The nature of the narrator in technical writing
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“The Nature of the Narrator in Technical Writing”. By: Lynn H. Deming Presented by: Anne Crace. Overview. Technical authors should speak to their audience.

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The nature of the narrator in technical writing l.jpg

“The Nature of the Narrator in Technical Writing”

By: Lynn H. Deming

Presented by: Anne Crace


Overview l.jpg
Overview

Technical authors should speak to their audience.

Writing of this type is more personal than other types of writing and should be treated on a personal level. Most often, first person, active voice is the best choice of narrative style.


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Be A Narrator!

  • Counter-intuitive to what has been taught in the past

    * It is “objective” to use third person

    * gives “professional distance”

    * helps with credibility

  • scholars now suggest first person is best for most technical documents

  • Written words tend to remove the author from the audience


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Define Your Audience

  • Speak directly to your audience

    * Write as if they are in the room with you

  • Define who they are

  • Determine your Narrative tone of voice (imagine you are speaking to them).

    *Are they experts or novices?

    * How old are they?

    * Is the topic serious or humorous?

  • By including yourself in your writing, it becomes less impersonal


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Different Types of Documents Require different narrative Perspectives

  • First Person

    * Correspondence (letters, memos, etc.)

    * Empirical Research Reports

  • Mixed Narrative

    * Proposals (first person-third person combination, predominantly active voice)

    * Mechanism and Process Definition (third person, active voice)

    * Multiple part documents

  • Active voice

    * Instructional Manuals


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correspondence Perspectives

  • First person is the only choice here.

  • active voice also

  • “I appreciate your support”…Not “Your support is appreciated”

  • It’s also polite!


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Empirical Research documents Perspectives

  • First person active voice allows an interesting and more personal perspective to research documents

  • allows a researcher to “own” their empirical data

  • Enables readers to identify with the writer


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proposals Perspectives

  • Proposals can be brief memos or multi-volume documents

  • For the former, use first person (just like correspondence)

  • For the latter, it is usually the choice of the project manager. (first person, third person combination is an option, but should predominantly be active voice


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Manuals Perspectives

  • These are user oriented and commands can be predominant

  • Issuance of instructions are common in these documents, a type of veiled first person. “Do this, do that…”, with an implied, “i”, giving the instructions, and “you” receiving them.


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Mechanism and process descriptions Perspectives

  • Third person, Active voice is appropriate for these types of documents. You are discussing a mechanism or a process. Focus should be on that topic.

  • Passive voice can be appropriate, if, for instance, the actor or subject is unknown, or could be anyone. Ex: “The subjects of the experiment were either given the drug or a placebo.”


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Conclusion Perspectives

For most Technical writing, the tone should be somewhat personal, as if you are having a conversation with the audience, or speaking in front of them, as if on a stage. Doe s third person make sense for this? There are exceptions, but the main point of this article is to include yourself with the audience and vice-versa.


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Questions? Perspectives


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