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A technical definition is a definition in technical communication describing or explaining technical terminology. Technical definitions are used to introduce the vocabulary which makes communication in a particular field succinct and unambiguous. (For example, the iliac crest from medical terminology is the top ridge of the hip bone. (See ilium.))
Types of technical definitions
There are three main types of technical definitions.
- Parenthetical definitions
- Sentence definitions
- Extended definitions
Parenthetical definition are used to introduce words by using a synonym or short description immediately after the word. The synonym or description usually delimited by parenthesis (hence the definition) or commas.
Aniline, a benzene ring with an amine group, is a versatile chemical used in many organic syntheses.
The genus Helogale (dwarf mongooses) contains two species.
These definitions generally appear in three different places: within the text, in margin notes, or in a glossary. Regardless of position in the document, most sentence definitions follow the basic form of term, category, and distinguishing features.
- term: major scale
- category: diatonic scales
- distinguishing features: semitone interval pattern 2-2-1-2-2-2-1
In mathematics, an abelian group is a group which is commutative.
- term: abelian group
- category: mathematical groups
- distinguishing features: commutative
When a term needs to be explained in great detail and precision, an extended definition is used. They can range in size from a few sentences to many pages. Shorter ones are usually found in the text, and lengthy definitions are placed in a glossary.
Encyclopedias are full of extended definitions. Most of the pages on Wikipedia are extended definitions, and you are reading one right now.
- Johnson-Sheehan, R: "Technical Communication Today", pages 507-522. Pearson Longman, 2007