Professional and Technical Writing/Glossary

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These terms should be familiar to professional and technical writers.

Glossary of Terms

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Advisers - people that gather detailed information and provide information to decision makers.

Brainstorming - generating ideas as quickly as possible, withholding evaluation of those ideas until later.

Complex Audience - the diverse group of people who may read your writing from different perspectives.

Copyright Law - set of laws that determine whether you can use other people's writing without their permission.

Cover Letter - a letter written to an employer that briefly states why a job applicant should be considered for a position. Cover letters should be written specifically for the job one is applying for.

Cluster Sketch - writing your overall topic in the center of a page and then adding subtopics, joining them to the main topic or each other.

Decision Makers - people in an organization that determine what the company will do sometime in the future.

Executive Summary - a brief summary at the beginning of a report that gives only the most important information to decision makers. Also called an abstract.

Freewriting - writing new ideas down in complete sentences without stopping so that new ideas continue to flow.

Future Readers - people who will read your writing/s sometime in the future.

Implementers - people in an organization who carry out the decisions made by the decision makers.

Job Search Websites - online sites in which you can post your resume and also find/contact potential employers that have information posted. Such sites include,,,,, and other job search websites.

Letter - a written communication written to someone outside of the organization.

Memo - short for memorandum, a brief written communication that follows a format specific to the company in which it was written. Memos are written from someone within an organization to others inside the organization.

Outline - a brief description of the main points or sections of a written document that make it more navigable and organized.

PAR Statement - a key piece of a cover letter that explains a problem one has experienced, the action he/she took to solve the problem, and the resolution that resulted from the actions. The PAR Statement is usually located in the second paragraph of a cover letter, and it should be relative to the position you are applying for.

Phantom Readers - people who will read your writing even though you did not intend for them to read it.

Portable Document Format (PDF) - the preferred form of which a document should be exchanged online. This format was created by Adobe systems, and it is very transportable across different computer platforms.

Professional Writing - writing that takes place in the workplace that is persuasive, legally binding, and may address complex audiences.

Proposal - a document that is supposed to persuade the potential buyer.

Reader-Centered Approach - writing that considers readers' situations, goals, and expectations.

Résumé - a document containing a summary of one's education, professional experience, and job qualifications. Résumés should be limited to one page, unless one is applying for a position as a senior executive.

Skills Résumé - a résumé where the applicant's accomplishments and experience are consolidated in a section at the beginning of the résumé

Stakeholders - people inside and outside of an organization that your writing may affect.

Superstructures - an agreed upon format for organizing documents that are frequently used in the workplace.

Technical Writing - writing that conveys information that is difficult to understand in a clear, concise, correct, and compelling manner.

Usability - the ease to which a reader can understand a written communication to perform their specific task.

Design Terms

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Typographic Contrast - Using different sizes and weights of fonts to create a distinct difference between elements. This can be used best to create an effective difference between headings and body text.

White Space - Empty space used in a document to spread out information.

Technical Writing Terms

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Abstract - a summary in the beginning of a formal report or proposal. Also called an Executive Summary.

Back Matter - features of a communication that appear after the last chapter or section such as appendixes, glossaries, and indexes.

Bottom-Up Processing - readers attempt to guess how small bits of information in a paragraph will fit together.

Cause and Effect - a way to organize a communication that helps readers understand the relationship between one topic caused by another.

Classification - arranging information into groups that are related.

Comparison - choosing either of two categories to classify facts.

Echo Words - words that remind readers of information they've already encountered.

Executive Summary - a summary tailored to the needs of executives that expresses the main points of a formal report in a concise manner.

Forecasting Statements - state the organization of what lies ahead, often appearing with a topic statement.

Formal Classification - grouping items according to observable characteristics that every item possesses.

Formal Report - a report which has a cover page along with front matter and back matter.

Front Matter - features of a communication that precedes the opening chapter or section such as the title page, executive summary, or table of contents.

Headings - signposts in a communication that tell readers what the next section is about.

Inclusive Language - words that are gender-neutral rather than containing the words man, he, or she.

Informal Classification - grouping items together when there is not a consistent principle of classification or when there is overlap between the categories.

Memo - a brief note between a few sentences and a few pages that is usually used to communicate with others inside the writers workplace.

Openness - how initially receptive your reader is to your writing.

Parallelism - arranging sentences and lists with similarly constructed words and phrases.

Partitioning - dividing an object into separate parts in order to describe the object.

Problem and Solution - a pattern of organization that proposes future action based on the original problem.

Segmenting - dividing a process into separate parts in order to describe the process.

Top-Down Processing - readers know the overall structure of a communication enabling them to know how the information will fit together.

Topic Statement - increases usability by explicitly stating what a paragraph is about.

Transitions - allow the reader to understand how adjacent parts of a communication are connected.

Usability - the ease with which your intended audience can use your writing to perform their tasks of which your writing was supposed to enable.

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