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Section 1.1

Characteristics of Effective Technical Communication

Learn to recognize and cultivate the qualities of effective technical communication.

Good technical communication is accurate, clear, concise, coherent, and appropriate. In theprose of science and technology, these qualities are sometimes difficult to achieve. Not only doscience and technology depend heavily on specialized concepts and terminologies, but they also makeextensive use of numbers and graphics.

The following example shows how the different qualities of technical prose work together.


The flow of electrical current can induce the migration of impurities or other defectsthrough the bulk of a solid. This process is called electromigration. In simple electromigration, theforce on the defect is thought to have two components. The first component is the force createdby direct interaction between the effective charge of the defect and the electric field that drives thecurrent. The second component, called the "wind force," is the force caused by the scattering ofelectrons at the defect.

--J.A. Stroscio and D.M. Eigler, "Atomic and Molecular Manipulation with the ScanningTunneling Microscope," Science


The preceding example is accurate in two ways. It is stylisticallyaccurate in its precise use of language. It is technically accurate in its use of specialized terms technical terms such as electromigration, charge, electricfield, and scattering, whose meanings are based in the context of a technicaldiscipline. Both kinds of accuracy--accuracy of phrasing and accuracy of technical concept--are offirst importance in science and technology writing.

The example is also clear because it is written in simple, directsentences. Although the technical context is the highly specialized realm of theoretical and appliednanotechnology, the sentence syntax--word order--is restrained andstructurally very simple. Part of this clarity is achieved by the rhetorical device of defining a term,electromigration.

The example is concise in its use of a minimum of words to expressthe basic idea of electromigration. It is not wordy, and it does notdigress from the point being made.

The example is coherent because it develops its subject matter inan easy-to-follow line of thinking. The sentences are further linked by referents such as "thisprocess," "the first component," and "the second component."

Finally, the example is appropriate to its purpose of presenting a general description of the process ofelectromigration, and to its audience, educated readers ofScience, who are not necessarily experts in the field of nanotechnology.

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## Effective Technical Communication: Characteristics ##
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