A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Typography is the study and process of typefaces; how to select, size, arrange, and use them in general. Traditionally, typography was the use of metal types with raised letterforms that were inked and then pressed onto paper. In modern terms, typography today also includes computer display and output.



Assessing Professionalism in Undergraduate Technical Communication    (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Although much scholarship in recent years has emphasized the need to professionalize technical communicators, those discussions tend to focus on prestige and establishing a clearly defined position within a workplace economy. This essay focuses instead on professionalism as a guiding concept underlying all of our practices, from product to presentation to process. The concept is currently applied in a broad variety of ways in scholarship and teaching practices: existing models for professionalism range from an unreflective, skills-based approach to practice to a system of formal certification reflecting the important social role of technical communicators. The author suggests an assessment-oriented approach to professionalism that grounds the concept in measurable outcomes.

Reamer, David J. Programmatic Perspectives (2012). Articles>Education>TC>Professionalism


Assessing Proficiency in Engineering English   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Though engineers around the world conduct their work in nearly every language on the planet, there are very few who never use English for some aspect of their job. The largest professional engineering organizations use English as their primary language; most of the world’s engineering publications are written in English; and nearly all cooperative ventures with multinational participation choose English for their common language of communication. Unfortunately, most of the world’s engineers are not native speakers of English and thus are considerably disadvantaged in professional terms.

Orr, Thomas. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Articles>Language>Assessment


Review: Assessing Quality Documents   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In recent years, an emphasis on quality has emerged in a variety of organizations and in several fields, including technical documentation. Producing Quality Technical Information (PQTI) was one of the first comprehensive discussions of the quality of documentation. An important contribution of the book is in identifying quality as multiple, measurable dimensions that can be defined and measured (previous views of quality identified it more as some elusive thing that could be identified if present but was difficult to articulate and describe). Despite its contributions to the quality discussion, PQTI runs the risk of simplifying the quality process, reducing quality to a simple checklist that information developers can use to develop effective documentation. PQTI fails to address the fluid nature of some aspects of quality: some dimensions that are important in assessing one document may be less important or irrelevant with other documents. Additionally, PQTI falls short of accounting for the larger contextual framing of documents--that the importance of individual dimensions of quality changes depending upon the audience, context, and purpose of the document.This commentary suggests that all quality efforts should be grounded in customer data and user-centered design processes, and that we should learn to better differentiate among quality dimensions, determining those dimensions that are essential to customer satisfaction and those that are merely attractive. Through increased attention to developing the quality of information, organizations can better differentiate their products and services, facilitate greater productivity, and increase customer satisfactions, all significant activities in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Smart, Karl L. Journal of Computer Documentation (2002). Articles>Reviews>Documentation


Assessing Technical Communication within Engineering Contexts Tutorial   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

A major challenge in engineering education is to prepare professionals for communicating well in writing and speaking, using appropriate technologies, within professional contexts. Communication in the global engineering world includes collaboration on cross-functional teams, virtual-project team management, and writing for multiple, complex audiences. This tutorial discusses how one small engineering school has integrated technical communication teaching and assessment throughout the curriculum with demonstrated success. The integrated curriculum, formative and summative assessments, and real-world contexts offer one model to address growing communication challenges.

Davis, Marjorie T. and William H. Harris II. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2010). Articles>Education>Engineering>Assessment


Assessing the Overall Quality of a Document Based on Editorial Comments   (members only)

Technical writers are often responsible for creating and maintaining multiple documents. In organizations where a formal editorial review is integral to the documentation process, technical writers who own multiple documents might need to address a huge volume of editorial input, often received late in the documentation cycle. What do all of those editorial comments, when taken as a whole, really mean in terms of the overall quality of the document? Lots of red ink might mean either that the document is in bad shape or that the editor loves to explain every comment, however minor, in great detail. On the other hand, a short comment buried on page 63 might turn out to be the single most important editorial value-add for the entire document!

