Writing Technical Explanations for Non-technical Readers

Course Lessons

Lesson 1. Communicate technical subjects clearly to non–technical readers.
Lesson 2. Provide information that suits the reader’s knowledge of the subject, educational background, technical expertise, need for concrete explanations, and need for depth of knowledge.
Lesson 3. Include everything every intended reader needs to achieve your objectives.
Lesson text
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Competency Examination 1
Lesson 4. Give readers the information they need at the specific points where they need it for maximum understanding.
Lesson 5. When readers have differing needs or abilities, write different versions of the document or sections within the document to match the readers’ needs and abilities.
Lesson text
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Lesson 6. Write the information in clearly defined information blocks that the reader can read, understand, and remember, one block at a time.
Lesson 7. For each information block, write an explicit opening statement the reader can use to begin putting the block’s details into a framework.
Competency Examination 2
Lesson 8. Present information in a clear visual blueprint so readers can see the organization as they read.
Lesson 9. Use tables to organize the information so readers can place the details into a clear framework.
Lesson text
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Lesson 10. Use key terms consistently.
Lesson 11. Fully explain the concept behind every new key term as the reader encounters it.
Lesson text
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Lesson 12. Have a clear focus for the entire document and for each block in the document.
Competency Examination 3
Lesson 13. Write clear, focused, organized paragraphs that help readers identify, understand, and remember concepts.
Lesson 14. Write sentences that are complete, simple, clear, and straightforward.
Lesson 15. Use only simple punctuation.
Lesson 16. Use words every intended reader will understand.
Competency Examination 4

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

Training Procedures


Proceeding through the Course

To the left is a list of the lessons in this course. Proceed through the lessons at your own pace. Submit assignments as required in the lessons. If a lesson does not ask you to submit an assignment, you are not required to submit anything for the lesson. Go through the course following this procedure.

  1. Read the lesson text. To read the lesson text, click on the “Lesson text” link beneath the name of the lesson in the left column. In this right window, you will see the text from the book that explains the best practice and the page numbers on which the text appears. Click on the “Lesson text” link that is below “1. Communicate technical subjects clearly to non–technical readers” in the left window now to see the statement and book text. Click on the “Return to Menu” button to return to this page.Read the text carefully, thinking about how you will apply the best practice in your own writing. You must demonstrate your competence in applying the skills in the competency exam you will come to after Lesson 3.
  2. Complete the activities. The second link in the row of links beneath each lesson name accesses activities that will appear in this right window. The activities have you apply the skills to writing tasks. Use them to gain mastery so you are able to demonstrate your competence in the exams that follow. Some of the activities ask you to submit writing samples to your instructor for feedback. Some activities ask you to write text, then compare it to an example answer to help you learn how to apply the best practice; you will not submit those practice activities to your instructor.
  3. Complete the competency examinations. The course contains four competency examinations. Follow the instructions with each competency examination for submitting your competency examination to your instructor. Your instructor will evaluate your competence in all the best practices that were explained prior to the competency examination, including those you have already demonstrated in previous competency examinations. If your instructor determines you have not demonstrated competence, you will be asked to study the lessons and submit another competency examination demonstrating your mastery of the skills. As a result, you will graduate from the course with a grade of “A” because you will be competent in every best practice.You may continue in the lessons while waiting for the instructor’s evaluation.