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Getting organized

 

This page is part of a larger resource on technical writing for microwave engineers. After you've identified your audience, take a few minutes to get organized. Why would you want to submit a document that is well organized? If your paper is easy to read, the people who have to read it won't tell your boss that you are a moron. Well-organized documents are the result of good outlines.

The major benefit of a good outline is that it will help you remember to deal with all of the important topics of your document, in a logical order and without repetition. It can also help you determine just how much you have to write, which is useful when dividing the work amongst a team ("you take sections 1 through 5; I'll just do section 6").

Sometimes you'll be given an outline to follow, as when responding to a Request for Proposal that specifies section topics and numbers. For some documents you'll have to create your own outline. If you don't create an outline at the beginning of a writing project, you should check the organization of your document before submitting it. Who said you had to write the outline first?

Different types of writing require different types of organization:

Proposal Lab Report Technical Report

Introduction

Qualifications

Background

Work Schedule

Proposal Statement

Costs

Results

Conclusion

Methodology

Title Page

Abstract

Introduction

Experiment

Results

Discussion & Conclusions

References

Graphics

Transmittal Letter

Title Page

Abstract

Executive Summary

Table of Contents

List of Figures & List of Tables

Report Body

References

Appendices

Look at this area of Microwaves101.com for an example of excellent document organization. Similar things are grouped together and the headings give you an idea of the content of each section. The outline for this section is:

  • Introduction
  • Know Your Audience
  • Getting Organized
  • Writing Style
    • Making Sure You're Accurate
    • Keeping it Short and Simple
    • The Dreaded Passive Voice
    • Wordsmanship101
      • Avoiding Non-words
      • Commonly Misused Words
      • Zero-value words
      • Upgrading Little Words
      • Double Negatives
      • Overly Used Phrases
      • Emotional and Double-entendre Words
      • Adjective Dog-Piles
    • Humor and Humility
  • Common Grammatical Issues
    • Acronyms and Abbreviations
    • Capitalization Issues
      • Acronyms and Abbreviations
      • Initial Capitalization in Titles
      • Other Capitalization Issues
    • Plural Problems
    • Don't Mix Tenses
    • Misspelled Words your Spellchecker Won't Catch
  • Sample Document Templates
    • Technical Report
    • Technical Presentation
    • Proposal
    • Resume
    • Statement of Work
  • Email Etiquette
  • Useful Books for Technical Writing

If you still don't get it, check out the Engineering Communication Centre at the University of Toronto for some good examples of engineering outlines and types of reports.

What next? Start writing? Well, no, not just yet. Particularly if you're working on a project with a bunch of other engineers, you need to think about your writing style. Luckily we have some guidance for you on our Writing Style page!

Author : Brenda

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