DSST Technical Writing Practice Questions Answer Key
1. B: Use passive sentence construction. A common misconception regarding technical writing is that the audience expects text to be written at a high level. Technical writing is not science writing, but a way to explain technical information to the targeted audience. In this regard, Answer A emphasizes that a technical writer should use common terms to explain technical terms and should avoid jargon. While most instructional technical writing is written in an active voice, Answer B addresses the common error, using a passive voice, found in other types of technical writing. Answers C and D address common goals of technical writing. the use of the ‘be’ verb and the use of concise versus flowery language.
3. C: Audience analysis is a key component of targeted technical writing. It is important to know the target audience with its reading and comprehension demographics, including education and prior experience with the topic/product as described in answers A and B. An audience’s education level helps inform language and sentence structure choices to match an appropriate readability level. Prior experience with a product or topic informs choices for examples. It is not; however, appropriate to use other similar products’ documentation as a reference or resource, as described in Answer C.
4. B: Each target audience has a different readability level and this level should not be assumed. Hence, Answer A is incorrect, as is Answer D. A standard readability level formula should be used, but one formula is not considered to be better than another, though some types of technical writing specifications may require a particular formula.
5. D: It is important for technical writers to consider the multicultural audience or translational aspects of their documentation. Many cultures do not read from left to right (Answer A), and while text can be adjusted, a graphic that should be interpreted by reading from left to right could convey the opposite meeting to an audience that reads from right to left. Color (Answer B) also carries different associations in different countries, and different cultures have different color preferences. Hand and finger gestures have different meanings in different cultures (Answer C). In some cultures, it is offensive to depict body parts associated with sexual activity (Answer D). For these audiences, an alternative is to use a generic outline of a human body and an arrow to indicate the body part under discussion.
6. D: When defining terms, it is important to offer the correct level of information for the intended audience. For a nontechnical audience, it is important to not substitute one technical term with another, even if the substitute word seems like it is a common or familiar term, such as in Answer A, whereas the more familiar but still not descriptive word ‘tumor’ is used to define neoplasm. Answer B represents defining a term that may be self-explanatory, cyclopia (one-eyed) with an even more technical term, ‘archencephaly’. Answer C is an example of using a common medical term ‘analgesic’ instead of a more common description ‘pain reliever.’ While adding pain reliever in parentheses is helpful, the sentence is still more ‘technical’ than Answer D, where no unnecessary technical terms are used.
7. B: It is important for a technical writer to understand how a user will use a particular product (Answer A), but also how intuitive the use of the product will be for the targeted user (Answer C). It is not helpful to go into extensive detail about the value a product has for a user, because that is a marketing strategy (Answer B). In addition, if the user is upgrading to a newer version of the same product, the writer can assume he has a working knowledge of the older product and can refer the user to the previously released instructions (Answer D).
8. D: It is important for a technical writer to check the validity of data used in a report, but it is not the responsibility of the technical writer to generate data or verify that the data were analyzed correctly (Answer D). However, a technical writer should ensure that the source of the data is credible and that any potential bias in the data is clearly identified (Answers A, B, and C). For example, if the data are from a mining company regarding their record of toxic spills, the technical writer should identify that the source of the data is from the mining company, not an independent source such as a governmental oversight committee.
9. D: D is correct as it includes only sources considered to be unbiased and in-depth. Answer I (expert testimony from an educational institute) and Answer II (recent studies published in trade journals) are correct. Validating source information is a critical component of technical writing. Media sources such as newspapers, radio, TV, magazines, Internet discussion groups, blogs, and websites may only report on surface information without in-depth research or reporting (Answer V). While trade and industry sources may be more in-depth (Answer VI), they also may only report information that supports their position and thus present a biased source of information. Scientific journals that are peer-reviewed are considered valid sources of data, but trade journals potentially contain bias (Answer II). Government specialists (Answer IV) unassociated with a particular trade or industry is more likely to offer objective sources of in-depth information. Industry reports have the potential for bias (Answer VI) Answer A) lists two credible in-depth sources and one potentially biased source, a trade journal. It is important for technical writers to know the difference between a trade journal and a scientific journal. Answer B) leaves out the government source. It is important for technical writers to understand that government sources are considered unbiased, in-depth sources of information. Answer C) lists accurate sources of information, but all except the EPA could contain biased reporting. Answer D) is correct as it includes only sources considered to be unbiased and in-depth.
10. C: Answer II provides recommendations for next steps. Answer VI provides a summary of general department activities. A progress report is an important document required for every project. It should be specific to the project and follow the project’s plan. Answers I, II, III, and V are essential components of a project plan. Answer II is not within the scope of the progress report. Next steps are already outlined in the project plan. It is a common misconception that a progress report should include recommendations for change in a project plan. Answer V also falls outside of the scope of most progress reports. Answer VI is part of an activity report, not a project progress report.