Avoid getting lost in translation

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Written records have enabled human evolution from the beginning of time and well documented discoveries are no less important today for the continuing advancement of mankind says technical report writing expert Elaine Matchett, who shares her beliefs on the significance of record keeping.

The purpose of a technical report is to maintain a written record of the work done by professionals as a reference for future generations according to linguistics specialist Elaine Matchett. "Reports are written to inform, explain, evaluate, define, update and/or suggesttechnical information?.

She goes on to say that the ability to produce a succinct technical report should not be limited to doctors or engineers but is necessary for anyone who operates within a specialised field.

The success of a technical report can be determined by the interpretation and understanding of the reader, advises Matchett. When readers walk away with questions like "what is he talking about or why didn?t she mention that? somewhere the meaning and point of the report has been lost in translation.

Poor language structure is another common error found amongst technical report writers.

Elaine says it is the responsibility of the writer to ?recreate the picture of understanding in the mind of the reader?, in effect to fill in the gaps that heavy jargon and ill-constructed sentences often create.

"The report must be an accurate, purposeful document that is satisfying for your readers to read?.

Many well-intentioned writers fall short because the techniques adopted during their training failed to focus on "the art of writing? says Matchett.

Conversely there are writers who have an indolent attitude toward compiling reports, whose sole objective is to "get it done?.

Both groups are in danger of damaging the contribution that the discovery, idea or event was intended to have on society.

"Moments and events come and go and for that reason it is necessary to capture an event for posterity, communication and to keep as a permanent record.?

Elaine drives home the point with the example of medical discoveries. " if a doctor finds a new way of reattaching the hand of a patient, the methodology would need to be recorded or the doctor would have to walk around with the hand and the patient all day? she says jokingly.

The analogy may be extreme but the message is simple, technical report writers have the power to impact the world with their words.

While the difference between technical reports and ordinary business reports are minor, at their coreboth stem from the desire to clearly present information and maintain a record, Elaine concedes that distinctions may occur in format and layout, which are important. Technical reports are not meant to be boring? says Elaine.
While the intention should not be to "jazz it up? the work can be presented in an interesting way to the reader. In order to write an engaging piece "the writer needs to be passionate about the subject?.

The Technical Report Writing course which she presents is designed to assist technical writers in producing well structured reports that appeal to the reader.
Elaine Matchett is a trained professional who understands the importance of good writing in technical fields because she?s done it herself. Her qualifications include a Master?s degree in Linguistics and her experience in both the health and education sectors helps her to know what is needed to write an effective, comprehensive technical report.


The 2-day Technical Report Writing training course on the 14th and 15th November 2011 will be presented by Alusani Skills and Training Network. This course will cover in detail the skills required to explain any concepts to non-technical readers using clear, straightforward and simple explanations. For more information call 011 447 7470, email faith @alusani.co.za or visit the website Alusani

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