Dhanagopal, Kumar. Intercom (2010). Articles>Editing>Technical Translation>Documentation


Assessing the Usability of a User Interface Standard

User interface standards can be hard to use for developers. In a laboratory experiment, 26 students achieved only 71% compliance with a two page standard; many violations were due to influence from previous experience with non-standard systems. In a study of a real company's standard,developers were only able to find 4 of 12 deviations in a sample system, and three real products broke between 32% and 55% of the mandatory rules in the standard. Designers were found to rely heavily on the examples in the standard and their experience with other user interfaces.

Thovtrup, Henrik and Jakob Nielsen. Alertbox (1991). Articles>User Interface>Standards>Usability


Assessing the Value Added by In-House Technical Communication Courses   (PDF)

A specially designed instrument that measures the effectiveness of written communication courses taught in-house has been pilot-tested with employees of a major power utility. The instrument showed that, one month afrr attending the course, participants’ written communication skills increased by twenty percent. A second measurement, recordedfour months aJer the course, showed there had been only a marginal drop in skills compared to the level recorded three months earlier.

Blicq, Ronald S. STC Proceedings (1997). Articles>Writing>Assessment


Assessing Visualizations in Public Science Presentations   (PDF)

Natural resource agencies and other technical and scientific organizations face an immense challenge of when communicating complex technical information to diverse publics. The laptop computer, presentation software, and projection unit have emerged as one of the primary presentation tools in many technical and scientific fields. Advances in software functions enable presenters to capitalize on a wide range of multimedia functions thought to make presentations more appealing, interesting, and effective. Our presentation reports on a specific research project and then provides guidance for enhancing their presentations.

Zimmerman, Donald E., Carol A. Akerelrea, Jane Kapler Smith and Garrett O'Keefe. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Presentations>Visual Rhetoric


Assessing Web Site Usability from Server Log Files   (PDF)

White paper on how to glean usability data from web server log files and how to use that data.

Tec-Ed, Inc. (1999). Articles>Web Design>Usability


Assessment in Professional Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The assessment of engineering products and services is central to the work of engineering, but the evaluation of human communication and its development in engineering and other technical professions has not yet received enough attention in IEEE research and publications. This special section begins to remedy this situation by calling for more research in the assessment of professional communication skills and training programs as well as in the development of better assessment tools and procedures. It features four new articles on the topic in the hope that these will inspire even more research related to the assessment of human communication in scientific and technical professions.

Orr, Thomas. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2010). Articles>TC>Assessment>Engineering


Assessment of Slovene Secondary School Students' Attitudes to Biotechnology in Terms of Usefulness, Moral Acceptability and Risk Perception   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Quantitative and qualitative studies among 469 high school students of average age 17 years were conducted. The students’ attitudes to four practical applications of biotechnology were examined: genetically modified plants (Bt corn), genetically modified animals (salmon), and hemophilia germ line and somatic gene therapy. Each of the four applications was examined from three different viewpoints: usefulness, moral acceptability and risk perception. Bt corn production proved to be the most acceptable in terms of both usefulness and risk perception. Values for genetically modified salmon and germ line gene therapy were comparable, but much lower than those for the other two applications; this was true for both usefulness and moral acceptability. In addition, students found genetically modified salmon to be ethically much less acceptable than Bt corn. Significant gender differences were observed in the case of germ line gene therapy and genetically modified salmon.

Črne-Hladnik, Helena, Cirila Peklaj, Katarina Košmelj and Aleš Hladnik. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Eastern Europe


Assistive Listening Systems: Crucial For Skilled Listeners With a Hearing Loss   (PDF)

Technical communicators are skilled listeners. Whether interviewing subject matter experts or working on teams, good communication is essential. But if you have a hearing loss, assistive listening systems (ALSs) can help.

Vinegar, Judy A. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>TC>Accessibility>Audio


Assistive Technology: What Is It?

The term 'assistive technology device' means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.

ALLTech (2004). Articles>Accessibility>Technology


The Association of Teachers of Technical Writing: The Emergence of Professional Identity   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article attempts to summarize the history of ATTW. It focuses on issues that led to the need for an organization devoted to technical writing, and the individuals who were leaders in ATTW, as well as in NCTE and CCCC, whose efforts provided the foundation for the presence of technical writing as a legitimate teaching and research discipline. We draw on existing historical pieces and the contributions provided by many of the first ATTW members to capture the history of ATTW. We describe the major changes in ATTW from 1973-2007 and conclude with our reflections, as well as important questions we believe to be critical to the future of ATTW.

