Affectation in Technical Writing

Affectation is the use of language that is more complicated, formal, technical, or flashy than it should be. It takes the author away from the main idea of technical writing: to communicate in a clear, simple, and understandable way. That does not contribute to creating informative and efficient documentation. Readers have to spend more time and effort to get to the sense.

That`s what can cause affectation:

  • Excessive use of professional terms, jargon, buzzwords
  • Deliberate use of suffixes and prefixes that do not bear any specific meaning (official — officialese)
  • Deliberate use of more formal and complicated words rather than simple ones
  • Excessive use of synonyms

What are the reasons for affectation in technical writing?

  • Lack of confidence  the author may be unconfident in the facts, conclusions, train of thought — whatever. Affectation helps to hide it behind the ambitious words. Another thing that makes authors unconfident is their lack of experience (lack of experience in the sphere of writing in general or lack of experience in a highly specific field of writing). Affectation helps them feel more qualified and so to say protect themselves from unfavorable judgments. They try to prove that they are real professionals by using as many professional terms as possible though it may be unreasonable.
  • Impressing the reader — the author may be eager to astonish the readers, to attract their attention to the importance of the document and the theme revealed. It always negatively affects the clarity of the document. Facts, logic, and conclusions may hit readers in a more effective way.
  • Imitation of other authors` styles — we tend to imitate the people we often communicate with. That is a widely spread tendency. Do you have a specific writing style in your company? What is considered to be correct and what is not? Sometimes we use affectation without even noticing it. Choose time to analyze your style. Are you sure you cannot create documentation of high quality in a simpler manner?

Being an author makes you responsible for what and how you write. Sometimes less means more. This principle is the basic one on the way to high-quality documentation. Less words may contain more sense.

How do you avoid redundancy in writing and what is redundancy in technical writing from your point of view?

Have a nice day!

Bradley Nice, Content Manager at — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors


Bradley Nice


Bradley Nice

Content Manager at ?. I write about web design, web development and technical writing. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook
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