Clear Technical Writing
Clear Phrasing

Inflated Quantities

Words to use

The clarity of our technical writing suffers when we use formal words and phrases to describe approximate quantities.

We had numerous files to download. The connection speed was in the area of 10 Mbps. They verified that the bulk of the downloaded data has been stored.

When we want to be clear, we should keep it simple.

We had many files to download. The connection speed was about 10 Mbps. They verified that most of the downloaded data has been stored.

Approximate quantities are simple concepts. We can describe them with simple words.

about ← in the range of

at least ← minimum of

greater than ← in excess of

largest ← maximum

many ← large number of

most ← major portion of

much ← a great deal

smallest ← minimum size

some of ← a portion of

Words to avoid

1. The word sufficient means enough to meet the needs of a situation.

When you declare that something is sufficient, you are making a judgment. This is a formal-sounding word, and it can too often sound judgmental. A simple alternative is the first word in the definition, enough. Yes, it's still a judgment, but it's not formal and it does not sound as judgmental.

2. The words optimum and optimal are often used to mean most favorable, or most satisfactory.

We mixed ingredients until an optimum was reached. It was the optimal dosage of medication for the patient.

When you mean best, just say it.

Edit your writing by underlining quantity references that could be simplied.

We had hoped for a considerably shorter turnaround time, but he is looking for the optimum solution. He will spend 100 percent of his time on the project. Despite using in-house resourses to the maximum extent possible, he may spend in excess of $2 million.

Lesson: Inflated Quantities
Module: Clear Phrasing
Course: Clear Technical Writing