Technical Writing for Success, 3rd Edition (Glossary Terms)

abstracts
short, concise versions of longer pieces of communication; include only the most important general information

academic writing
the expository and persuasive writing done in academic circles; examples include personal essays, research papers, analyses, and arguments

accommodate
to adjust; to change circumstances so that others will be more comfortable or more at ease

acronyms
letters that stand for a long or complicated term or series of terms

adrenaline
a stimulant; something that excites and creates extra energy

ambiguous
more than one interpretation is possible; describes writing that means different things to different people

anecdote
a humorous story

animation
text or graphics that move

annotations
handwritten notes, often placed in the margins of a document being read

anticipate
to guess or predict before actually reading a passage what kind of reasoning it might present

appendix
usually the last element or special part of a formal report; a place to include documents, data, or graphics not necessary to the discussion in the report but perhaps helpful or interesting to the audience

archives
collections or repositories of documents

auditory
related to the sense of hearing or perceived through the sense of hearing

background knowledge
knowledge and vocabulary that a reader has already learned and then calls upon to better understand new information

bar graph
a graph using a horizontal axis and a vertical axis to compare numerical data presented in rectangular bars block letter style the letter style that aligns the return address, dateline, and closing at the left margin

blog
a website with periodic news or commentary posted in reverse chronological order; short for weblog

buffer
something positive written to soften bad news to come

callouts
names of specific parts of a diagram that are connected to the diagram or drawing with lines

cautions
statements designed to keep a person from harming the mechanism with which he or she is working

chart
a drawing with boxes, words, and lines to show a process or an organizational structure

chronological resume
a traditional resume that provides a history of employment and education in reverse chronological order

citations
written indications of the sources for borrowed materials

close-ended questions
questions that restrict the number of possible answers

code of ethics
a written pledge to make responsible, moral decisions

collaborative
writing writing with others in a group

conclusion
the logical, inductive leap made after all of the details of an experiment are considered; what is learned from an experiment

concurrent
testing determining the usefulness of a product or an activity by observing someone’s performance while he or she is using the product or engaging in the activity

copyediting
proofreading a document for correctness in spelling, grammar, and mechanics

corporate code of ethics
a document stating a company’s commitment to ethical behavior; includes core values, rules specific to the industry’, and often penalties for violations

cover letter
a letter accompanying a resume that highlights the applicant’s strengths

criteria
the plural form of criterion; the factors on which a decision is made; things to consider when making a decision

culture
the special beliefs, customs, or values that are specific to a particular group of people or a particular region

dateline
the feature of a press release that identifies the location of a story

decision flowchart
a type of flowchart that uses symbols to indicate the critical steps in making a decision

deductive reasoning
reasoning from the general to the particular

demographics
defining characteristics of an audience; information about a group such as the age, sex, income, and educational level of its members

design elements
considerations in writing a document that affect page layout; the way a document looks

diagram
a line drawing

dignity
a person’s sense of self-respect

direct approach
a presentation strategy in which the main idea is stated first, then the idea is explained and supported with details

direct quotation
the use of borrowed ideas, words, phrases, and sentences exactly as they appear in the original source

discussion forum
a website where users can discuss items of interest or get specific questions answered

documentation
a system of giving credit for borrowed ideas and words

draft
an early version of a document that is subject to change

drafting
the stage after planning when the writer actually writes a first, second, or third (or later) version of the document

electronic resume
a chronological or functional resume that is formatted so that it can be sent electronically as an e-mail resume, an ASCII Text resume, a scannable resume, or an online resume

embargo
to withhold or delay publication of a story

ethics
a system of moral standards and rules that guides human behavior

executive summary
a short synopsis of the content of a proposal that is written to meet the needs of a busy decision maker; it is located after the table of contents in a formal proposal

explanation
information coming after a step that provides additional data to clarify the step

exploding pie graph
pie graph that separates, or “explodes,” one wedge from the graph, drawing attention to that piece of the pie

expository writing
writing to explain or inform

expressive writing
writing to express or portray personal observation or feeling

external audience
receivers outside the sender’s organization; listeners outside an organization

