Comments on Manuscript Preparation

Comments on Manuscript Preparation

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0237-3.ch005


According to one study of the fastest growing areas of employment, desktop publishing was going to experience a 67% increase in the number of employees from the year 2000 to the year 2010, adding about 25,000 new workers (Bear, 2010). And, in an update of that study, it was noted that job growth in this field has slowed some in part because many employers expect all employees to possess good writing skills. There is a great demand for good writers and specifically technical writers. Among other things, professional writers inform people about new products, produce documentation for software, edit manuals, write books, and develop grant proposals. Nearly all people who work in a science-related field or with computers write a great deal. Since writing is a large facet of many jobs, it is important to write well and efficiently. This chapter will help to improve one’s writing skills and writing habits.
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Getting Started And Staying Productive

In this chapter we describe how to get started writing and stay productive on a manuscript. One frequently hears that a student is suffering from writer’s block. With discipline and technique one can remain productive. We present the Laws of Writing and how to develop an effective outline. We discuss a wide variety of writing issues relating to prose. As throughout the book, we try to present practical techniques that one can employ immediately to improve one’s writing. Next we present material covering a wide range of style issues, including symbols, notation, and typesetting computer code. Sometimes in trying to get across difficult concepts to an audience, it is important to include figures and tables. Thus we include a section covering these items, plus make general remarks about preparing captions for figures and tables. Rather than trying to produce a comprehensive guide on grammar, we stress key problem areas such as articles, comma usage, hyphens and dashes, plural nouns, pronouns, Roman numerals, accents and special characters, ellipses, and quotations. We also include a section on miscellaneous writing details. There we discuss many topics including acronyms, double negatives, parallelism, and constructs to avoid in formal writing, among others. Let us begin with the section on getting started on and staying productive during a writing project.


Spending time on the preparation stage of technical writing has great value. The initial quality of a document may limit its potential for success in its final form. Suppose we jump into a writing project without first knowing the audience, purpose, background, or conducting the appropriate research. Such a project is almost certain to fail. If our initial draft reads really poorly, it will be virtually impossible to transform that document into a really-good manuscript, regardless of how much editing one does. In some cases it is probably best to simply start over entirely, but, of course, this approach does not result in high productivity or efficient writing. Although preparation is essential, it is necessary at some point to begin producing material that will go into the finished document. There is a balance to be maintained between preparation and actually writing. But, one must put “ink to paper” for if there is no true start, there can be no end.

Later in this chapter we will talk in detail about one of the important stages in the writing process, namely editing. During the editing process some items produced during the early stages of writing may be removed entirely. Other items may be modified and maintained. The important point is to produce good-quality work on an ongoing basis or improve upon what one already has. In order to meet deadlines and finish writing projects, it is necessary to stay productive throughout the entire writing process. One must be disciplined about writing. From the beginnings with a blank “sheet of paper” to a finished manuscript, one should strive to produce quality material at every stage. At times it will be necessary to put something down on “paper,” but one should always try to make that something be content that reads well.

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