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Technical Writing

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  1. Technical Writing Definition Goals Writing Process

  2. Technical Writing AKA … • Business Writing • Workplace Writing • Professional Writing • Informational Writing

  3. GPS – Technical Writing • ELA7W2 The student demonstrates competence in a variety of genres. • c. Creates an organizing structure appropriate to purpose, audience, and context. • D. Develops the topic with supporting details.

  4. GPS – Technical Writing • The student produces technical writing (business correspondence: memoranda, emails, letters of inquiry, letters of complaint, instructions and procedures, lab reports, slide presentations) that: • a. Creates or follows an organizing structure appropriate to purpose, audience, • and context. • b. Excludes extraneous and inappropriate information. • c. Follows an organizational pattern appropriate to the type of composition. • d. Applies rules of Standard English.

  5. Essential Questions: • How does technical writing in school prepare students for adult living, learning, and work settings? • How does technical writing compare to academic writing? • How does technical writing reflect 21st century learning and engage 21st century learners?

  6. Goal of technical writing • “Is to enable readers to use a technology or understand a process or concept. Because the subject matter is more important than the writer’s voice, technical writing style uses an object, not a subjective, tone. The writing style is direct and utilitarian, emphasizing exactness and clarity rather than elegance or allusiveness.” (Gerald J. Alred, et al., Handbook of Technical Writing. Bedford/St. Martin’s 2006)

  7. Definition/Purpose of Course • Technical communication is the “art and science of making complex technical information accessible, usable, and relevant to a variety of audiences in a variety of settings.” • Review of the planning, drafting, and editing processes • Interaction with new technologies and new environments

  8. What is Technical Writing? • Technical writing introduces you to some of the most important aspects of writing in the world of science, technology, and business – the kind of writing that scientists, nurses, doctors, computer specialists, government officials, engineers, and other people do as a part of their regular work.

  9. What is Technical Writing? • The term “technical” refers to knowledge that is not widespread, that is more the territory of experts and specialists. • Whatever your major is, you are developing an expertise, and whenever you try to write anything about your field, you are engaged in technical writing.

  10. What is Technical Writing? • Technical communication can be written, oral, or visual. • Technical writing is composed in and for the workplace. • Technical writing is a significant factor in work experience for a variety of reasons. • Technical writing serves valuable purposes in the workplace and often involves teamwork.

  11. What is the purpose of technical writing? • Technical writing is the delivery of technical information to readers in a manner that is adapted to their needs, level of understanding, and background. • Technical writing is intended to communicate to a specific audience, for a specific purpose.

  12. What is Technical Writing? It is the type of everyday writing that surrounds us from the time we wake until we climb in bed at night. • Directions on the toothpaste tube • Nutrition benefits on the cereal box • Business letters and catalogs that come in the mail • Written instructions for assembling a new product • Tax receipts and notices • Product safety information

  13. How is Technical Writing Different? • The information is organized, presented and communicated in a specific format. • The writing is concise, clear and accurate. • The writing takes into account the audience’s needs, biases and prior understanding. • The writing presents information to help readers solve a problem or gain a better understanding of a situation. • The writing conveys technical, complex, or specialized information in a way that is easy for a non-technical reader to understand.

  14. The Audience • The audience element is so important that it is one of the cornerstones of technical writing. • You are challenged to write about highly technical subjects but in a way that a beginner—a non-specialist—could understand.

  15. Accessibility • Accuracy– no errors of fact or grammar • Clarity– no ambiguity • Completeness– all necessary information is present • Diction—appropriate and grammatically correct language • Organization—logical arrangement of parts • Visual effectiveness– page/screen design, graphics

  16. Usability • Allows audience to perform the task or retrieve the information they need • Studies design of table of contents, index, headings, etc. • Keeps learning curve short

  17. Relevance • Focus on your audience’s need for information. • Give only what’s needed. • Use language that fits your audience and situation and is consistent.

  18. Translating Technical Information • In a world of rapid technological development, people are constantly falling behind and becoming technological illiterates. • As a technical writer, you need to write about the area of specialization you know and plan to write about in such a way that even Granddad can understand.