FAQ
an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions; a document posted on the Internet containing answers to common questions about a topic

feedback
the verbal and nonverbal response to a communication process or product

field research
research done in the field, especially through surveys and interviews

field-test
to check instructions with a small sample of people to see whether the instructions are clear

fiscal year
an organization’s operating year

flowchart
a drawing with lines and arrows to show a process or series of steps

follow-up letter
a letter thanking a prospective employer for an interview

forensic reports
investigative reports that analyze evidence for legal purposes

formal outline
a listing of main ideas and subtopics arranged in a traditional format of Roman numerals, capital letters, numbers, and lowercase letters

formal presentations
presentations that are planned in advance, carefully prepared and rehearsed, and often accompanied by visual aids

formal table
numerical information set up in rows and columns and drawn with rules; used to present figures

format
the details of a document’s arrangement: the type of document, its length, the preferred style manual, and its organization; the layout of a publication; standard elements of a document’s presentation

freewriting
writing freely to discover an idea; can be open (no topic yet), focused (on a topic), or looping (stopping, summarizing, and continuing)

functional resume
a nontraditional resume that organizes information around a person’s unique skills in order to highlight his or her special abilities or experience

Gantt chart
a type of bar graph used to schedule the major tasks of a complex project; it uses bars to depict the length of time needed to complete each task

goodwill
a feeling of friendship; the value of doing things that create mutual admiration and respect

graphic organizers
the use of circles, rectangles, and connecting lines in notes to show the relative importance of one piece of information to another

graphics
information presented in a visual form, such as tables, graphs, and diagrams

groupthink
the tendency of group members to conform to the wishes of the group without thinking through an issue individually

hierarchical order
the order in which names are listed from the top to the bottom of an organizational chart

home page
the first page of a website

hooks
in a news story, opening elements whose purpose is to engage the reader, grab his or her attention, and lead into the subject; attention-getters; words or sentences designed to engage the reader or to create interest in an idea

hyperlink
a word, phrase, or graphic used to allow readers of a web page to move easily to another page; also called a link

icon
a simple, easily recognizable picture or drawing that represents an idea or a concept; often used as a signal for recurring ideas or themes in a document

imaginative writing
writing such as novels, short stories, drama, and poetry whose situations grow out of fantasy or imagination; events and people are fictional although the themes may reveal universal truths

imperative mood
the form of a verb that signals a command or an instruction; the subject is “you” or understood “you”

incident reports
reports that objectively relate the details of unusual events, such as accidents or equipment malfunctions

indirect approach
a presentation strategy in which the main idea is not presented up front; the speaker builds evidence to convince the audience of his or her point

inductive reasoning
reasoning from the particular to the general

inferences
judgments about a reading that the author does not make for the reader

informal outline
a listing of main ideas and subtopics arranged in a less traditional format of single headings and indented notes

informal presentations
presentations that occur without preparation or rehearsal

informal table
a graphic that uses rows and columns drawn without rules or stubs

instructions
a sequence of steps explaining how to complete a task

interactive
refers to any document, such as a website, that responds to user input

internal audience
receivers inside the sender’s organization; listeners within an organization

