03-26-12, 10:06 PM #1
Technical Writing Tips.
I've been pestering Fraggle Rocker over some stuff, and he has been infinitely tolerant of said pestering, but there are some finer points that I fine troublesome. I thought I'd share some of the discussion.
First off, keep in mind that I haven't done technical writing like I am doing now for at least a decade, so I confess to a degree of rustiness.
I originally said:
"...When considering this data..."
The context is referring to a single set of data, consisting of multiple points of data. Elsewhere I have used data as the plural, rather than the singular.
So in this instance which is correct?
"...When considering this data..."
"...When considering these data..."
"...When considering this dataset..."
Likewise, my second question is one of plurals.
I originally wrote:
"...a series of simplifying assumptions were made to eliminate properties..."
Again, the context is refering to a single group containing multiple items.
In order to conduct the process properly, it was neccessary to make more than one simplifying assumption regarding some of the properties of a single thing.
It's singular, because there was one type of thing, which had multiple instances, however, I was forced to make more than one assumption about the properties of those things.
So which is correct?
"...a series of simplifying assumptions were made..."
"...a series of simplifying assumptions was made..."
Was is the only alternative, but it makes my head hurt.
I'm raising these here because I thought the discussion might be useful to some of the other denizens of this place.
03-26-12, 10:38 PM #2
03-27-12, 12:24 AM #3
When considering this data..."
I would use while like
While considering this data... you should take the following precautions.
or after like.
after considering this data, the premise can be rejected.
On considering this data, some startling facts emerge.
or after like
After considering this data, no firm conclusion can be drawn.
03-27-12, 11:29 AM #4
I originally said: "...When considering this data..." -- The context is referring to a single set of data, consisting of multiple points of data. Elsewhere I have used data as the plural, rather than the singular.So in this instance which is correct? "...When considering this data..." "...When considering these data..." "...When considering this dataset..."
Well actually there's nothing wrong with "this dataset," but it doesn't really have quite the same meaning as "this data." A dataset is a collection of data that has actually been collected and is recorded as bits and bytes on a magnetic medium somewhere, ready to be analyzed and manipulated by Excel, Access, or anyone who can write a program to read it. When you say "this data," you can be referring to some information that hasn't actually been catalogued yet.Several of our students consistently arrive late. Should we consider this data and think about changing the hours of the class?We don't know how many students do this, how late they arrive, whether they arrive at the same time because they ride together... we don't even know their names! This is not a dataset!"...a series of simplifying assumptions were made to eliminate properties..."A series is...Perhaps you're confused by the prepositional phrase "of simplifying assumptions." That plays the role of a multi-word adjective, which modifies the noun "series." In America everybody slept through that class in the 7th grade, except those of us who would grow up to be writers and editors. Most Americans can't tell a preposition from a proposition and I don't know if it's any different in your country. So I just correct these things without making a big deal about it. But since you asked for comments, I explained why I corrected this one. I've always figured that anyone who's bright enough to be a scientist probably has the potential to understand the rules of grammar, at least in English where the rules are considerably simpler than, say, Latin.It's singular, because there was one type of thing, which had multiple instances, however, I was forced to make more than one assumption about the properties of those things. So which is correct?"...a series of simplifying assumptions was made," is the only alternative, but it makes my head hurt.I'm raising these here because I thought the discussion might be useful to some of the other denizens of this place.
03-27-12, 12:44 PM #5
No more treating Data like sheep.
And in the context of the report I'm writing "these data..." would probably be the correct one to use because it is given context by the preceeding paragraphs, which are discussing multiple points within a single set. Correct?
I understand the rule, it just doesn't always get applied properly. Usually in the afternoon, when I tend to have more trouble focusing.
"Simplifying assumptions were made..." or "A series of simplifying assumptions was made..."
03-27-12, 03:22 PM #6
And in the context of the report I'm writing "these data..." would probably be the correct one to use because it is given context by the preceeding paragraphs, which are discussing multiple points within a single set. Correct?And in that sense what I have is a dataset, although it's predictive rather than indicative. I'll stick with "these data..." Yesterday afternoon it looked awkward. This morning I can't see why I objected to it."Simplifying assumptions were made..." or "A series of simplifying assumptions was made..."
