only after you are satisfied with your draft. In the editing stage, you should make sure that your report is mechanically perfect, that it meets the requirements of Standard English and the expected format.

1. Checking Mechanics

    Begin your editing by checking mechanics. Make sure that every word is spelled correctly. Develop a healthy sense of doubt and use a good dictionary or the spelling checker of your word processing program. Also check your grammar, such as subject-verb agreement, tenses, voices and mood.

2. Checking Documentation

    Be sure that all in-text citations match numbers of your reference list. Make certain that you have used the same style throughout your document for citations. For help in documentation, see Chapter

    7, Ethics and Documentation.

3. Checking Graphics

    Check your graphics for accuracy and appropriateness. Take care that your graphics are well placed and correctly numbered. And also make sure that the number of each graphic matches the number you use in referring to it.

4. Checking Document Design

    Make sure that your design makes your document readable and accessible for your readers. Check whether the table of contents is complete and accurate, and match the headings you have used in the document.

5. Spelling, Grammar and Style Checkers

    Spelling, grammar and style checkers in the word processing software can make you more aware of your spelling and grammar mistakes and of your writing style. They will flag sentences in the passive voice, long sentences, wordy phrases, double words, unpaired quotation marks, subject-verb agreement problems, and other problems. However, such tools cannot guarantee that a document will be error-free. You should never depend on software tools to identify all the errors in a document. The list below presents both the benefits and limitations of software tools for editing.

Figure 3-2 Benefits and Limitations of Spelling, Grammar and Style Checkers

    Software can identify Software can not identify

    Misspelled words Correctly spelled words used incorrectly

    Sexist language Potentially offensive ideas

    Passive voice Inconsistent writing styles

    Negative wording How a document will be used

    Wrong part of speech What the audience needs to know

    Slang / colloquialisms Missing or faulty information


Redundancy Poorly organized documents

    Potentially difficult wording based on word Confusing sentence structures

    and sentence lengths

    You should consider the advice grammar and style checkers give you according to the purpose and audience for your document. However, not every passive voice sentence should be changed into active voice; nor is every sentence of more than 22 words too long. Grammar and style checkers work only at the levels of words and sentences, but the most serious problems with many documents are in their content and overall organization. If you change words and sentences simply according to grammar and style checkers without considering the content and overall organization, you may actually be making your document less comprehensible and useful.


    I. Answer the following questions according to your experiences in writing and what you have

    learned from this chapter.

    1. What is technical writing? Is it usually a solitary or collaborative process? Why? 参见引言第


    2. Are the five stages of the writing processinventing and exploring; planning and organizing;

    drafting; revising; editingoccurring consecutively, or are they overlapping? Support your

    answer with your writing experience. 参见II2段,III末段和IV首段。

    3. Have you ever used 5W’s-plus-H method in exploring ideas in your writing? When do you

    think it suitable to use this method? 讨论题,略。

    4. What is context in document planning? How does the context influence your planning? 参见

    II1 段和Figure 3-1

    5. When do you habitually revise your writing, in or after drafting? What is your reason? 讨论


    6. What is the difference between the two sentences in technical writing: “In a previous year, a

    majority of the workers took a large amount of sick leave.; “In 1996, 52 percent of the workers

    took at least twelve days of sick leave.? 参见IV. 2 Content.

    7. What should you do in checking the style of your writing in the revising stage? 参见IV. 4


    8. What are the benefits and limitations of the spelling and grammar checkers in a word

    processing software? 参见V. 5 Spelling, Grammar and Style Checkers

    II. Choose a topic, such as air pollution in big cities, and brainstorm it by listing ideas coming

    into your mind. Follow the four steps of brainstorming outlined in the text.


    The following is an example of the listing technique in the brainstorming process. The topic is the culture shock experienced by international students in the United States.

    1) Write down the general topic at the top of your paper.

    Culture Shock (General Topic)


    2) Then make a list of every idea that comes into your mind about that topic. Keep the ideas

    flowing. Try to stay on the general topic; however, if you write down information that is

    completely off the topic, don’t worry about it because you can cross it out later.

