Grammar is a term for the rules governing the use of any given language. Along with diction (choice of words), it is an important part of quality communication. Technical communication deliverables are often judged by these rules, and as a result, technical communicators are often relatively skilled in the theory and practice of them. Grammar is often discussed in the contexts of rhetoric, writing, editing, presentations and collaboration.
This article explores the role of students’ prior, or antecedent, genre knowledge in relation to their developing disciplinary genre competence by drawing on an illustrative example of an engineering genre-competence assessment. The initial outcomes of this diagnostic assessment suggest that students’ ability to successfully identify and characterize rhetorical and textual features of a genre does not guarantee their successful writing performance in the genre. Although previous active participation in genre production (writing) seems to have a defining influence on students’ ability to write in the genre, such participation appears to be a necessary but insufficient precondition for genre-competence development. The authors discuss the usefulness of probing student antecedent genre knowledge early in communication courses as a potential source for macrolevel curriculum decisions and microlevel pedagogical adjustments in course design, and they propose directions for future research.
Technical communication tends to focus on delivering objective information in a clear, accurate, and accessible way. Business writing, on the other hand, often has an emotional component. Sometimes we have to deliver bad news. Sometimes we need to gather information from people already stressed because they’re busy with other things. Here are some tips for effective business writing.
This handout defines and shows examples of grammar, usage, and style errors commonly seen in undergraduate writing in the sciences. During class, students might be asked to revise each example.
Error analysis involves detecting, diagnosing, and correcting discrepancies between the text produced so far (TPSF) and the writers mental representation of what the text should be. The use of different writing modes, like keyboard-based word processing and speech recognition, causes different type of errors during text production. While many factors determine the choice of error-correction strategy, cognitive effort is a major contributor to this choice. This research shows how cognitive effort during error analysis affects strategy choice and success as measured by a series of online text production measures. Text production is shown to be influenced most by error span, that is, whether the error spans more or less than two characters. Next, it is influenced by input mode, that is, whether the error has been generated by speech recognition or keyboard, and finally by lexicality, that is, whether the error comprises an existing word. Correction of larger error spans is more successful than that of smaller errors. Writers impose a wise speed accuracy trade-off during large error spans since correction is better, but preparation times (time to first action) and production times take longer, and interference reaction times are slower. During large error spans, there is a tendency to opt for error correction first, especially when errors occurred in the condition in which the TPSF is not preceded by an auditory prompt. In general, the addition of speech frees the cognitive demands of writing. Writers also opt more often to continue text production when the TPSF is presented auditorially first.
Indenting the first line of every paragraph is a habit most of us acquired in grammar school. However, for those daring souls who have always insisted on coloring outside the lines, it’s time to consider using a different style paragraph indent. There are more options than you might have realized!
Business English (BE) and business communication (BC) overlap. English handles linguistic mechanics and style, whereas communication holistically discusses the movement of a message from one person to another. The BC discipline, unfortunately, allows language basics into its pedagogy like a statistics course teaching fundamental mathematics. From the other side, some English courses teach BC before their students are able to handle that material. A subject teaches prepared students. If they are deficient, they are either kept out or the subject matter suffers.
Dangling modifiers can be humorous for the reader, but humiliating for the writer. They're insidious, creeping into our prose and undermining our sentence structure. But they're easy to find if you know what to look for.
One of the difficult concepts to understand in the English language is perhaps the manner in which articles are used in a sentence. Over the course of one's life history, every student of English has had to face this nightmare at one point of time or another. The verbs are all in place and you know the nouns, the pronouns are fairly obvious, and the prepositions can eventually be worked out, but what comes before the word year and what comes before SMS is tricky.
In spite of having the thumb rules with us, we may still be at times unsure of placing the right articles. You may wonder sometimes like Sir Henry Higgins and say, ‘Why can’t we place the articles like the way it should be?’
If you write documentation for products that can be dangerous if misused, ambiguity is scarier than rush hour traffic on I-40. If you already know what the sentence means, it's difficult to perceive that it could be taken to mean something else. By stringently applying rules of grammar, you help eliminate potential ambiguity even when you don't perceive it. Technical content is difficult enough to navigate; give the reader a clear path so he can focus on the journey instead of the road.
Technical communicators tend to be problem solvers. We ask ourselves, 'How can I make this better?' We don't want our instruction material to simply be serviceable; we want it to help make our readers' lives easier. One way we do that is by anticipating mistakes that users might make if they don't read carefully. We use various techniques to emphasize material that could otherwise be overlooked. Some effective means of drawing the reader's eye to important material are presented below. Note that this article doesn't address safety messages. For proper use of safety messages, consult your corporate guidelines and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Too many editors focus on the details and don't pay enough attention to the bigger picture. Editors can--and should--add even more value through substantive, technical, and usability editing. Copyediting is important, but the details are only part of what an editor can and should be reviewing. After all, a document can be correctly spelled and punctuated, grammatically correct, use only approved terminology, and follow the style guide perfectly--and still not serve the audience's needs. This article covers some reasons why editors focus on details and not the bigger picture; describes how much attention technical communicators should pay to formal rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage; and describes how we can distinguish between essential and nonessential rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage.
When is a noun not a noun? When it's been verbed. A lot of verbing is going on, as you've probably noticed. In fact, it's happening so frequently that I think we'd better come up with a name for the part of speech produced by verbing a noun.
So maybe you do know how to add memory to your computer or program your cell phone, but do you know where to put a comma in a sentence? If you have a sentence followed by a list, do you use a semicolon or a colon? Does the period go inside or outside of quotation marks? How do you keep up with changing rules of grammar and punctuation when you can't remember where to put the apostrophe? People often fear punctuation because the rules have changed and they continue to do so.
April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released. I won't be celebrating. The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.