Exercise F: Precision and Paragraph Organization

Emphasizing the bottom line with precise (and appropriate) comparisons



When comparing multiple variables in engineering it is tempting to write documents for readers that emphasize the key variables you—the engineer—worked with to derive your solution. But good technical communication is reader-oriented, meaning that it should precisely articulate your solution using key terms and ideas that your reader values and expects to find. You can achieve reader-oriented precision by focusing on your reader’s key concerns and framing the solution to foreground that solution in those terms up front, as your reader begins reading.

In engineering, emphasizing the key idea in terms that concern your audience is often achieved through writing BLUF paragraphs; BLUF paragraphs are simply those that begin with a topic sentence that puts the most important information (to your reader, not to you!) at the fore. Put another way, it gets the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF!). The remainder of the paragraph is developed to support the bottom line from the topic sentence.


Your supervisor has asked you to analyze two recycling processes to reduce costs over 12 months. Using information about the processes provided below, write one or two paragraphs to your supervisor comparing them and recommending one that your supervisor should implement.

Graphic comparing options for reducing waste and costs

As you craft your paragraph(s) and your BLUF topic sentence, consider the following:

  • What key concerns and priorities does your supervisor have?
  • How can you organize your paragraph to ensure that your recommendation is framed to address those concerns and priorities, specifically?


  1. Discuss with your team how your topic sentence clarifies the bottom line–the most important idea–and what information you chose to support that bottom line in the rest of the paragraph.
  2. With what granularity did you break down savings (By month? By year?)? Why?
  3. The variables provided by the supervisor include tons of recyclables processed, and dollars per ton of recyclables that remain unprocessed. You can compare the difference in these processes by comparing only tons of recyclables or only dollars saved. Considering your supervisor’s concerns and priorities, what variables did you choose to address and why?

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