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Sample documents

This page is part of a larger resource on technical writing for microwave engineers. Before we go any further, if you are looking for someone to write technical documents for you, microwaves or otherwise, please contact us, we can do this for you at a competitive rate!

We want to give you the information you need to create great documents with the minimum of work on your part. The easiest thing, of course, is to just hire someone else to do it (like our favorite writer at P-N Designs). But you won't always have that kind of budget, so this page will get you pointed in the right direction. Let us know which areas you're having the most trouble with, that's where we'll start! This section will eventually have some downloadable templates that you can use to start off your documents on the right foot.

For now, here's a few rules for different types of documents.

Technical Reports

Presentations

E-mail

Proposals

How to write a technical report

The basic outline of a report is:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction and Background
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

Suggestions for abstracts and introductions

Don’t use "this paper" as your first words, and never say, "the purpose of this paper is to..." It’s overused and sounds unprofessional. One good approach: start off with a statement of fact rather than a description of what you did.

Not good: "the purpose of this study was to investigate methods for modeling large-signal behavior of pseudomorphic transistors.

Still needs work: Three methods for modeling large-signal behavior of pseudomorphic transistors were examined in this study.

Much better: Successful modeling of large-signal behavior of pseudomorphic transistors is one of the most challenging problems in microwaves.

To create a professional-sounding paper, use the words "this paper", "this study", or "this section" sparingly.

Don’t discuss why your document is organized the way it is; just give your summary and move on.

Not good: The introduction listed three main purposes for this paper. It is most convenient to discuss the third purpose first. There are two new technologies not presented previously that need to be discussed.

Acceptable: This section summarizes two new technologies in the field of ball-grid array packaging.

Best: Two new technologies have recently emerged in the field of ball-grid array packaging.

Note: don’t neglect the abstract when editing your document. It’s the most frequently read part of a technical paper!

Suggestions for discussion section

In technical documents, the point or conclusion is best stated at the beginning of a paragraph. Readers skimming the paper may not read down to the last sentence in the paragraph.

Suggestion: replace the paragraph structure of
- Evidence. Evidence. Evidence. Conclusion.

with

- Conclusion. Evidence. Evidence. Evidence.

Suggestions for conclusions

Remember your elementary school science fair project and "the scientific method"? That's where you should have been taught that the conclusion is based on everything that came before it. Don't introduce new material in a conclusion.

How to write a presentation

Always include an "Agenda" chart and FOLLOW IT as the outline of your presentation.

Capitalization in presentations: for the titles, here is the recommended capital case usage: Capitalize the first and last words in titles and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions. Lowercase articles (the, a, an), coordinate conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), and prepositions (to, from, with, against, versus), regardless of length, unless they are the first or last words of the title. Lowercase the "to" in infinitives... We Want You to Remember This.

After the title comes the bullets... people have a tendency to keep capitalizing all the way through the page. We hate this. Which of the following bulletized statements is easier on your eyes?

  • Charts are Easier to Read When Only the First Letter of a Bulleted Phrase is Capitalized.
  • Charts are easier to read when only the first letter of a bulleted phrase is capitalized.

If you guessed (2), you win. You should capitalize only first words and proper nouns in bullet phrases. Only titles should have every important word capitalized. Some pointy-haired bosses may request that you capitalize every word in every bullet. HEAR AND OBEY THE BOSS, and whimper quietly.

Here are some references on capitalization in case you don't believe us... from the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications:

"In general, use standard capitalization rules wherever possible. Avoid overcapitalization. The current practice is toward using lowercase unless there's a specific reason for capitalizing" (page 24)


"Capitalize the first word of each bulleted entry in a bulleted list. Capitalize the first word of each entry in a numbered list" (page 125).

Another rule for titles and bullets: put a verb in every bullet phrase and most chart titles, so it looks like you are actually doing something! No verbs means no action.

Don't assume that we know what you are talking about. Replace "This was " with "The experiment was"

Bold letters? Use them only on titles, if you are inclined. Why waste all that ink?

Using lots of color? See how it looks in black and white, because that is what it will eventually look like after someone gets a Xerox copy.

Coming soon! PowerPoint Tricks you should know!

E-mail etiquette

When replying to a message, don't copy the entire text of the original message.

Don’t SHOUT. Italicize if you really want to make a point.

Don’t copy everyone on replies automatically, but always copy anyone whose name you mention.

Everything can't be high priority or urgent--send most e-mail with regular delivery.

Don’t clog the system with automatic return receipts.

Don’t send 14-MB PowerPoint files when a 1-MB jpg will do.

Delete your multi-meg messages; save the attachments.

Skim all incoming e-mail. Subject descriptions can be misleading. Cull mercilessly after reading.

When you attach a file, be descriptive in the file name. "lab_equipment_photo.jpg" is much clearer than "dsc0041.jpg".

How to write a proposal

First, get a copy of the proposal request if there is one. This will have a lot of information about the structure and types of information you need to include.

Many engineers don't know the difference between "features" and "benefits". Make a little table like this:

Feature Benefit
Deep, refrigerated console between the front seats. Lets you keep that car beer cold but hidden from the patrolman.
Large ashtray Your cigar has a nice home!
Fake-fur seat covers Feels nice on any bare skin that might touch it.

More on this later!

How to write a statement of work

Coming soon!

How to write a resume

Coming soon!

Author : Brenda

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