Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical, and Business Communication

By Christopher Turk; John Kirkman | Go to book overview

2

Thinking about aim and audience
In our opening chapter, we made the fundamental point about effective writing that if the message is to be communicated effectively, it must be much more than just scientifically accurate and grammatically correct. It must also be presented in a manner that commands attention, is quickly informative, and is easily digested by the reader. We must look beyond the grammar to the tactics of handling language.
Identifying aim
To command attention, a writer must have a clear idea of why he or she is writing-that is, why readers should want to attend to what he or she has to say. As you plan and prepare to write, your first question must be: what am I trying to achieve? Note that this is not the same question as: what is my subject? Failure to recognize this important distinction undermines many attempts at communication. If you focus on the subject rather than the aim of writing, you are likely to be tempted simply to re-present information in the form and order in which you first learnt it or had it presented to you. It is rare for your readers' needs and interests to be exactly the same as yours. So if you want to produce the best possible response, you must reshape the information to make it relevant, comfortable and readily usable by your readers. So, what is the 'aim' of writing? Your objective will rarely be just to display your intellectual wares. Your task may be:
• to describe;
• to explain;
• to instruct;
• to specify;

-21-

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Effective Writing: Improving Scientific, Technical, and Business Communication
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • From the Reviews of the First Edition vi
  • Preface vii
  • About the Authors ix
  • 1 - Writing is Communicating: Revising Basic Assumptions 1
  • References 20
  • 2 - Thinking About Aim and Audience 21
  • 3 - Starting to Write: a Practical Approach 36
  • 4 - Organization and Layout of Information 44
  • References 76
  • 5 - The Use of Headings and Numbering 77
  • 6 - Algorithms for Complex Possibilities and Procedures 82
  • 7 - Style for Readability 90
  • References 117
  • 8 - Writing with a Computer 119
  • 9 - Informative Summaries 127
  • 10 - Choosing and Using Tables, Illustrations and Graphic Presentation Techniques 148
  • 11 - Writing Instructions 195
  • 12 - Writing Descriptions and Explanations 216
  • 13 - Writing Letters and Memoranda 225
  • 14 - Writing Minutes and Reports of Proceedings 240
  • 15 - Writing in Examinations 251
  • Appendix A 267
  • Appendix B 269
  • Index 273
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