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To-Do List (Technical Writing Exercise)

Business Writing Exercise

Business Writing Exercise

One of the rules of good technical writing goes, “Always include a paragraph of normal body text after every heading.”

Paragraphs in tech writing are allowed to be pretty short (which is to say, a sentence can do), but that rule is a pretty fast one. If you have a section heading, you ought to immediately follow it with a paragraph introducing the contents of the section.

Why does this matter? Tables and lists. A lot of the time it’s tempting to let our headings do the work for us, so if you’ve got a list of required materials, it’s all too easy to drop in a boldface “Required Materials” and then hit enter and start building the list. Most of the time, it’s worth taking a moment to give some context to the list. Tell the reader how it’s organized, tell the reader what assumptions you made when compiling the list, tell the reader what to do with the items in the list.

That’s what this rule is all about, and it’s one you need to start practicing. We’re going to get that practice this week with a good old-fashioned To-Do List. Make a list of all the projects you’re working on right now, all the stuff you need to get done, but spend some time formatting it and packing in information to make it useful to a reader other than you.

Divide your to-do list into at least three categories. Give a brief introductory paragraph at the beginning (probably just explaining you’re doing this because of this exercise), and then include section headers for each of the categories. Follow these headers with some sort of introduction to each section, and then include your list items.

This is some fantastic practice. It’s also a great opportunity to brag to the world about all the things you’ve got going on. Share your To Do list with us on the discussion board, or even right here in the comments.

2 Responses to “To-Do List (Technical Writing Exercise)”

  1. Nicki says:

    Nicki’s To-Do List

    Here are a few things I have going on besides the routine childcare, work, and home activities.

    Bible Class:
    In our young-marrieds Bible class on Sunday Shawn, a member of that group, presented a short lesson on Study and its meaning and purpose as Christians. Then he proposed a change in the format of our class and asked if we’d all be willing to study Scripture at home and share ideas in class to help move our collective Bible study into more mature realms. We compiled a list of topics and selected one of my suggestions for the next 1-2 weeks. The topic I suggested was The Daily Walk, or, how to bring God to the center of living, specifically as it pertains to raising children. During the sermon I jotted down several ideas, and I’m looking forward to studying with Kris later the week (possibly as late as Saturday).

    Just Between Friends Sale:
    JBF is a nationwide consignment company that hosts a large sale at the State Fair twice a year. This Spring I’ve signed up as a seller to get rid of some spare clothing and toys, many of which I’ve purchased at past JBF sales. I have to decide what’s going, make sure it’s clean and presentable, enter the sale tags online, and print and affix the tags to all the items. I drop off everything on March 22, so there is a definite deadline for this project. I’m hoping to make enough money to at least make up for the “new” stuff I’m sure to buy at the sale.

    Physician Assistant National Recertification Exam:
    This is the PANRE for short, which is not nearly as fun to pronouce as the PANCE that I took when I first became a PA. To keep one’s national certification a PA takes this exam every 6 years. However, one can take the exam in the 5th year after certifying without expiration penalty. I’ve taken the practice exam online, and even though it’s 2/5 as long as the actual exam, I was pleasantly surprised with my results. I’ve gotten an updated medical encyclopedia and I just need to start the process of studying in my free time at work. I have a tentative plan to take the exam in the early fall.

    Marriage Book:
    Kris and I have started reading a marriage-enrichment book together. The first two nights we read one chapter together each night and had time for discussion. Then the weekend came and we sort of lost track! We hope to finish the book and put it into practice as soon as possible.

    The Y:
    I have been aware for awhile that I need some focused physical activity to help with stress relief. Yesterday I joined the YMCA and went to an aerobics/strength training class at the Trails location. Last night my back was killing me and today it’s my legs (it’s been since fall 2008 that I worked out with any regularity). I’m thinking I will take it a little slower and try a plain aerobics class with some weights or core training on my own.

    As I compiled this list I realized I have more things going on than I thought, which I feel is a positive thing. I am especially excited about the spiritual activities but I also pray I meet with success in the deadline-oriented projects.

  2. Aaron Pogue says:

    Excellent work, Nicki! Thanks for sharing with us!

    Are you going to share it on your blog, too? You’ve already done all this work, might as well get a free post out of it. While you’re at it, you might try highlighting your section headings (“Bible Class,” “Just Between Friends Sale,” etc.), and setting them as Heading 3, so they’ll stand out more. Chances are good that will look great on your blog’s theme.