Composing Effective Technical Definitions

shared by ISUComm on October 15, 2014

Activity Summary:

This presentation and activity will introduce students to the genre of Technical Definitions


Technical definitions are common throughout many genres of technical communication. They can range in length from short, simple sentences all the way up to multi-page documents. At some point in 314, you will want to discuss with students how to write definitions, and you can use this brief presentation and activity to teach them.

The activity at the end of the presentation requires no materials; students will simply need a pen and paper. Much of the content in this presentation is derived from Richard Johnson-Sheehan’s Technical Communication Today textbook.

The presentation covers the following:

  • The structure or formula for simple technical definitions
  • Practices for writing effective technical definitions
  • Approaches to keeping language visual (shape, color, texture, analogy)
  • An activity that asks students to compose simple definitions for common objects, using the formula discussed in the presentation.