Online Classroom

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I. Introduction

A. Definition and uses

Definition is a special technique in writing used in clarifying the meaning of a term. Since technical writing uses terms that are simple, concrete, and familiar, it is used in defining special, new, and job-specific terms.

Special terms are terms that simple, concrete, and familiar but have several meanings in different fields or instances. The term “line,” for instance, is has different meanings to engineers, poets, fishermen, and businessmen. It has to be defined operationally in a technical paper.

New terms are those that are used with the introduction of new machines, methods, and the like. The term “laser,” for instance, was used with the introduction of a machine that performs light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.

Job-specific terms are those that are unique to certain groups of people. For instance, “lava” is unique to volcanologists and the like.

In research report writing, it is used in defining the variables and related terms.

B. Types of definition

According to structure, definitions may be classified into sentence definition and paragraph (amplified) definition. Sentence definitions are further grouped into formal and informal definitions

Formal definitions are those with fixed parts, namely:

1. the term to be defined,
2. the class to where the term belongs, and
3. the differentiating characteristics, or characteristics that distinguish the term from all other terms belonging to the same class.

Informal definitions are those that have no fixed parts. Synonyms, for instance, are considered informal definitions.

Paragraph or amplified definitions are used in amplifying or further clarifying the meaning as stated in sentence definitions.

II. Contents and Organization

The contents for a formal definition are its fixed parts arranged as they are usually written.

The contents of paragraph definition depend upon the methods used in amplifying a sentence definition. “Water cycle,” for example, have “stages” as its contents, which are arranged chronologically.

III. Mechanics

A. Formal definition

In writing formal definitions, the following rules may help:

1. Put the term into a class.
2. The class must be small enough but adequate.
3. Make the differentiating characteristics precise.
4. Do not define a term by mere repetition.
5. Use simpler and more familiar terms.

B. Paragraph or Amplified Definitions

The following methods are used in amplifying sentence definitions:

1. Analysis
2. Cause and Effect
3. Classification
4. Comparison and Contrast (Negative statement)
5. Derivation
6. Description
7. Examples and incidents
8. Process


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