A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication (and technical writing).

Technical Writing

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Technical Writing, a form of technical communication, is a style of formal writing and business communication, used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology. Good technical writing clarifies technical jargon; that is, it presents useful information that is clear and easy to understand for the intended audience.



Academic and Practitioner Perspectives on Essential Works in Technical Communication  (link broken)   (PDF)

As I began to create categories for a list collected from many academics and practitioners, I discovered a dramatic difference in the works valued by the two groups. While some works were valued by both practitioners and academics, I also found a clear dividing line between works recommended by academics and those recommended by practitioners.

Alred, Gerald J. ATTW Bulletin (2005). Resources>Bibliographies>Technical Writing


Accelerated Authoring @ Method M

The Method M blog for technical writers, marketing staff, product managers and others who spend hours each week creating documents. This blog is dedicated to helping you work more efficiently and create better documents.

Reichman, Katriel. Method M (2007). Resources>Documentation>Technical Writing>Blogs


Achieve It All!  (link broken)   (PowerPoint)

When the opportunity arose in 1990, I purchased a franchise from the Success Motivation Institute and presented literally hundreds of workshops on goal setting. I was overjoyed at the opportunity to finally achieve all my dreams through a business such as this. I learned about goal setting and Paul Meyer's Million Dollar Personal Success Plan. I loved the idea of teaching people how to help themselves become self-motivated and achieve their goals. But, there was a problem in my dream world. In order to run a business you must sell your products or services, and I simply hated being in sales! I just wouldn't get out and ask people to buy the goal setting plan. It wasn't that I didn't believe in it, because I do! When I finally started listening to myself as I taught others how to achieve happiness, I actually used goal setting to make the decision to give up that business and go back to technical writing.

Laurent, J. Suzanna. Prodigy (2002). Presentations>Slideshows>Technical Writing>Business Communication


Adding Life to Your Documentation  (link broken)   (PDF)

Suggests several techniques technical writers can use to enliven their writing and improve their documentation.

Potsus, Whitney Beth. Intercom (2003). Articles>Documentation>Writing>Technical Writing


Addressing Resistance to Change in Policy and Procedure Writing

Policy writing and procedure writing is challenging because of the mechanics involved. Words must be carefully chosen; nuances must be considered. Understanding the mechanics of writing these documents is critical; however, an often overlooked aspect should be dealt with before the first word is written. How can policy and procedure writing tiptoe around the elephant in the room that everyone is trying to ignore?

Hibbard, Catherine S. Cypress Media Group (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Policies and Procedures>Technical Writing


Advanced Technical Writing  (link broken)

Technical writing is a growing and dynamic field. Technical writers work in scientific, medical, and technological contexts, and because of that, need to be both good writers and active learners: they need to learn how to understand technologies and scientific concepts; they need to learn how to analyze and understand work and workplaces; they need to learn to write for and with audiences; and they need to learn how to conduct research.

Grabill, Jeffrey T. Michigan State University (2003). Academic>Courses>Writing>Technical Writing


Advanced Technical Writing  (link broken)   (members only)

There are several facts of contemporary business or technical communication that are now nearly universal: the acts of writing or managing any project occur in group settings; directions from employers are goal-oriented and the responsibility for development is left to a team (usually either external or internal to the assigning agency); organizations possess and frequently reassess corporate personae; and communication occurs with multiple audiences, with varying levels of knowledge. The purpose of this course is to give you practice in all of these skills. In addition, I intend to explore at length an issue far too rarely considered today: the ethical considerations of business and technical communication. For all these reasons, the design and specific requirements of the course are unusually (and, you should note, very intentionally) ambiguous. Given some goal, and composition into small teams of four to five people each, you will design and implement your own instruction in technical writing. Operating under certain requirements, constraints, and limitations, groups will propose, design, test, and recommend a specific solution to a particular need. I will base evaluation upon a percentage that reflects how well the groups (and individuals in them) achieve set criteria.

Maddux, Clark. Michigan State University (2001). Academic>Courses>Writing>Technical Writing


Advantages of Using Microsoft SourceSafe While Writing Your Technical Documents

Microsoft’s Visual SourceSafe was not created with technical communicators in mind. It was created for engineers writing software source code. But it is successfully used by technical writers in offices around the world to control documentation.

Technical Communication Center (2009). Articles>Content Management>Documentation>Technical Writing


Advice about Technical Writing  (link broken)

Technical writing doesn't always mean 'computers.' Many companies hire technical writers to document policies and procedures for auditors. This means you would actually sit with someone and write down the steps they follow to do a function. Technical writers must be excellent communicators. Verbal and written skills must be of the highest caliber. A technical writer must be methodical, organized, and succinct.

Taylor, Vicki M. Suite101 (2001). Careers>Advice>Writing>Technical Writing


Advice for the Novice Tech Writer: Be Like an Empty Cup

Technical writing is one of those jobs in which you're constantly learning. New tools, new techniques, new methodologies. No one knows it all. That's especially true for the new technical communicator. If you've graduated from a writing and rhetoric course or a technical writing course, you have a pretty good grounding in craft. But you're really only at the base of the mountain. There's still a lot to learn, and if you keep your eyes and ears and mind open then you can quickly pick up what you need to know.

DMN Communications (2008). Careers>Advice>Technical Writing


Advice for the Novice Tech Writer: Hold on to Your Passion

Passion, though, is a funny thing. It's easy to become passionate about something. But the fire of that passion can also be easily dimmed or extinguished, often due to circumstances that are beyond your control. Throughout your career, you'll definitely find your passion waxing and waning. But holding on to that passion and nurturing it will make you a better technical communicator.

