Technical Writing - Graduate Writing Center

Nested Applications
GWC - Technical Writing - main content

Technical Writing


Technical writing covers an array of complex topics, but you don't need complicated sentences to convey complicated ideas. In fact, simple sentences can help to convey technical information more clearly, so editing for concision and clarity is key in technical writing.

Take it from William Zinsser in his book On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction: "Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose."

For further information on technical writing, attend the next session of our "Technical Writing" workshop (or watch the video). Workshops are offered in the first four weeks of each quarter; you can sign up during workshop season through WCOnline. See the whole workshop list here.

Audience

Determining how much to explain and how much technical terminology to use can trip up technical writers. Consider who your audience is and how much background information you need to provide for those readers to understand your topic.

A common consideration when writing a thesis is to imagine your audience as other students in your field, who may not know the details of your specific research but have a significant amount of background knowledge. However, when your document is intended for an interdisciplinary audience, you will need to explain a lot more of the basic concepts than you would for a field-specific audience. 

Active or Passive Voice

While you may have heard that the active voice is preferable to the passive, different fields have different style conventions: some fields use passive voice to avoid referring to the author(s), while others use the first person ("I" or "we"), and still others use the third person ("the author" or "this research").

Reading articles in your field can help you determine what the preferred style is in your field; if you find inconsistencies, check with your advisor on which style to use.

Lists, Tables, and Figures

Use lists, tables, and figures strategically. Some information is better presented as a numbered or bulleted list instead of a paragraph; list formatting tends to make the information easy to spot on the page and clearly differentiates list items. Tables are also helpful tools for presenting information in a concise, easy-to-read format, while figures help your readers to visualize information. For more guidance, see our resources on graphics and posters.

For further information on the use of figures and tables, attend the next session of our "Illustrating Your Thesis with Figures and Tables" workshop. Workshops are offered in the first four weeks of each quarter; you can sign up during workshop season through WCOnline. See the whole workshop list here.

Technical Writing Links

Scientific Reports Links

GWC - all topics list heading

All-Topics Index


The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the most relevant page for each item. We think we have all of them, but please email us at writingcenter@nps.edu if we're missing something!

A-Z content menu

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

abbreviations

abstracts

academic writing

acronyms

active voice

adjectives, compound

advisor, selecting and working with

apostrophes

appointment with GWC coaches, how to schedule

argument

article usage

assignments, understanding them

audience

return to top 

B

body paragraphs

brackets, square

brainstorming

building better sentences tips

return to top 

C

capitalization

citations

citation software

citation styles

clauses

clarity

clustering

coaching, about

coaching, how to schedule

colons

comma splices

commas, FANBOYS

commas, introductory

commas, list

commas, nonessential / nonrestrictive information

commas, Oxford

commas, serial

common knowledge

commonly confused words 

compare-and-contrast papers

compound adjectives / modifiers

concision

conclusions

conference presentations

conjunctive adverbs

coordinating conjunctions

copyright and fair use

critical thinking  

return to top 

D

dangling modifiers

dashes

dependent clauses

dependent marker words

display equations

distance learning

double submission of coursework

drafting

return to top 

E

editing your own work

editing: outside editors

em dash

en dash

exclamation points

executive summary

return to top 

F

FANBOYS

FAQs

first person, use of in academic writing

footnotes

fragments

free-writing

return to top 

G

gerunds

grammar

group writing

GWC appointment, how to schedule

return to top 

H

homophones

Honor Code, NPS

hyphens

return to top 

I

ibid.

incomplete sentences

independent clauses

introductions

iThenticate

return to top 

J

Joining the Academic Conversation

return to top 

L

LaTeX

library liaisons

lists, syntax of

literature reviews 

logic and analysis 

return to top 

M

making a GWC appointment

mathematics

memos

methodology

modifiers, compound

modifiers, misplaced

return to top 

N

nominalizations

note-taking

noun clusters

numbers

return to top 

O

organization

outlining

Oxford comma

return to top 

P

paragraph development 

parallelism

paraphrasing

parentheses

parts of speech

passive voice

periods

persuasion

phrases vs. clauses

plagiarism, how to avoid

plagiarism-detection software

plain language

polishing

prepositional phrases 

prepositions

pronouns, clarity with

pronouns, grammar of

publishing

punctuation

return to top 

Q

questions

quotation marks 

quoting

return to top 

R

Reading with Intent I

Reading with Intent II

redundancies                                                                

reference software

reflection papers 

research

research questions

restrictive vs. nonrestrictive information

reusing papers

reverse outlining

revision

roadmaps

run-on sentences 

return to top 

S

scheduling a GWC appointment

self-citing

semicolons

sentence fragments

serial comma

signal phrases

significance

so what?

source blending

sources, engaging with / critiquing

sources, evaluating the reliability of

sources, citing

spelling

standard essay structure

STEM / technical writing

Strategic Reading I

Strategic Reading II

style

subject–verb agreement

subjects, grammatical

subordinating conjunctions

summarizing

return to top 

T

technical writing

that vs. which

thesis writing

thesis advisor, selecting and working with

thesis process overview

thesis process tips

thesis proposals: common elements                                                     

thesis statements

this, that, these, those

tone, professional

topic sentences 

transitions

types of papers

return to top 

U

United States or U.S.?

return to top 

V

verbs and verb tense

return to top 

W

which vs. that

Why write?

writer’s block 

writing process

return to top 

Z

Zotero

return to top