ENG 352 Technical Writing – 12 – Definition Rules

ENG 352 Technical Writing – 12 – Definition Rules

  • Hi my name is Technical Writing, and I’m a professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and this is being recorded for my Technical Communications course with material drawn from my text “Fundamentals of Undergraduate Education and Learning”.
  • We’re 352 Technical Writing – 12 – Definition Rules following up upon the earlier discussions about communication and in particular the idea of context and situations leading to you needing to know what you mean. For this we begin to delve deeper into the idea of making definitions in order to produce ambiguity.
  • So, we want to begin with this idea that making things clear is vital. As we do our introduction to this, what we’re going to see is that the first thing you want to do is reduce ambiguity so you can reduce the “YKWIM” the “you know what I mean” Technical Writing.
  • As we do our introduction to this, what we’re going to see is that the first thing you want to do is reduce ambiguity so you can reduce the “YKWIM” the “you know what I mean”. Now ambiguity comes both for you as the sender so that know what you’re saying, as well as for your target so that when they receive your package, they know what you mean Technical Writing.
  • In order to do this one of the first things you want to understand is that there’s probably a common baseline, an accepted set of terms and ideas that everyone in the given situation for the context will know.
  • But it’s important for you to understand that. And also as you build from that to more complex definitions, to have ways of testing what you’re saying and how you’re saying it to make sure it’s not unclear.
  • In order to do this, we’ve come up with four basic rules to make things less ambiguous. So we’re going to begin with the first rule. Technical Writing And this one very simply says – Do not use the word you were trying to define at when you’re in the definition and make sure you don’t replace with a synonym. – Many students as they use a word, and if you say – Oh what does that mean?
  • They’re like – Oh well, ah you know what I mean.-ENG 352 Technical Writing – 12 – Definition Rules And we don’t. And we don’t. And we don’t. Any word you use , you want to try to clearly understand. Many times, rather than give us a definition They just substitute a synonym, which we also don’t know what they mean AND they don’t know what they mean Technical Writing.
  • One example of this might be technology. [Pause] Technology is any technological process. That doesn’t tell us anything.ENG 352 Technical Writing – 12 – Definition Rules If we didn’t know what technology was. We probably don’t what technological is or technical is.
  • And so you have to be careful using the word in the definition. Technical Writing Make sure you always go down to a set of baseline concepts that everyone understands as you try to understand your word and present it to someone else in the context they’re defining.
  • Let’s move onto rule 2. Now rule 2 says: Do not give us a set of examples instead of defining the word. Many times people want to tell us something is -this- or -that- and just gives us a list.Technical Writing It’s okay to use a list of examples after you given us a clear understanding of what the word is. Now for us, technology is computers and cell phones. That’s not a definition.
  • Those are two examples of what technology is. So if we saw computers and cell phones and that’s all it was, what about a car? Isn’t a car technology? If this was your definition, cars aren’t technology because you’ve just told us is computers and cell phones.
  • Alright,Technical Writing the third rule for reducing ambiguity is a very difficult one. And this one most people have trouble with, and it says do not include valued judgments in the definition Because the trouble with valued judgments is different people can interpret them differently. What you might say is big, I won’t understand is big. So for example, if you said you have a big pile of money what picture do you get? Is this a big pile of money?
  • Read about x ray tech salary.
  • Or someone might think that’s a big pile of money. And so as you try to explain to them what you mean, saying big, doesn’t help them. For other people when they envision money, they see something totally different than you had in your mind.
  • And so this idea of kind of construct a common understanding, is lost as you include valued judgments. Now sometimes valued judgments are necessary, and in that case, you want to go in and find a common point of reference. Some standard we can all use. We’ll touch on this later as this is just the beginning of our set of Technical Writing definitions, so that we can become more skilled at being clear.
  • Now these first three deal with a simple one set of definitions. The fourth rule says be careful not to define one word using another, and then when you define that next word you come back to the first. So for example, if you say technology is things made by society and then tell me that society is those people that make technology, you haven’t actually defined either of those words. We don’t know what you mean Technical Writing.
  • The key here is that when you make these definitions, each one of these rules are something you simply look at your definition and see if we can understand it. It doesn’t say that the definition is good, it’s simply tries to help you reduce the ambiguity or the lack of clarity in what you’re saying. If you give me your definition and then I ask you, – Well what you mean? – And if you can’t answer me, that means you are being unclear. Thank you.

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