I’ve long advocated avoiding colloquialisms in technical writing. They blur the distinction between spoken and written English, and that introduces too informal a tone into technical writing. That informality of tone produces less effective technical writing because it violates a longstanding convention of technical writing which calls for a more formal tone.
We’ve discussed many colloquialisms in past posts, and more effective technical writers avoid all of them. Today I introduce to that list another expression: cannot help but. As with all colloquialisms, this expression is acceptable in spoken English but not in written English, and especially not with a format like technical writing which requires a more formal tone.
Compare the example sentence in the cropped graphic above with the revised sentences below. Note the difference in tone which makes the revised sentences more effective in technical writing circles.
Based on this evidence, we cannot avoid concluding that a faulty manufacturing process is the root cause of the failure.
So more effective technical writers cannot help but avoid cannot help but. They respect the convention for greater formality in technical writing. In so doing, they not only communicate their intended message more effectively but also present themselves and the brands they represent more effectively to their audiences.