Writing Guide


Technical writing is highly functional. What is important is to let readers get what they want promptly.

Element of style

  • The words you choose
  • The way in which you put a sentence together
  • The length of your sentences
  • The way in which you connect sentences
  • The tone you convey

Style Guide

Different types of writing and audience may require different style. Some style guides are very helpful:

Harrop, P. 2010. North Lincolnshire Council Style Guide. North Lincolnshire: North Lincolnshire Council

European Commission Directorate-General for Translation. 2010. English Style Guide: A handbook for authors and translators in the European Commission(6th ed.).Available at http://ec.europa.eu/translation/writing/style_guides/english/style_guide_en.pdf



Word selection

  • Use concrete, specific words
    Specifying numbers, degree, nature and categories helps reader understand precisely what you mean.
  • Use specialized terms when (and only when) your readers will understand them
    This helps you convey precise technical meanings economically. You also gain credit by showing that you have specific knowledge to the subject matter
  • Use words accurately
    A dictionary helps you find out the exact meaning and connotation of words. Always look up when you have doubts.
  • Choose plain words over fancy ones
    Plain words promote efficient reading and reduce your risk of creating a bad impression of being pompous.
  • Choose words with appropriate associations
    Some English words have very similar denoted meanings but different connotation or are suitable in different registers. Look up the dictionary to make sure that you pick the right word.
  • Global guideline: consider your readers’ cultural background when choosing words
    Cultural difference may sometimes results in misunderstanding. For example, 'football' in England refers to the kind of sports that David Beckham plays; but in the States the same sports is called 'soccer', and 'football' refers to 'American football' where people throw the olive-shaped ball with hands.
  • Ethics guideline: use inclusive language
    Avoid words that promote or connote negative stereotype, such as gender bias (as in words like ‘businessman’, or using ‘he’ instead of ‘he or she’ when referring to people in general).

Source: Anderson, P. V. 2007. Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach. (6th ed.). Boston: Thomson Wadsworth


Plain English

'Plain English' is language that the intended audience can understand and act upon from a single reading.

Benefits of Plain English

Precisio: expressing exactly what you intend
Clarity: producing clear and ambiguous writing
Readability: easy to read and absorb at one sitting
Efficiency: less to write and less to read
Accountability: increasing the sense of involvement and responsibility
Credibility: strengthening the personal quality of trust

Example 1:
High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process.
Children need good schools if they are to learn properly.

Example 2:
If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone.
If you have any questions, please phone.

Example 3:
It is important that you shall read the notes, advice and information detailed opposite then complete the form overleaf (all sections) prior to its immediate return to the Council by way of the envelope provided.
Please read the notes opposite before you fill in the form. Then send it back to us as soon as possible in the envelope provided.

Example 4:
Your enquiry about the use of the entrance area at the library for the purpose of displaying posters and leaflets about Welfare and Supplementary Benefit rights, gives rise to the question of the provenance and authoritativeness of the material to be displayed. Posters and leaflets issued by the Central Office of Information, the Department of Health and Social Security and other authoritative bodies are usually displayed in libraries, but items of a disputatious or polemic kind, whilst not necessarily excluded, are considered individually.
Thank you for your letter asking for permission to put up posters in the library. Before we can give you an answer we will need to see a copy of the posters to make sure they won't offend anyone.

Source: http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/