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The use of contractions in technical writing...


I have a question regarding the use of contractions when writing a technical book. The book has to do with IT and networking and is therefore directed at technical people (technicians/engineers).

Given the audience I'm writing for, is the use of contractions appropriate, or should I limit/avoid contractions in general? To me, it seems more conversational to use contractions in this type of book. Any opinions out there?




  • tkistertkister Posts: 4
    Generally speaking, you should avoid contractions in technical writing. Contractions are shortcuts, and shortcuts can add ambiguity, which is never a good thing in technical communications. It also communicates to your readers that you are taking shortcuts, which undermines the credibility of the document.

    Of course, if you have a style manual that defines a voice for your communications as informal and conversational, then it is appropriate. It all depends on what your organization defines as correct. 
  • straygoatstraygoat United KingdomPosts: 1
    I disagree with tkister's comment about credibility - that's only an issue if it conflicts with the overall tone. The other points, I agree with to a degree, but tone is the key. If your organisation wants a more open, conversational approach, then it is fine to use contractions as long as they don't introduce ambiguity. Too much technical documentation is viewed as dry, boring and disengaging. If using a more conversational style helps break down that barrier, go for it.
  • madamemooisellemadamemooiselle United StatesPosts: 4
    Hi akelsall,

    Check your company style sheet if there is one (or any style guides: Chicago Manual of Style or Gregg Reference Manual). I know that my employer does not allow contractions (even articles a, an, and the for instance) for any technical documents. I hope this helps.   
  • Only Data doesn't use contractions in engineering (and on the bridge).

    Seriously, while you should have a style manual that specifies this, I believe you want to develop content where you are talking to people, not at them. You want your content to feel comfortable and accessible, even if it is the driest of dry. To do this, you need to communicate with your users and find out what would work best for them. Some won't bat an eye at contractions in content, while for others it would be a distraciton. Find out! And if that deviates from your company style, it's time to drive some change.
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