Cover Page ofThe Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
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Section 1.1.2

Clarity

Strive for clarity in your writing. Clarity, which refers to ease of understanding, is a special problemin science and technology writing. Specialized languages, mathematically detailed analyses, andcomplex conceptual schemes can make technical subjects hard to grasp even when prepared byskilled writers and read by expert readers. You can increase the clarity of your material in severalways.

At the level of the whole document, you can promote structural clarity, making it easy for the readerto get the large picture. Use abstracts and other forecasting strategies such as introductionsthat state the purpose and scope of the document. Tables ofcontents, problem statements, and even strategic repetitionalso promote structural clarity. Graphs and tables, effectivelydesigned and placed, help focus and clarify information. Descriptivetitles and frequent subject headings guide readers and helpkeep the large picture in focus.

Stylistic clarity is promoted by simple, direct language. Simplicity in language is obtained with directly worded sentences. Using simplesentences and avoiding overloaded sentences and excessivenominalization also contribute to clarity. Word choice is a factor in stylistic clarity: use simple language whereverpossible to counteract the abstract, highly specialized terms of science and technology.

Contextual clarity, in which the importance, authorization, and implications of your work are madeavailable, also contributes to ease of understanding. All work has a context, and your readers want to understand what the context of yourdocument is. What prompts you to write? What is your purpose? Whose work precedes or hasinfluenced yours? What is the organizational and intellectual context of your problem? You answerthose questions in introductions and problem statements and in your citationsand other references.

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