Internet
a global system of networks connecting computers through the World Wide Web, e-mail, instant messaging, and other protocols

jargon
the highly specialized language of a discipline or technical field

keywords
important words, especially nouns, that indicate subject areas in a web document; words in a scannable resume that match the employer’s list of key qualifications

letter of transmittal
a letter formally or officially conveying a formal report from the writers to the external audience

limitations
factors or situations that prevent problem solving

line graph
a graph using a horizontal axis and a vertical axis to show a trend or relationship among numbers

literary reading
reading literature such as short stories, essays, poetry, and novels

mechanism description
a description of the main parts of a device or machine; includes the purpose of the device and an overall description, a description of the parts, and the function of each part

media
systems or means of mass communication

medium
a means by which information is conveyed, such as a newspaper article, a television commercial, or a speech before a live audience

memo of transmittal
a memo formally or officially conveying a formal report from the writers to the internal audience

modified block letter style
the letter style in which the dateline and closing begin at the center of the page

multiple audience
an audience that includes readers whose points of view differ

multiple bar graph
a graph using horizontal and vertical axes to compare data, drawn with more than one bar for each measurement

multiple line graph
a graph using more than one line to compare data

objectivity
an attitude signifying that no personal bias or opinion has distorted or slanted a researcher’s thinking

online instructions
instructions using computer technology as the medium; include help menus, CD- ROMs, and web-based instructions

online resume
a type of electronic resume posted on a website

open-ended questions
questions that encourage the respondent to provide any answer he or she likes; the questions give no suggested answers

organizational chart
a drawing with boxes, words, and lines to show how an organization is structured

pace
to read efficiently; to read at a rate that is slow enough to allow the mind to absorb information but fast enough to complete the reading assignment

pagination
the assignment of sequential page numbers within a document

parallel structure
use of the same grammatical structure of a phrase or sentence

paraphrase
to present someone else’s ideas in your own words, phrases, and sentence structure

passive voice
the verb to be plus the past participle of the verb; used in scientific writing to focus on the process instead of the performer

periodic reports
reports that explain the accomplishments for all projects of a work group or of an entire organization during the reporting period

periodicals
materials published at specified intervals of time, such as magazines, journals, newsletters, and newspapers

personal code of ethics
a personal creed or philosophy that expresses an individual’s core values

persuasive writing
writing to convince others

pictograph
a type of bar graph that uses pictures instead of bars to represent data

pie graph
a circular graph showing how parts relate to the whole, which equals 100 percent

plagiarism
the act of using another person’s words and/or ideas without properly documenting their source or giving credit

planning
the first stage of the writing process, during which a writer thinks of an idea and plans how to develop and research it

point-by-point organization
a comparison/contrast structure that covers two or three items under one criterion

population
the group from whom you want to gather data

prefatory material
parts or elements of a report (letter or memo of transmittal, title page, and table of contents) that come before the main text

previewing
looking over a reading assignment before reading it; determining the subject matter and any questions about the material before reading it

primary audience
the readers or listeners to whom you are responsible first; often the readers(s) who requested or authorized the document

primary sources
direct or firsthand reports of facts or observations, such as an eyewitness account or a diary

principles
rules that guide behavior

priority order
the organization of a resume that presents information from most important to least important

progress reports
reports that describe the work that has been completed during a specified time on only one project

proposal
a persuasive document that offers a solution to an identified problem or need

PSAs
an acronym for public service announcements; news published for the benefit of the public

public relations
plans or actions taken by an individual or an organization to create a positive relationship with the public

publishing
sending a document to the person who requested it

purpose
a specific end or outcome to be obtained; what you want your reader to do after reading your document

rank
the relative importance of one criterion to another; usually ranked from most important to least important

receptive audience
readers who are open to ideas or suggestions in a recommendation report

recommendation report
a report that responds to a need that arises in the workplace; it suggests the best solution to a problem or need, helping the readers to make a choice

recursive
a circular or back-and-forth motion; describes the movement of the writing process back and forth between predictable stages

reliable data
data that provide results that can be duplicated under similar circumstances

reporting period
the time span covered by a report

resignation letter
a letter written to an employer or a supervisor stating the writer’s intention to resign his or her position with the company

respondents
people chosen to answer questions

result
an observable effect of an experiment

resume
a one- or two-page summary of a person’s job qualifications; uses elements of page design to highlight the applicant’s most impressive qualifications

retrospective testing
checking the usefulness of a product or an activity after someone has used the product or performed the activity

reverse chronological order
the organization of a resume that presents information backward in time

revising
reading a document and making changes in content, organization, and word choice

