We live in a world that, in many ways, has become shorter. Shorter messages. Shorter interactions. Shorter attention spans. And the popularity of services like Twitter encourage brevity, for better or for worse. As a writer of any stripe, you need to adapt to this change. And that’s idea underlying the book Microstyle by Christopher Johnson. The book is packed with solid advice on how to write compactly while still passing along useful information.
These days, we can’t escape writing for the online world. Whether you contribute to web-based publications, run your own blog, or are a freelancer or full-time employee doing corporate work, writing for the web has become an essential skill. While online writing shares a number of similarities with writing for print, it also has more than a few nuances that you need to learn. That’s where Writing for the Web by Lynda Felder comes in. It’s easily one of the best books that I’ve read on the subject. Writing for the Web is a thin book, weighing in at 181 pages. But those pages pack a lot of practical information. Whether you’re new to writing online or someone with more than just a little experience, you’ll learn something from this book.
We've all visited poorly organized websites that make finding what we need a chore. But have you ever thought your library of documents could use the same kind of organizational help? This is where having a content strategy can make a world of difference. Authors Sarah O'Keefe and Alan Pringle of Scriptorium Publishing brought their research and experience together so that the meaning of "content strategy" can be understood by those who need it most.
Looking for a present for the Technical Author in your life? Here are five books, tangentially related to technical communication, that Technical Authors/Writers should read.
International readers have problems with standard English. Global English for global business helps people to write and to speak English that their international customers can understand.
As with previous editions, the editors have done a marvelous job. This is the type of book that every writer should have. As I stated before, it is not a how-to-write book, but more of a 'tools for writing' book. I find myself referring to it often when I'm thinking of how to pronounce a specific word or how to go about putting together a proposal, abstract or white paper, or even how to interview an engineer or programmer for information about a product I'm documenting.
When it comes to mentors in technical communication, Jonathan Price is as good as they get. If he were a novelist, I might describe his stuff with words like salty, earthy, and gut-level. What he provides is different from cold theory, and certainly not the same as statistics. It's street-smart. When Price talks, you know he's been there and done that, and you've got him sitting beside you as you work, helping you through the pitfalls, urging you on.
This book will help you improve any type of written communication, and it's a fun read to boot. The authors know what they're talking about and have the experience to back up their words. Both have spent many years writing for Web audiences. In addition to Web writing, their combined relevant experience includes journalism, technical communication, art, TV and radio, and teaching.
Many writers in the Triangle area dream of being their own boss, typing on a laptop by a pool on a warm day or working cozily on a couch in front of the fire when the weather is frightful. Alice Osborn, an accomplished freelance writer, wanted to dispel the myths of this perceived easy lifestyle. Alice spoke to over 50 people at February’s chapter meeting. She provided many good tips on how to get and keep jobs as a freelancer in this competitive market. For those who did not attend, her presentation is summarized below.
Managing a team (of writers) somehow is supposed to come naturally to those it is thrust upon. And, of course, it almost never does. Richard Hamilton has succeeded in coming up with a book that - quite effectively, and covering a wide range of topics - answers this ubiquitous question. In a very real sense, Richard’s book is the voice of experience and wisdom that should have been made available when you first got the promotion.
Kathy Bowrey's Law and Internet Cultures critically deconstructs the law in the context of legal culture, and especially looks at how U.S. law, practice, and culture has influenced technology law. Bowrey, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales, writes as an "Australian author" but her analysis clearly contains a global perspective as she looks to global structures and laws in other countries such as the United States. The book's analysis draws upon an incredibly broad range of literature including but not limited to traditional "literature" (e.g., Orwell's 1984), economic analysis, communications theory, and cultural studies. She stretches her analysis, connecting the heretofore disconnected (like Foucault, Coombe, Mandeville's travels, Napster, Grokster, etc.) and makes these horizontal connections in the context of discussions of verticality--like globalization, international standards, international patent norms, and global governance. The reading will be difficult for folks without a solid background in information technologies and law (and is just plain difficult for reasons mentioned below), but Bowrey does provide at least brief definitions and description of acronyms where need be. She tends to begin chapters with details and then brings things together at chapter's end--but this strategy seems to work for the complex subject matter. This is a great book for reading out of order or skipping to particularly relevant sections. Each section of each chapter can hold together on its own. Numerous diagrams and illustrations add to the flavor of this unique and much-needed book.
Microsoft is one of the largest software companies in the world. Thus, with their rich experience in documentation it is only natural that they share it with the rest of the IT industry. The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, Third Edition (MSTP) is the latest step in this direction and takes care of latest technologies and technical terms.
In the Nurnberg Funnel: Designing Minimalist Instruction, John Carroll presents some helpful ideas based on some useful research on how the initial self-instruction (often called 'tutorials') should be developed and written.
Plain language in plain English explains how to design and how to write a document. The book deals with topics such as audience analysis, readers who have cognitive impairments, literacy, international readers, document structure, gender-neutral writing, and usability testing. From the title, I expected the book to be primarily about language, not about these other topics.
When I first picked up Reporting Technical Information, I thought from the title it was going to be a primer on writing technical reports. Instead, this book turned out to be a basic, though somewhat better than average, textbook on technical writing.
Haile argues that 'books on technical writing often ignore the problems writers face in presenting equations and the problems readers face in decoding them.' That's often true. And, just as Edward Tufte's books show a passion for truth in statistical charts, Haile's analyses and prescriptions demonstrate how much he cares about clearing away the clutter that stands between readers and the underlying science.
If you're a professional technical communicator who is interested in gleaning a few tidbits of knowledge for yourself, while simultaneously preparing witty answers to the questions asked of you by those who don't know anything about the things you do, you might want to add a yellow or orange book to your bookshelf. You wouldn't be completely dumb or idiotic if you did.
Write Your Way to Riches gives you comprehensive, step-by-step details on how to make money as a technical writer. Technical writing is one of the highest paid writing professions, and it's easy to get into.
Rubie uses a question-and-answer format for his book, which makes the book difficult to sit and read cover to cover but works well when one uses it for reference.
I would recommend this book to subject matter experts who lack writing expertise. The exercises and examples are especially beneficial to lone writers who often do not have an expert writer nearby to review their writing.