Their brain is saying: Let's see now. "A series of tests" is just a more vague version of "five tests." "Five tests" is plural, so "a series of tests" must also be plural.
They're making the mistake of applying contextual logic to grammar, instead of grammatical logic. Which is easy to do, since very few people have studied grammar formally. "A series of" sounds like an adjectival phrase.
English does not, historically, have the paradigm of the adjectival phrase. But lately we have created it, although it is not of the type "a series of." It's the noun-adjective compound. A user-friendly interface, a fuel-efficient engine, a labor-intensive process. A hundred years ago this was very rare, but today it's a living paradigm, which means we can add new members to it any time we want, so long as we have a consensus of the other anglophones.
Even without that consensus, people say things like "I live in a dog-intolerant neighborhood," or "This is an immigrant-hostile city."
03-27-12, 06:35 PM #7
By "In the context of this report..." I simply meant that because I have consistently used data as the plural up until that point, and because in the paragraphs that the statement refers back to I am discussing multiple data points, for the sake of consistency I should use "These data..." over "This datum..."
Given that I have consistently used Data as plural up until this point, it also makes sense to use "these data" over "this datum", on the grounds that it consits of a location and a density, both of which are the subject of the discussion.
I often subvocalize while I write. The theory, at least, being that it will help with sentence structure. Apparently, however, subvocalization requires less air than reading aloud.
03-27-12, 07:30 PM #8
Apparently, however, subvocalization requires less air than reading aloud.Infectious negligence then.
I've said this several times about English prepositions because they really stand out as virtually devoid of specific meanings, but many of the rules of English seem to only serve one purpose: to make it easy to identify a foreign speaker.
Last edited by Fraggle Rocker; 03-27-12 at 07:36 PM.
04-12-12, 01:33 AM #9
Originally Posted by fraggle
and stretchable to "on a writer" for a bent take,
but not "of a writer", which would mean something completely different.
04-12-12, 11:48 AM #10
Obviously there are plenty of cases where a preposition can make a world of difference: to/from, with/without, on/in, etc. But I'll wager that if you examine a few pages of prose on different subjects and do a tally, the vast majority of the prepositions will be noise-words.
04-17-12, 02:24 AM #11
Being a trained and professional Civil Engineer, I know how to write a technical report. But our engineering reports are clear, cogent, precise and concise. A flowery language is not required. Fraggle might find a 1001 linguistic problems, but it does not matter in the least.
My report might say: A net head of Maximum 153.6 feet is available, with an average of 95.2 feet at 90% reliability. So a Francis turbine turbine, designed for those limits, is recommended for optimum operations. Further, all techno-economic projections are based on these findings.
What is wrong there Fraggle? It might mean NOTHING to you, but ALL to an appraiser.
04-17-12, 09:38 PM #12
Originally Posted by fraggle
example: that is a good dinner for a writer; that is a good dinner on a writer; that is a good dinner in a writer; that is a good dinner of a writer.
or even very general and unspecific: that is bad for a writer; that is bad in a writer; that is bad of a writer; that is bad on a writer.
If I were aware that the person speaking was not a native speaker, I might make allowances and search for (not in, of, or on) the relevant meaning in (not for, of, or on) some larger context. Otherwise, I would take the meaning as expressed - and in (not of, for, or on) the case of the famous W quote about putting food on one's family, laugh at the discordance of meanings present in (not of, for, or on) what would be a decent joke from Stephen Colbert.
Originally Posted by fraggle
Meanwhile, my darkest suspicions regarding the reality behind the manuals, descriptions, instructions, and whatnot, that so frustrate the end user of (not in, for, at, under, with, without, about, as, or on) so much software and machinery and bureaucratic arrangements of modern life, are solidifying into exasperated judgments.
Last edited by iceaura; 04-17-12 at 09:58 PM.
04-23-12, 01:41 AM #13
Technical reports are a different genre specie. There, the science and technology speak, and dialect hardly matters.
Remember Fraggle. When Technolgy or MONET speaks, dialects do not matter. And your puritan grammer, whatever its worth, go for a toss.
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