RFPs
an acronym for request for proposal; an advertisement seeking proposals to solve a problem or fill a need and often listing criteria for the solution

rhetorical question
a question designed to provoke thought; a question for which the speaker expects no answer

rights
personal freedoms that must be respected

role
the function or job someone performs at work

RSS
an acronym for Really Simple Syndication; standardized web feed formats that allow blog posts to be sent directly to readers

sample
a subgroup with the same characteristics as the entire population

scannable
refers to text for the Web that allows readers to locate important words and phrases quickly, using short paragraphs and sentences, headings, lists, and keywords

scannable resumes
resumes written to be scanned for keywords by an optical scanner

scientific method
the use of both inductive and deductive reasoning and a system of controls to objectively explore natural phenomena

scope
the extent of treatment, activity, or influence; what is included and what is not included; what you examine in your efforts to solve a particular problem

secondary audience
the reader(s) to whom you are responsible after you have met the needs of the primary audience

secondary sources
indirect or secondhand reports of information, such as the description of an event the writer or speaker did not witness

shaping
a step early in the writing process during which a writer narrows a topic, determines a direction for a topic, generates subtopics, and organizes the subtopics

solicited
refers to a document, such as a report, in which readers ask for several alternatives

solicited letter
a letter of application written for an advertised position

solicited proposal
a proposal that is written in response to an RFP or upon the request of a supervisor or manager

spatial order
refers to mechanism descriptions that explain the parts from left to right, right to left, top to bottom, or bottom to top or in another logical pattern

specific audience
a single person or group whose point of view is the same

standard
a means of defining and limiting a criterion

step
one action in a set of instructions

style
the way an author uses words and sentences

subcriteria
smaller categories under a category that help to define each criterion

summarize
to condense longer material, keeping essential or main ideas and omitting unnecessary parts such as examples and illustrations

summary
a condensed version of a piece of communication; includes general information and may include a few important details

target audience
the audience for which a message is written; the audience with whom the writer seeks to communicate

technical communication
communication done in the workplace; the subject is usually technical; the purpose and audience are specific; the approach is straightforward

technical reading
reading science, business, or technology publications

technical vocabulary
specialized words used in specific ways unique to a particular discipline

technical writing
writing done in the workplace; the subject is usually technical, written carefully for a specific audience; the organization is predictable and apparent; the style is concise; the tone is objective and businesslike; special features include visual elements

tentative outline
an informal, changeable plan for organizing topics and subtopics

testimonials
personal stories or people’s statements (often from famous people) that endorse a product or service

text file
an ASCII plain text file that can be opened by most word processing programs

tone
emotional overtones; the way words make readers feel

trip reports
reports that tell what was accomplished during a trip and what was learned from the trip

unreceptive audience
readers who are not open to ideas or suggestions

unsolicited
refers to a document, such as a report, that has not been asked for; the audience is not expecting the recommendations

unsolicited letter
a letter of application written for an unadvertised position

unsolicited proposal
a proposal in which the writer identifies a problem or need that he or she discovered, explains it, and offers solutions

usability
the ease with which an audience can access and use a website

utility
a means of evaluating actions based on what will do the most good and the least harm

valid data
data that provide an accurate measurement of what an individual intends to measure

values
ideals that govern a person’s or an organization’s actions

verbal tables
tables that use words instead of numbers and the information is given in rows and columns

warnings
statements designed to keep a person from being harmed

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
a program intended to make web content available to users with a wide range of disabilities; websites should follow the program’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

whistle-blower
a person who publicly alleges an organization’s wrongful practices

wiki
a website that allows users to author web pages collaboratively

World Wide Web
a collection of online resources such as websites

writing process
the stages a writer goes through to write a document; includes planning (prewriting, shaping, researching), drafting and revising, and copyediting