  19. Goals of Effective Technical Writing • Clarity • Conciseness • Accuracy • Organization • Ethics

  20. Tech Communicator’s Skills • Facility with language • Use of critical thinking skills to solve problems • Ability to assess situations, determine what the most important issues and the subsidiary ones are • Ability to organize a document that presents the information clearly

  21. Effective Technical Writing: Clarity • The ultimate goal of effective technical writing is to say the same thing to every reader. • Let’s say I write instructional manuals for company manufacturing space heaters. If I write, “Place the space heater near an open window,” what will this mean to thousands of customers who purchase the machine?

  22. Effective Technical Writing: Clarity • One person may place the heater 6 feet from the window. • Another reader will place the heater 6 inches from the window. • As the writer, I have failed to communicate clearly.

  23. Effective Technical Writing: Clarity • Specify • Provide specific detail • Avoid vague words (some, recently) • Answer reporters’ questions (who, what, where, when, why, how)

  24. Effective Technical Writing: Clarity • Avoid obscure words • Use easily understood words • Write to express, not to impress • Write to communicate, not to confuse • Write the way you speak aforementioned already discussed in lieu of instead of

  25. Effective Technical Writing: Clarity • Limit and/or define your use of abbreviations , acronyms, and jargon. • Define your terms parenthetically • CIA (Cash in Advance) or • Supply a separate glossary • Alphabetized list of terms, followed by their definitions

  26. Effective Technical Writing: Clarity • Use the active versus the passive voice. • Passive voice: It was decided all employees will take a ten percent cut in pay. • Unclear: Who decided? • Active: The Board of Directors decided that all employees . . . Overtime is favored by hourly workers. • Wordy • Active: Hourly workers favor overtime.

  27. Effective Technical Writing: Conciseness • Limit paragraph, word, and sentence length. • A paragraph in a memo, letter, or short report should consist of • No more than four to six typed lines or • No more than fifty words. • Fog index (sixth to eighth grade level) • Strive for an average of 15 words per sentence • No more than 5 multisyllabic words per 100 words

  28. Effective Technical Writing: Conciseness • Avoid the expletive pattern • There is, are, was, were, will be • It is, was • There are three people who will work for Acme. • Three people will work for Acme. • Omit redundancies • During the year of 1996 • During 1996

  29. Effective Technical Writing: Conciseness • Avoid wordy phrases • In order to purchase to purchase • Proofread for accuracy • Consider ethics

  30. Effective Technical Writing: Accuracy • The importance of correct grammar and mechanics • Grammatical or mechanical errors make writers look unprofessional and incompetent.

  31. Effective Technical Writing: Organization • Methods for organizing • Spatial • General to Specific • Chronological • Mechanism Description • Process Description • Classification

  32. Effective Technical Writing: Organization • Methods for organizing • Definition • Comparison/Contrast • More Important to Less Important • Situation-Problem-Solution-Evaluation • Cause-Effect

  33. Effective Technical Writing: Ethics • Ethics – methods encouraging moral standards in technical writing • Practical • Legal • Moral

  34. Effective Technical Writing: Ethics • General categories of ethics in communication • Behavior towards colleagues, subordinates and others (plagiarism, harassment, malicious actions) • Dealing with experimental subjects, interviewees, etc. (informed consent) • Telling the “truth” (falsify data, misrepresent facts) • Rhetoric—choosing your words (loaded words, discriminatory language, logical fallacies)

  35. Effective Technical Writing: Process • The writing process is effective . . . and easy. • All that you need to do is three things: • Prewrite (about 25 percent of your time) • Write (about 25 percent of your time) • Rewrite (about 50 percent of your time)

  36. Effective Technical Writing: Prewriting Techniques • Reporter’s questions • Mind mapping • Brainstorming/listing • Flowcharting • Outlining • Storyboarding

  37. So why is technical writing important?

  38. SCANS Report • Three-Part Foundation needed on the job • Basic Skills (reads, writes, performs mathematical operations, listens and speaks) • Thinking Skills (Thinks creatively, makes decisions, solves problems, visualizes, knows how to learn, and reasons) • Personal Qualities (Displays responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, and integrity and honesty)

  39. SCANS Report Possessing basic writing skills means that students need “to communicate thoughts, ideas, information, and messages in writing; and create documents such as letters, directions, manuals, reports, graphs, and flow charts.”

  40. Sources • Society for Technical Communication • Technical Writing - A Dalton: Organizing • Online Technical Writing: Information Infrastructures – Comparison • Online Technical Writing

  41. Other Sources