Kynell, Teresa and Elizabeth Tebeaux. Technical Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>TC>History>Case Studies


Assume an Amorphous User

There are a couple of models that can guide us in dealing with negative scenarios—meaning scenarios that deviate from the happy path and result in user failure. One model, negative scenario testing, comes from quality assurance; the other, negative case analysis, from qualitative research.

Hughes, Michael A. UXmatters (2011). Articles>Usability>User Centered Design>Personas


Assumptions About Technical Communication Programs   (PDF)

Survey data indicate that current academic programs in technical communication exhibit more differences than similarities in requirements, student support, faculty, schedule, and student support. Moreover, current programs are vigorous, continue to increase, and exhibit three primary needs: increased budgets, more new faculty, and increased involvement with industry.

Rainey, Kenneth T. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Education>TC


At Oracle, Simplicity Rules All

To jump-start revenue growth, Mark Jarvis has insisted that simplicity be the foundation not only of Oracle's marketing but also of its product development. Programmers, salespeople, and marketing staff now work closely to satisfy real customer problems, not just deliver glitz. On Nov. 18, Mark Jarvis spoke with BusinessWeek Online Technology reporter Jane Black about his plans to improve Oracle's fortunes. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.

BusinessWeek (2002). Articles>Usability>Databases>Software


At the Heart of Information Ecologies: Invisibility and Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The ecological metaphor for technological systems provides a useful supplement to others dealing with the question of human control over technologies. However, it fails to develop adequately its own reliance on communication as the means whereby human values may be embedded in technologies, or to recognize the role of professional communicators in that process.

Ranney, Frances J. Journal of Computer Documentation (2000). Articles>Information Design>TC


At the Touch of a Button

Are the days of print documentation over? How ‘usable’ is your print documentation?

Nair, Manjusha. Indus (2009). Articles>Documentation>Publishing


ATAG (Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines) Assessment of WordPress

This document assesses WordPress 2.01 against the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

Clark, Joe. JoeClark.org (2006). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Content Management


The Atlassian Contributor License Agreement Comes of Age

In early March we opened up the Atlassian documentation to the wider community. We added a CC-by (Creative Commons Attribution) license to our product documentation. We invited people to contribute to our documentation after signing an Atlassian Contributor License Agreement (ACLA). At that stage, the ACLA was just starting its three-month trial. The trial period has now ended, and we're delighted to say: it's a go!

Maddox, Sarah. Atlassian Blog, The (2009). Articles>Documentation>Wikis>Case Studies


The Atmosphere at Interaction Frontiers 2006

Interaction Frontiers 2006 was a great experience, with some margin for improvement. I'm sure next year's Interaction Frontiers will be even bigger and better.

Bellocchio, Giovanni. UXmatters (2006). Articles>User Interface>User Experience


The Atom API: Publishing Web Content with XML and HTTP

The Atom API is an emerging interface for editing content. The interface is RESTful and uses XML and HTTP to define an editing scheme that's easy to implement and extend. History, basic operation, and applications to areas outside weblogs will be covered.

Gregorio, Joe. IDEAlliance (2004). Articles>Web Design>Metadata>RSS


Attack of the Zombie Copy

You can keep copy from turning zombie by starting with a clear idea of exactly what you want to say. It's tempting to just start writing, but this approach can leave your pages vulnerable to zombification, because it's easier to sound like you’re making sense than to actually make sense. Outlines can serve as an effective vaccine against living death.

Kissane, Erin. List Apart, A (2005). Articles>Web Design>Writing


Attending an STC Conference on a Shoestring Budget

Companies are reducing their training budgets. During these austere times, the technical writer must get more creative than ever to participate in the annual conference. An informal survey of attendees at the 50th Annual Conference in Dallas showed that many people paid their own way to the conference. There are numerous ways to reduce the cost to attend the conference.

Bine, Katharyn. Usability Interface (2003). Articles>TC>Professionalism>STC



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