Principles for Concise Technical Writing

When was the last time you reflected on your writing process for emails, reports, or client updates?  Have you considered ways to improve how your audience may perceive your document?  Writing is truly an artform, and technical writing requires great skill to engage and inform readers without being unnecessarily complex and difficult for readers to understand.  Producing clear and concise documents can help communicate technical information effectively and improve your esteem with your readers or clients.

In October 2018, Janel Miller, from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, gave a presentation on Improving Clarity, Coherence, and Conciseness in Technical Writing.  Janel reviewed how to prepare coherent documents, engage and persuade readers, and apply principles of concise writing to improve clarity.

Janel gave excellent pointers on how to simplify writing to reduce the verbal complexity so readers can understand the technical complexity.  She reviewed Joseph Williams’ five principles of concise writing from the text Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. These principles are

  • Eliminate meaningless words
  • Remove redundant words
  • Delete what readers can infer
  • Simplify complicated wording
  • Change negative to affirmatives

After drafting the basic concepts of your document, take some time to edit using these basic principles to reduce wordiness and improve clarity.  Most readers will appreciate a more concise version of your document which will improve your credibility with those readers.

Janel also provided helpful examples of these principles and ways to apply them in technical writing.  Click on the following slides to print your copy for quick reference when preparing your own technical writings.

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