Comparing Informal & Formal Technical Reports Video

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  • 0:00 What Is Technical Writing?
  • 0:56 Informal Technical Reports
  • 2:28 Formal Technical Reports
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Being able to compose both formal and informal technical reports is a crucial part of any role with an organization. In this lesson, we look at the difference, focusing on both oral and written reports.

What Is Technical Writing?

When you were in school, chances are you read literature. From poetry to novels, the language is supposed to be pretty. In fact, you probably learned that some writers wrote most clearly when they really wanted to drive home a visceral point that the reader would not forget. Now, that's something we can use in technical writing! Technical writing refers to all forms of writing that exist to simply inform someone how to do something. Most often, we think of it as writing manuals for engineers or doctors, but the truth is that everything from a recipe to a resume is considered technical writing. In this lesson, we'll take a look at the two major sub-fields of technical writing: formal technical writing and informal technical reports, as well as examples of each.

Informal Technical Reports

Let's say that you work in a test kitchen figuring out if cookbook recipes are really all that easy to follow. You like your job, as you get to cook all day and, best of all, you get to eat anything that turns out well. However, recipes are rarely perfect. While you're eating whatever cake you've made for a particular recipe, you are expected to write a brief report to the chef about what went well and what didn't. In other words, you are performing informal technical writing. Informal technical writing is that writing that gets to the point of a situation without regard to it being read by individuals outside of whom it is addressed. So, what does that actually mean? When the chef receives your report, she isn't going to publish it. Instead, she will make the required changes and simply file it away. The report itself didn't have to be perfect - in fact, sometimes they are written in bullet points! It is simply the easiest way to get information from one person to another.

Most often, this sort of user report is the common form of informal technical writing that we think of, but the truth is that most writing that the average person does for their jobs is really informal technical writing. Many schools, for example, require teachers to record the events of any parent-teacher conference. These are an excellent example of informal technical writing. Additionally, informal technical reports don't even have to be written! Calling a client to give them an update on the progress of a project is an example of an informal technical report - just the same as sending them a quick e-mail.

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