Using Logic in Scientific and Technical Writing

             

A lot of writers don't think much about writing logically and how it can affect scientific or technical writing; that is, they often simply assume that their readers will understand what they're trying to do and why. The problem with this, of course, is that our readers may not understand the point we're trying to make or why we're making it. I recently used a paragraph in a new module that we've just finished on argument; essentially, the logic of the paragraph was missing in that the writer began the paragraph by discussing that her company was a world leader in making widgets (wasn't really widgets, but have to change the product to ensure the privacy of the company). Then she went on to discuss this new technology that kept their company on the cutting edge and how the new technology would enable her company to produce the widget more quickly and easily. The issue was that the paragraph was really about the new technology, not that her company is a leading producer of widgets. So, the logic of the paragraph wasn't evident; because the paragraph began one way (that her company was a leading producer of the widget), used the fact that they had new technology to manufacture the widget as a way to infer that her company was the leading producer, and concluded with discussing that the new technology would allow the company to continue to produce the widget more quickly but with the same quality. But when we read the paragraph more closely, it became obvious to us that the paragraph was really about the technology and how that technology would allow the company to manufacture the widget more quickly but with the same quality and how this might help the company maintain its status as world producer of the widget. As you can see in the original and rewrite below, we were able to change the focus of the original paragraph so that it was on the technology and how the technology helped the company maintain its status as a world producer of widgets, rather than the other way around.

So, how do you ensure logic? Every document, indeed every paragraph, should have a premise; that is, a main idea that you want your reader to agree with; second, it should include support for that main idea; and finally, it should include reasoning, which is the "why." What brings the claim and warrant together and shows the reader why what you're telling them is important and how that reader is supposed to use the information.

Original: We are a world leader in the manufacture of widgets. We maintain this by improving current, and developing new, technologies. The new method will allow us to manufacture our widgets onsite. The widget will be manufactured with the same quality. It can be manufactured onsite at virtually any production rate.

Rewrite: The new technology we've developed to manufacture the widget is cutting-edge, as it will allow us to manufacture the widget onsite, with the same quality, and at the same production rate. Finally, the technology will help our company maintain its position as a leader in the manufacture of widgets.

Hurley Write's technical and scientific writing workshops teaches your staff on how to improve logical thinking and logical writing to create clearer, more concise, and more effective documents.