Data in technical writing: Some Questions

Subject: Data in technical writing: Some Questions
From: Fred Hone <frederickhone -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 10:06:03 -0500 (EST)


I have some questions concerning data that the long
time technical writers can help me with. Please
forgive the ignorance and naivety of my questions. I
am trying to understand a field (technical writing)
that I am not presently employed in, but am

Is data singular, plural or either/or depending on the
circumstances? IÕve tried to find a consensus in the
grammar books I have but have not been successful. Is
there a consensus in the technical writing community
despite what I read?

What is generally thought of as data?

What exactly is data? I know it is information, but
what kind. What is the nature and scope of data?

Since I am self-learning Japanese, what would a
technical writer consider to be adequate data for a
report? Or does data mean something different in
technical writing? I believe it mean the same as

I know that it is possible to have too little data,
but is it possible to have too much? How much data is
too much?
How do you decide what is the "right" quantity and
distribution of data?
Is there a way other than experience and it "feels

What is the most effective way to present data?
When are charts better than graphs, graphs better than
tables, etc.?

I realise that these questions must appear very simple
to an experienced technical writer but I do hope you
can help me figure out this part of technical writing.

Thank you very much. Have a nice day.

Frederick Hone

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