TECHNICAL WRITING WORKSHOP John Morris KRIS, KMITL Theme KISS Keep It Simple: .. and get accepted! previously Engineering, Mahasarakham University Electrical and Computer Engineering, The University of Auckland
Iolanthe II leaves the Hauraki Gulf under full sail Auckland-Tauranga Race, 2007 Keep It Simple Rule 1 DIRECT ACTIVE WRITING KISS: Ch 2, p 5-, First Rule Direct active sentences Verbs not nouns!
Example: We made a measurement of the velocity Grammatically correct, but Better We measured the velocity Statistics We said exactly the same thing but used four words instead of seven!! First Rule - Direct active sentences Verbs not nouns! What did we do to transform
We made a measurement of the velocity to We measured the velocity We took the noun measurement and an auxiliary verb make and Replaced both with the verb from of the noun Made a measurement measured Active sentences Verb is the important word But remove all the meaningless verbs
Examples This experiment produced the result that This trial resulted in We observed that We made an assertion that .. We asserted that .. We conducted an examination of the product
An extensive analysis of the results showed .. We examined the product .. We observed that We analyzed the data carefully .. Active sentences Key word is a verb! Verb is the important word Remove all those meaningless verbs
Examples This experiment produced the result that We observed that This trial resulted in We observed that We made an assertion that .. We asserted that ..
We conducted an examination of the product An extensive analysis of the results showed .. We examined the product .. We analyzed the data carefully .. Active sentences
Verb is the important word Remove all the meaningless verbs More examples We formed a hypothesis that .. We hypothesized that An annotation was made on the text .. The text was annotated ..
We made a summary of the data .. We summarized the data .. An observation of the behaviour was made .. A filter was used to smooth the data We observed how behaved We used dynamic programming to compute ..
We acquired more knowledge .. We computed with dynamic programming .. We learnt .. The data was filtered .. Active sentences
Key Verb is the important word Remove all the meaningless verbs More examples word is a verb! We formed a hypothesis that .. We hypothesized that An annotation was made on the text ..
The text was annotated .. We made a summary of the data .. We summarized the data .. An observation of the behaviour was made .. A filter was used to smooth the data We observed how behaved We used dynamic programming to
compute .. We acquired more knowledge .. We computed with dynamic programming .. We learnt .. The data was filtered .. Useless words KISS: Ch 2, p 6-,
SomeUSELESS words you canLIST do without . VERB
Gave Gave Produced Produced Did Did FormedFormed Used Used Made Made Conduct Performed Presented
AcquirePerformed You can Almost almostuseless alwayswords remove them Acquire and Allow Turn the following noun into a verb! Grammar?
KEEPING IT SIMPLE ENGLISH TENSES Tenses KISS: Ch 3, p 9-, For scientific papers, you only need a few from the complete palette of English grammar
Present Simple past Perfect Future Leave the others for the native speakers! Your paper does not need them! Remember your aim is to communicate ideas and results, not demonstrate mastery of English
Tenses Hardest decision Present or Past or Perfect? Describing your experiments SIMPLE PAST We measured The mixture exploded Describing the work of others
SIMPLE PAST Robertson reported that .. Explosions were observed by PERFECT (sometimes) Many researchers have observed but Many researchers observed Is acceptable Tenses
Hardest distinction Simple past vs Perfect Simple past Actions that have occurred already All your experiments Perfect Implies completeness Note: In the following example, In the formal Iscientific
theory, changed everything to no experiment proves anything .. simple past it only provides support for a hypothesis So experimental work is never complete!! perfect tense should not be used to describe it Experiments can disprove theories so its reasonable to write The experiments of x and y have demonstrated that this theory is not valid Again The experiments of x and y demonstrated that this theory is not valid is acc eptable
If you use simple past only, then you will make very few real mistakes!! Of? With? By? From? NOUN PHRASES KISS: Ch 4, p 11-, Noun phrases Prepositions Which one is correct?
