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The Writing Timeline

Writing is a process both linear and recursive. It is linear because effective writers construct documents in well-defined and ordered stages. It is also recursive, however, because at any point an author may need to return to a previous stage.

Starting to Write

The first stage is concerned with planning and document design and may or may not be collaborative . Identify the purpose of the document by clarifying both the reasons for its creation and its specific objectives . Often, technical and scientific documents are written as answers to a specific problem, which is articulated in a problem statement .

Technical and scientific documents are tools designed to be used by their readers. Accordingly, define your audience --the person or persons who will be reading the document. Then determine your audience's level of expertise and their purpose in using the document . It is also important to assess the attitude of the audience toward both you and the document's subject matter.

Once you have identified the document's purpose and audience , you should be able to determine the document's general type and specific format elements .

Organizing Material

Once you have defined the purpose , the problem , the audience , and document type, assemble your information. Sketch out a preliminary outline to organize it. Keeping purpose and audience in mind, sketch out graphics , such as tables , to display your data. Take care to give your reader a roadmap of the document.


Like other stages, drafting may be collaborative . In any event, using your outline and preliminary graphics , write a first draft, a rough working version in which you get your ideas on paper. At this point in the process, do not be overly concerned about grammar, style, or usage. However, make sure that important reference information is available and that you follow a format appropriate to your document's type and purpose . Include graphics to illustrate and condense the information in your document.


Revision is not correcting grammatical errors or changing a few words; it is "re-seeing" your writing. If possible, put your first draft away for a day or two. Then, revise your document in three stages. First, check that the paper's format conforms to the conventions for its document type . Next revise for organization . Finally, bearing in mind document density , revise the content . Be certain that you have given proper credit to your sources and, if pertinent, that you have followed an appropriate citation style .


Edit paragraphs and sentences to make them easier to read by improving their clarity , conciseness , and coherence . Check that your choice of words is appropriate to the document's purpose and audience . Then correct any problems in grammar , including parts of speech , sentence parts , or types of sentences ; usage ; punctuation ; mechanics ; and spelling . Writers who are bilingual or not native speakers of English often need to perform a separate edit to catch specific types of problems in grammar and usage.


The last major step for most technical documents is one or more reviews . Writers of most technical and scientific documents ask peers to review their manuscripts for accuracy , clarity , coherence , and appropriateness . In many cases, a technical expert will review the document for technical content. An editor may review the document to ensure that it conforms to the organization's style and to correct any remaining problems. There may be legal reviews as well. Finally, a supervisor or a manager may review the document to ensure that it achieves the organization's purpose and is appropriate to the audience .

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