Learn English – Is the use of the phrase “left as an exercise for the reader” appropriate for technical documents


I'm updating a technical document, and the phrase "left as an exercise for the reader" is used twice. However, that phrase is something that just irks me, so I'm thinking about removing it and revising those sentences.

One of the instances is this quotation:

…a precise account of the principles and practices is left as an exercise for the reader.

So I have two questions:

  1. Is this phrase one that can be considered appropriate for technical writing?
  2. Is there a better way to phrase this idea in a technical document? If so, what is it?

Best Answer

The only time that might be appropriate is where the document is part of some course literature. Finding the related information could be considered as part of the learning process.

If the document is for use in the 'real' world, e.g. describing the function of a piece of equipment, I too would be annoyed to find this. If part of the description is to be found elsewhere, then either the relevant parts of the reference material should be inserted into this document (in-line, or as a footnote, or as an appendix), or a reference (document name/number/section or link, if on-line) should be quoted.