John Lafferty our tutor for Technical Report Writing plans to write a monthly post giving a tip for writing technical reports. Here is this month’s tip.
‘Have a colleague proof read your work’.
A colleague will easily spot your obvious mistakes, you may not!
“This is an unnecessary extra cost”, I hear you cry. However, if you think about it, who is proof reading your work at present? Your audience is, and at what cost to your organization. Not to mention to cost to your personal reputation when silly typos are discovered by your reader. When proof reading the following should be checked; Sense, Meaning and Accuracy.
Sense: Has the writer given the big picture before getting into the detail, so that the reader can make sense of the detail?
Meaning: Is the message clear? Is it possible to take unintended meanings from the words and phrases used?
Accuracy: Accuracy can be divided into Technical and Grammatical Accuracy.
Technical Accuracy: If the report states that the Lead Time was five weeks, was it actually five weeks or is this simply an error? Has the writer failed to include an important fact?
Spelling: Be careful of words that the spellchecker will not pick up, for example, because the misspelt word forms another word.
Omissions: Have individual words or letters been omitted?
Poor Sentence Construction: Fragments; partial sentences. Fused sentences; ones that are too long, typically using conjunctions in place of full stops. Convoluted constructions and over use of the passive voice.
Verb Consistency: Use of the tense that is appropriate to the timeframe in question.
Verb Agreement: Ensure that all singular nouns use singular verbs and plural nouns, plural verbs. Problems can arise during editing and go unnoticed afterwards.
Correct Word Meanings: A mandrel is a rod. A mandrill is a baboon. Don’t make a monkey of yourself.
Jargon, Clichés, Filler Words: Simply identify and delete these, they add nothing to your work.
TLAs: Three Letter Abbreviations or Two Level Analysis or a host of other things; you know what you mean, will your reader?
Trade Names: Writers sometimes have a tendency to use the trade names of pieces of equipment, for example. This can be misleading as the reader may mistake it for a different item made by the same manufacturer. Always give the generic name.