Clear Technical Writing
Clear Phrasing

Turgid Times

Words to use

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

They cleaned the glassware prior to the experiment. They are currently boiling the solution. Subsequently, they will measure the concentration of contaminants.

When the timing of events is not our main topic, we should keep it simple.

They cleaned the glassware before the experiment. They are now boiling the solution. Later they will measure the concentration of contaminants.

Past, present, and future are simple concepts. We can describe them with simple words.

first ← initial; preliminary

earlier ← previous

before ← previous to

at the same time ← simultaneously

now ← at present

during ← concurrently with

soon ← in the near future

next ← subsequent

then ← thereafter

after ← subsequent to

later ← at some future date

last ← final

Words to avoid

Experts and those who think they are experts do not all share the same definitions for certain words.

The Scotsmen are presently grumbling about the Englishmen who will arrive presently.

The Scotsmen are now grumbling about the Englishmen who will arrive soon.

The issue was timely resolved because of their timely arrival.

The issue was opportunely resolved because of their early arrival.

Be careful with these two words. Better yet, don't use them. It's not worth it.

Edit your writing by underlining formal time references.

Initially the temperature rises. We recorded preliminary results. They tested both samples concurrently. At some future date, we will summarize our findings.

Lesson: Turgid Times
Module: Clear Phrasing
Course: Clear Technical Writing