    3) Use words, phrases, or sentences, and don’t worry about spelling or grammar.


    homeless people shocking sight poor verbal skills

    American students

    children disrespectful

    classroom environment

    new language

    unclear expressions

    American family life

    public transportation is not good families seldom eat together need a car

    lack vocabulary

    use first names with teachers show affection in public

    college professors wear jeans Americans talk too fast

    students ask questions

    they are friendly

    no formal dress code

    people are always in a hurry no one takes time to cook good meals use slang and idioms

    professor’ role

    families don’t spend time together on weekends and holidays

    children spend more time with friends than with parents

    children are “kings”

    use incomplete sentences

    lack confidence

    poor pronunciation

    American food is unhealthy Americans difficult to understand everyone eats fast food

    students can challenge professors

    4) Rewrite the list, group similar ideas together and cross out items that don’t belong or that

    are duplications.


    Group A Group B Group C

    communication problems homeless people American family life

    poor verbal skills shocking sight families seldom eat together

    new language American students families don’t spend time together

    lack vocabulary classroom environment on weekends and holidays

    show affection in public public transportation is children are “kings”

    Americans talk too fast not good children disrespectful

    they are friendly need a car children spend more time with

    people are always in a hurry use first names with friends than with parents

    use slang and idioms teachers American food is unhealthy

    poor pronunciation college professors wear everyone eats fast food

    American difficult to jeans

    understand students ask questions

    unclear expressions no formal dress code

     no one takes time to cook

     good meals

     professor’s role

     students can challenge professors

    Now there are three lists, each of which has a central focus. The central focus in each new list is underlined: communication problems, classroom environment, and American family life. The writer can choose one list to be the basis for a paragraph.

    III. Select a document that you have written and that still needs careful editing. Then go to your

    school computer lab and select one of the software packages that do this kind of editing. Run

    the software program to identify problems in style, mechanics, and usage. Make the

    corrections that you believe will improve your document. Then, write a review to evaluate the

    effectiveness of the software. 实验题,略。

    IV. Design a chart to show the typical proportion of time you spend on each stage of your writing

    process. Explain in which stage you’re most effective, in which you’re the weakest, and in

    what way you can improve your process. 实验题,略。

    V. Choose a technical topic you can write about with little research, such as a topic on

    instructing high school students in some laboratory technique, or explaining some technical

    concept to some one who doesn’t understand it. Follow the steps below:

    1. Decide on a purpose and audience for writing about that topic.

    2. Analyze your audience.

    3. Brainstorm your topic with your purpose and audience in mind.

    4. After the brainstorming, examine and evaluate what you have.

    5. Reexamine your topic and purpose to see whether information you have thought of during the

    brainstorming has changed them.


    6. Keeping your specific topic, purpose and audience in mind, arrange your brainstorming notes

    into a rough outline.

    7. Write a rough draft of the report you based on your outline.

    8. Allow several classmates to read it and comment on it.

    9. Revise and edit the rough draft into a final, well-written and well-typed draft. 10. Submit all your outlines and drafts to your instructor.

Example Writing: The following is the final copy for the essay Communication Problems based

    on the results of the brainstorm in Exercises II.

    Communication Problems

    One kind of culture shock faced by international students in the United States is difficulty

    communicating with Americans. They have problems both in expressing themselves and in

    understand the Americans.

    When international students first arrive in the United States, they soon realize that their

    verbal skills are poor. First of all, they lack vocabulary, and they have poor pronunciation, so

    American people dont understand them. As a newly coming Chinese student in the United

    States, I have my personal experience as examples. A few days ago, I asked an American

    student how to get to the library, but because I had trouble pronouncing rs and ls, the

    American student didnt understand me. I finally had to write it on a piece of paper.

    International students also speak too softly because they are shy.

    Furthermore, it is difficult for foreign students to understand Americans. Americans use

    incomplete sentences, such as Later to mean “I’ll see you later, and Coming? to mean Are

    you coming? also, Americans talk too fast, so it is often impossible to understand them. In

    addition, Americans also use a lot of slang and idioms whose meanings nonnative speakers do

    not know. For example, the other day someone said to me, That drives me up the wall, and I

    could not imagine what the meant. I had a picture in my mind of him driving his car up a wall.

    It didnt make sense to me.

    In short, communication is probably the first problem that international students face in the

    United States. After a while, however, their ears get used to the American way of speaking, and

    their own verbal abilities improve.


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