As a technical writer, your credibility is paramount. You know that you must do whatever it takes to protect it. Hence the importance of making sure your writing is appropriate for your readers, accurate, clear, and as easy as possible for your readers to follow your argument and come to the same conclusion.
Technical writing covers a wide range of activities – this article will especially help report writers. Keep in mind that this article is about cheat writing, not the content.
Not surprisingly, the number one trap to avoid is plagiarism.
- Plagiarism, “the appropriation or imitation of the ideas of others and the way of expressing them, to make them pass as their own”, is never acceptable. It’s just not worth doing and it has consequences.
- copyright infringement it will tarnish your credibility and professional authority. Copyright, ‘the exclusive right, granted by law for a specified period of years, to make and dispose of copies of, and otherwise control, a literary, musical, dramatic or artistic work’, protects creators unauthorized copying of all or a substantial part of your work. Copyright laws differ between nations, so make sure you understand what the law in your country allows you to do. If you need the author’s permission, go ahead – don’t expect him to get away with it.
Can not recognize sources Related material you have used will, at the very least, diminish the respect of your colleagues. And remember to check that your quotes are correct and spelled correctly, right down to the use of commas and periods. Always check your style guide if you need to jog your memory.
Using generalizations it can lead readers to question your authority. Phrases like ‘everyone knows’, ‘we all know’, ‘research suggests’ are best avoided as they can make readers wonder if you really know what you’re saying.
Lack of consideration of ease of reading it can make the task of reading your technical information that much more difficult. Generally, your readers don’t like (among other things) large chunks of text or page overcrowding; spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors; many words when a graph, table, or illustration could more easily tell your story; lack of titles or other techniques (index, keyword bold, bullet points, or numbered lists) to guide you through your document; use of jargon or technical terms that are not adequately explained; inconsistency in paragraph spacing, caption style, use of abbreviated forms, selection of fonts, etc.
Once your report is written, it is time to check that you have not fallen into any of these traps. Reread and if necessary rewrite, add missing citations, modify layout. Ask a colleague to review it. Ask someone who has not been involved in the project if they have any difficulty reading and understanding your report. Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation; check consistency.
And if you can afford it, hire an editor to give you your final polish.
Then rest assured that your professionalism and credibility have not been undermined by your writing.
Definitions of ‘plagiarism’ and ‘copyright’ from Macquarie’s Concise Dictionary, third edition, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1998.