DMN Communications (2008). Careers>Advice>Technical Writing


Advice for the Novice Tech Writer: Think Long-Term

So you've just started out as a technical communicator, or you've been on the job for a year or two. And you've decided that maybe, just maybe, technical communication is the career for you and you're in it for the long haul. Now what? Think about the future and how you want your career to develop.

DMN Communications (2008). Careers>Advice>Technical Writing>Blogs


Advice to Novice Technical Writers  (link broken)

The broader your exposure to technology and the broader your experience using tools of the trade, the better your chances are at getting hired (and being productive once you get hired.)

Pehrson, Paul. Technically Speaking (2010). Articles>Advice>Technical Writing


Advice to Technical Writers

A friend asked the going rate for author's royalties on a technical or trade paperback, so I asked some people what they received. A few wrote back with extremely enlightening and fascinating comments. I passed these notes on to other authors, and received yet more interesting reading back. I have now edited all these comments down a bit, mostly taking out the names of authors and publishers and removing publisher specific comments.

Tognazzini, Bruce. Ray Tracing News (1996). Careers>Writing>Pricing>Technical Writing


Agile Technical Writing Basics

Unfortunately, nobody wrote instructions for Agile technical writers, so peculiarities of profession need to be studied out.

Mizinova, Ksenya. Dr. Explain. Articles>Project Management>Agile>Technical Writing


Aligning Theme and Information Structure To Improve The Readability Of Technical Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The readability of technical writing, and technical manuals in particular, especially for second language readers, can be noticeably improved by pairing Theme with Given and Rheme with New. This allows for faster processing of text and easier access to the "method of development" of the text. Typical Theme-Rheme patterns are described, and the notion of the "point of a text" is introduced. These concepts are applied to technical writing and the reader is then invited to evaluate the improvements in readability in a small sample of texts.

Moore, N.A.J. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2006). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Rhetoric


Alltop - Top Technical Writing News

An RSS feed aggregator/amalgamator which permits visitors to browse recent posts to 31 influential technical writing blogs (including the TC Library).

Alltop. Resources>Directories>Writing>Technical Writing


Alternatives to the Paragraph

'It's all in the manual.' How many times have you heard that - or said it in frustration? After all, when you are the person who wrote the manual, you know that all the answers are there. But time and again readers can't find what they need to know, or don't understand the material. Before you blame the reader, look again at how you've presented the material.

Hollis Weber, Jean. Technical Editors Eyrie (1989). Articles>Editing>Technical Writing


Ankush Avhad's Technical Writing Links  (link broken)

A collection of categorized links to online technical writing resources.

Avhad, Ankush. DocumentorG. Resources>Directories>Writing>Technical Writing


Ankush Avhad's Technical Writing Links  (link broken)

A collection of categorized links to online technical writing resources.

Avhad, Ankush. DocumentorG. Resources>Directories>Writing>Technical Writing


“Anyone Can Write”: Changing Roles for Technical Communicators

This podcast is a recording of a presentation I gave to students at the Missouri State University technical writing conference on April 23, 2010. With this presentation, because the audience was students, I focused mainly on the changing roles technical communicators are playing. My basic premise is that many IT environments have an assumption that “anyone can write.” Because of this assumption, technical writers are changing their roles, becoming hybrids with additional skill sets, or moving beyond the basics of writing in order to provide both value and find fulfillment.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Presentations>TC>Writing>Technical Writing


Anything That Can Go Wrong: Lessons Learned from A Decade of Toolkit Documentation  (link broken)   (PDF)

Writing software toolkit documentation for programmers is a special challenge and opportunity for technical writers. Compared with writing software documentation for lay users, toolkit documentation is more demanding and exacting. Checking facts and finding tiny errors is like riding a motorcycle through a swarm of gnats. However, for me at least, toolkit writing has opened doors to a larger role and greater input into product design. Engineers treat me like a peer and I get to see into their culture. I know my readers and salespeople need me.

van Oss, Joseph E. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Documentation>SDK>Technical Writing


Apple Publications Style Guide (2003)   (PDF)

An updated version of the style guide used by writers and editors in Apple publications groups.

Apple Inc. (2003). Reference>Style Guides>Technical Writing>Technical Writing


Applying Common Sense to Technical Writing  (link broken)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

How can budding writers achieve a middle path in their approach to documentation? This no-model approach is an attempt at busting the myth that only a model-based approach works.

Chitkara, Promila. International Journal for Technical Communication (2007). Articles>TC>Writing>Technical Writing


Applying Web 2.0 Technologies to Technical Documentation

This article is based on my presentation at the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators' annual conference in October, 2006. Every now and then, there is a change in the value of what technical authors deliver. These are moments when organisations pay attention to technical documentation. This is because they recognise that these changes mean they can create something that will be of real value to the business and to their customers. In recent years, there have been three "waves of interestingness". The first wave was the introduction of Windows Help (WinHelp). The second major wave was the introduction of the Internet and intranets. This was a time when organisations looked at how they could transfer large amounts of information from paper to online. They were faced with issues such as how users could access and understand all this information easily - issues that technical communicators deal with on a day-to-day basis. I believe we're just about to approach the new wave, which we have called "Tech Writing 2.0".

Pratt, Ellis. Cherryleaf (2006). Articles>Web Design>Documentation>Technical Writing



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