88 Comparison/Contrast

Throughout this course, we have been looking at good and bad qualities of technical writing. You know that long, complicated sections are not good for your reader’s understanding. If you use shorter, simpler passages, your reader will more easily remember what you are saying. Also, such basic tools as headings and bulleted lists can help your reader get from the beginning to the end a lot easier than huge blocks of information. Word choice, simple vs. complex, is also important in keeping your reader involved.

Now, I am going to ask you to use what we have been practicing. I am going to give you two documents and then ask you to analyze them from the two-pronged approach to technical writing: content and design. I am going to ask you to develop a table of facts, listing the similarities and differences between the two documents. You should probably come up with about 12 to 15 items (I will give you some instructions later on how to format a table using Microsoft Word).

Next, I will ask you to pick three of the most significant similarities/differences you’ve identified and discuss them in a memo to me. In the memo, you will elaborate on why you think one document is stronger than the other based on these three points you’ve identified.

It’s an opportunity for you to “practice what you preach.” In other words, if you say Document A is better because it uses shorter sections, then you better be using short sections in your memo. It’s not enough to identify good and bad writing. You have to use good writing and avoid bad writing.

Take some time to brainstorm: list the different kinds of technical writing concepts we’ve discussed: writing style, word choice, use of white space, audience, etc. Those are the kinds of things you will be highlighting in your table. Then, which three do you think are most pronounced in the documents. That’s what you would expand on in your memo.

In the next two sections, “Document 1,” and “Document 2,” I will give you the two documents. Print them out so you can analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Then go to the “Creating a Table of Data” document, and I will discuss your Table of Data. Finally, the instructions on the comparison memo itself will be given in the “Comparison Memo” document. Good luck.


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