Sometimes several? Sometimes only one? Sometimes almost OK Sometimes mostly OK ? ? ?
? ? ? ? Noun phrases KISS: Ch 4, p 11-, In English technical writing,
its common to use nouns as adjectives This saves a lot of space with no loss in clarity Change illumination of the dynamic scene to dynamic scene illumination Change grey values of the pixels to pixel grey values Possessives
English rules for possessive forms are troublesome ? problem, problems, problems ? class, classs, classes Simple solution No grammar approach Wastes your time as aWastes writer my time too!! Use a noun phrase Use the simplest possible rules - each time!
I have to think problem approach class room When using the noun as an adjective NO s or s or s graduate student room sample preparation Even if the noun is plural!!
Noun phrase No s, no thinking More examples distance to the target target distance Image with 640x480 resolution and 8-bit 640x480 8-bit pixel image pixels Once Twice Three Times Four Times
REDUNDANCY KISS: Ch 6, p 17-, Repetition Makes your reader sleepy Do not repeat anything!! Do not use words that have the same sense twice! Do not repeat long technical terms Use once Define carefully Then use a short form
Long technical phrases You just designed a small hydraulic diesel engine powered sugarcane not harvester again Describe Repeating it thecarefully whole phrase ONCE at the start of your paper Afterwards, use some simple short phrase the harvester
or our harvester Stating the obvious Papers are littered with phrases like this .. In this paper
We aimed to study Results from our experimented showed .. As a result of our investigation Our analysis showed that Omit these phrases, start directly with aim or your result Stating the obvious Start directly with what you did, observed or concluded .. In this paper We measured the effect of .. We aimed to study We showed the effect of ..
Results from our experimented showed ..When the pressure increased, then As a result of our investigation Increasing grain size led to increased tensile strength Our analysis showed that When x was used as a catalyst, Stating the obvious Captions of figures or tables Fig 6. Graph showing comparison of X vs Y Obviously, it is a graph comparing Caption should be Fig 6. X vs Y
Compare or Graph are rarely needed in a figure caption Tables are the same Compare or Table are rarely needed in a table caption EXAMPLE Example Example Title KEEP IT SIMPLE!!
Nothing unnecessary or obvious! EVERY Research paper is a study of something! Avoid English possesives Rules Short are andcomplex Concise and confusing Native speakers often make mistakes too! Use a NOUN PHRASE Leadership Quality Management Construct Validity in Vocational Education Institutions
Example Be careful with singular and plural Student not Students Example Too many words!! Try We investigated Start with a VERB
Example Again too many words!! Try We collected data from a questionnaire .. Start with a VERB Example Use simple past tense everywhere .. Do not try to work out Present or past or perfect or . ??
Try The question set reliability was 0.94. Long noun phrases are simpler and OK too! Example Simple past .. is was Example Key word here is conform .. Start with it The data conformed to the model built with ..
Example Use mathematical symbols they are part of a universal international language 2 = 29.8, df = 23, p = 0.15 .. The English should be chi-squared .. But 2 is always correct, in English, , or .. ! Example
Do not repeat anything!! It may difficult for you to get the English correct once Do not risk making another mistake!! Example Possessive again .. avoid Probably should be .. leadership quality management model Example
Do not repeat a very long complex phrase unnecessarily .. Your (native English) readers easily get bored! Write once: leadership quality management model Afterwards, abbreviate to quality model Would Aj John accept this in your paper? QUICK EXERCISE Useless words
KISS: Ch 2, p 6-, SomeUSELESS words you canLIST do without . VERB
Gave Gave Produced Produced Did Did FormedFormed Used Used Made Made Conduct
Performed Presented AcquirePerformed You can Almost almostuseless alwayswords remove them Acquire and Allow Turn the following noun into a verb!
