A Tip When You Write an Introduction

I’m a technical writer. A lot of SMEs have handed me drafts of their documentation to “work my magic” on. If their document has an introduction (usually a paragraph right under the first heading) I frequently have to fix the first sentence. They like to write something like this:

This document is intended to describe/show/give the instructions for operating XYZ software/machine/process.

(the words with slashes are variables)

Folks, things like instructions are tangible. Either they’re in the document or they aren’t.

Get rid of that “intended”! The document either describes/shows/gives the content or it doesn’t!

Today I ran into a document that both uses “intended” and doesn’t use “intended” correctly !

My introduction is intended to provide a motivation for what follows. The first four chapters discuss the most plentiful objects in the night sky—the stars.

See? He intends to motivate you, and actually discusses the topic. Good for him! Go thou and do likewise!

The document deserves a bit more than a line of citation. The University of Chicago Press has a program where they let you download one of their books (of their choosing) for free every month. I downloaded this book, How We See the Sky: A Naked-Eye Tour of Day and Night by Thomas Hockey in March of 2019. Here’s a link to their program. If you like to read serious books online, take a look.


PS—He could have used the active instead of passive (“intends to provide” instead of “is intended to provide”), but hey, it’s academic. They always use the passive, don’t they?