By Raymond Palma

Choosing the Right Words and Phrases

Level of Formality:

Essentially when you write something technical you can approach it with three level of appropriate writing.

  1. Informal: The new Galaxy 3 cell phone is the best smart phone on the market and you can’t beat the price.
  2. Moderately formal writing: The new Galaxy s20 smartphone uses Google’s Android 10 operating system, and it comes with all the best built-in apps and widgets.
  3. Highly Formal: The new Galaxy s20 smartphone uses Google’s OS Android 10 and it comes with the most popular 30 apps and widgets which combined with its CPU Speed 2.73 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 12GB of Ram and a display resolution of 3200 x 1440 makes it the best buy for smartphone.

The best level of formality is to use a moderate level so that you can talk about specs while catering to readers sense of passion for the product by using key words and phrases.

Always thing of the audience when writing something technical.

For instance, you would write something more formal to a retired community of specific professional than you would to a college group of professional where you would use less formal writing.  You would also use more formal writing when in other cultures while writing something in your own culture you can be less formal.

Consider the subject matter as well.  You would write more formally when addressing serious issues than you would about writing about something that doesn’t have as much level of importance.  So if you were writing about an accident it would not be the same language as you would use to describe a comedy show.

The purpose of your writing will also dictate how you write.  So if you were to prepare a report for an executive of a company it would be in form writing, conversely if you were a similar report for consumers it would be less formal and more conversational.

Some of the pitfall for writing informally is that you can come off as unintelligent and that you don’t care enough about the subject you are writing about.

Use these 7 guidelines when deciding how and what to write:

  1. Use active and passive voice appropriately:  an active sentence would be, “Ray is speaking to the class about chapter 10.”  While a passive way of saying the same thing is, “Today during class Ray is speaking about chapter 10.”  An Active Voice focuses on the subject of the sentence while passive language talks more about the things related to the subject.


  1. Be specific: So when you write something technical, use precise words, details and avoid ambiguity.    For instance, “this Galaxy 3 is a phone” but the better way of describing this phone is to call it “a smart cell phone.”  If you were just to say phone, you could be describing a landline or a cell phone that is just a simple flip phone.   So by using precise words, you are taking away anything else a reader will be thinking.


You must provide adequate details as well.   A vague statement is this:  “this phone has some great features.”    While a clear statement is this:  “this galaxy 3 smart cellphone is build-in with the most popular apps and widgets on the market.”


If you don’t have specific data, you should make approximations and tell readers you are doing so.  For instance, “this Galaxy 3 smartphone uses nearly 30 apps and widgets.”  Here instead of saying 30 apps, we use the word nearly because we are not certain it is 30 apps, it could be a little more or a less than 30.


3. Avoid Jargon or language slang as it can be mean different things to different people. If you say something is fat it has two meanings.  It can mean something is

large in size or it can mean that something is very cool.   If you say, “after you work is complete you can dip.”  In this sentence does dip mean you can leave?  But dip is also

a form of dance.  So after the work is done does a person leave or do, they do a form of a dance.


  1. Use Positive Constructions: Positive construction is basically describing what something is rather than what it is not.

So, you would want to say, “many of the people” instead of “almost all of the people” and

instead of saying “can hardly do it” you would want to say,” it’s difficult”.

  1. Avoid Long Noun Strings: For instance, if you say: “this galaxy 3 smartphone serves the demanding needs of people who are dependent on devices longing for communication and real-time needs.  That is a confusing sentence.   But if you say, “this galaxy 3 smartphone helps people who have demanding schedules and who need to be in constant communication.”


  1. Avoid Clichés: If you are trying to convey that stands out clichés are overused and it will not give a strong, distinguishable impression.


  1. Avoid Euphemism. Euphemism is a way to describe something that uses wording in uncomfortable situation.  For instance, if you were talking on your cell phone during class the teacher could say, “I need your undivided attention.”  When it is better for the teacher to say, “do not talk on the cell during class.”

When writing use nonsexist language.  For instance, when you write a job description make sure you do not assume a woman will be a secretary and use the word, she or her when describing her duties.  Conversely, when you write a manual for a doctor, don’t assume it’s a male and use the word him or he.

Since I myself have been looking for a new field what I’ve seen is this:  instead of not referring to either sex they include both, they will say he or she will produce the products, or he or her will compile the data.  To me what I don’t like about these ads is that instead of including both sexes by using he, him or her, she, they can simply use the word they.

Use non-offensive Language when Referring to People with Disabilities:  For instance, use the phase, “people with mental retardation, not “the mentally retarded.”  Or use the phase, “a person with AIDS not “an AIDS victim.”

Use simply correct English so that people in other cultures can understand what you are saying.  For instance, if you were writing what steps to take in a workplace being hazardous because of chemical spill, do not write, “drop what you are doing and call 911.”   A non-English person might assume you drop the chemical and then they might not understand what 911 means.  So instead, you should write, “stop working and call for the police for emergency assistance.”