FROM A RECENT PUBLISHED PAPER A similar result was observed in a study by Lee et al.(2010) who conducted a research into the production of pyrolysis oil using Napier biomass and a fixed bed reactor. Q: What would a graduate from this workshop write? Hint Useless nouns list: rarely needed in experimental papers study research production experiment result
KISS: Ch 8, p 23-, Things you may believe MYTHS KISS: Ch 8, p 23 Myth 1 PERSONAL PRONOUNS Avoiding personal pronouns ..
You should use expressions like the author(s) to avoid we or I A total myth!! It sounds pompous and We or I is so much simpler! Personal pronouns are forbidden Single authors who use we Ideally, technical articles should be Impersonal and unbiased There is a myth that we somehow makes it less personal that I
But we is a personal pronoun too!! How do you argue thats it less personal because its plural?? If youre a single author, we is technically incorrect (or just wrong!) Personal pronouns are forbidden Convention: Avoid personal pronouns by using passive tense The velocity was measured Rather than We measured the velocity .. However, sometimes the passive form is more complex and clumsy
So Write we or I Its your analysis that makes your work unbiased, not the words you use to talk about it!! Overriding principle: Simplicity and clarity is more important KISS: Ch 8, p 25 Myth 2 FILLING THE SPACE
Filling the space Myth If the conference limit is SIX pages You must write SIX pages Reality Everybody a short
Editors, reviewers and likes readers arepaper very with good results happy to read less!! If your paper seems short, Add data, results, references, . Do not add words! KISS: Ch 8, p 24
Myth 3 USE COMPLICATED WORDS Use complicated words KISS: Ch 8, p 24 Myth Editors EXPECT or REQUIRE you to write complicated words Reality
If you use simple, but correct, words Editors, reviewers and your readers WILL NOT NOTICE! English speakers Native English Speakers Commonly Fluent Official Language but not everybody Here are your readers! Dont make them need their dictionaries
to read your paper! or Rely on Google Words we could manage without Words to avoid Simpler substitutes Functionality Function
Utilize Use Operationalize Use Fabricate Make Bifurcate
Split Facilitate Make easy Finalize Finish Prognosticate
Predict Disseminate Spread BAD HABITS Bad habits Referring to others work by numbers: In , it was shown that There are several reasons why this is bad! 1) The people who wrote paper  probably put a lot of
work into it .. Acknowledge this by writing their names! Smith and Jones showed that . . 2) If you only write , then Im forced to go to your reference list to find out what your source is! 3) However, if I know the field well, Smith and Jones may well be enough to tell me which paper you used as a source Words to avoid Functionality Much loved by computer scientists!
An appalling abuse of English!! This word was formed in this way Take a verb (or noun) function Turn it into an adjective functional Turn it back into a noun functionality And use it a synonym for a much simpler word that already existed capability!! Worse - use it in place of functions Use capability or functions instead!! Too many!!
ACRONYMS Acronyms Over use of acronyms makes your paper unintelligible! Rules Spell out in full before the first usage Remember youre writing English not in some weird language populated with capital letters known only to a few! So Full name first (acronym in brackets), eg Symmetric Dynamic Programming Stereo (SDPS) Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) Not
SDPS (Symmetric Dynamic Programming Stereo) Words to avoid Functionality Much loved by computer scientists! An appalling abuse of English!! This word was formed in this way Take a verb (or noun) function Turn it into an adjective functional Turn it back into a noun functionality And use it a synonym for a much simpler word that already existed capability!! Worse - use it in place of functions
Use capability or functions instead!! COMMON MISTAKES Capitalization Starting all important words with capitals seems to be popular now! English rule is simple: First word of a sentence Proper names Names of people, companies, places, pets, Acronyms
Everything else lower case Important ABSTRACTS Abstracts GOOD A good abstract summarizes the results of the paper It should have some numbers in it!
You can get the key results from the abstract BAD A bad abstract summarizes the contents ie it just tells you that you may find something useful if you read the paper ! Classic example of the need to do your research thoroughly! Wrongly attributed to Leonardo da Vinci!!
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