Technical Writing Tips
KISS - Keep It Simple and Short
- Remove redundant words and phrases from sentences.
- Do not repeat yourself.
- Avoid colorful language and adjectives.
Lead the Reader
- Direct the reader through your text using subtle or not-so subtle guides.
- Paragraphs should "flow" together in text.
- A paragraph should have an opening sentence representative of its general contents and often have a
closing sentence to summarize the paragraph discussion.
- Organize your presentation into sections such as introduction, motivation, background, topic related
sections, and conclusion.
- Try to avoid directly referring to the reader such as "Let us examine ..." or "As you will
Be Intelligent but not Too Smart
- Use more technical and descriptive words whenever appropriate, but do not use a thesaurus just to
Use Bold and Italics Productively
- Bold and italics are intended to draw a readers attention, so do not abuse them.
- Use bold/italics for definitions or important words in text. Example: "An object consists of
attributes and methods."
- Underline is rarely used.
- Unnecessary Capitalization - Do not capitalize terms in sentence unless they are proper names.
- "Because ..." - Do not start a sentence with because. Re-arrange your sentence so because is
not needed or substitute "Since ..." or "Due to ...".
- Avoid Contractions - Do not use contractions such as "let's" (let us) and "that's" (that
- Avoid Self-References - If possible, do not use "I" in the text. Change the sentence to avoid
a self-reference or substitute "we" if appropriate.
- Dangling "This" - Do not abuse "this" to substitute for a topic in discussion. "For example,
this is a bad situation because the sentence is ambiguous." Replace "this" with the item being described
such as "Using the word 'this' inappropriately results in a bad situation because the sentence may be
- Define Before Use - For terms and abbreviations, please define before use (DBU). Otherwise,
the reader may not understand the concept or abbreviation if you do not DBU.
- New Paragraphs - As a general rule, split larger paragraphs into two or more paragraphs if the
topics described are sufficiently distinct.
- "Further" Instead of "Also" - Replace "Also" with "Further" to start a sentence.
- Be Consistent with Terms - If you define a term, abbreviation, or proper name, be consistent
in its spelling, use, and capitalization throughout the text.
- Dangling Headers - Do not have text headers end a page followed by no text. Similarly, try to
avoid lines of text with only one or two words at the end of a paragraph.
- Title Capitalization Rule - Headings should be capitalized (i.e., nouns, verbs, and all other
words except articles, prepositions, and conjunctions should be set with an initial capital) and should,
with the exception of the title, be aligned to the left. Words joined by a hyphen are subject to a
special rule. If the first word can stand alone, the second word should be capitalized.
Here are some examples of headings: "Criteria to Disprove Context-Freeness of Collage Languages", "On
Correcting the Intrusion of Tracing Non-deterministic Programs by Software", "A User-Friendly and
Extendable Data Distribution System", "Multi-flip Networks: Parallelizing GenSAT".
- 'An' versus 'A':
- 'That' versus 'Which' - 'That' should be preferentially used instead of 'which'.
This page was compiled by Dr. Ramon Lawrence, Professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia - Okanagan Campus and founder of UnityJDBC.