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.
There is most definitely a technical communicator identity crisis underway. Three posts from well respected industry professionals in the span of one month, all dealing with a fundamental shift in an core product development profession. What’s going on here? To put it plainly: documentation now has competition.
Most users will call support before they’ll crack the spine on a shrink-wrapped user guide, but it’s still not okay. It’s not okay because we are still stuck with the tools and environments and processes that compel us to write and deliver those guides. Why are we not listening to our users?
Not many writers consider the positive aspects of users not reading the manual. If you do a lousy job on the manual, or if some SME discovers typos and inaccuracies, you can just laugh it off by saying no one really reads the manual anyway. But consider the opposite scenario where everyone reads the manual. Is this a scenario you want? No.
Many technical documents present information both graphically and verbally. While much is known about the verbal tools of technical professionals, technical graphics have been less fully examined. Here the drawings of a United States patent are examined revealing a system for organizing and presenting visual information that is analogous to commonly-used models for organizing and presenting verbal information.
Because of accreditation, budget, and accountability pressures at the institutional and program levels, technical and professional communication faculty are more than ever involved in assessment-based activities. Using assessment to identify a program's strengths and weaknesses allows faculty to work toward continuous improvement based on their articulation of learning and behavioral goals and outcomes for their graduates. This article describes the processes of program assessment based on pedagogical goals, pointing out options and opportunities that will lead to a meaningful and manageable experience for technical communication faculty, and concludes with a view of how the larger academic body of technical communication programs can benefit from such work. As ATTW members take a careful look at the state of the profession from the academic perspective, we can use assessment to further direct our programs to meet professional expectations and, far more importantly, to help us meet the needs of the well-educated technical communicator.
The movement toward open systems is gaining momentum. Those technical writers in the computer and software industries who have been accustomed to working in the world of proprietary systems will have to adjust to working in this new world of open systems. This paper briefly describes the open systems movement and then discusses in detail the implications of that movement for technical writers. This includes the challenges they will face and the skills they will need to develop. A brief case study of the involvement of technical writers in the Open Software Foundation’s DCE project is included.
This study investigates the link between the linguistic principles of implicature and pragmatics and software documentation. When implicatures are created in conversation or text, the listener or reader is required to fill in missing information not overtly stated. This information is usually filled in on the basis of previous knowledge or context. Pragmatics, the study of language use in context, is concerned with the situational aspects of language use that, among other things, directly affect implicatures required of the reader. I investigate how two manuals for the same software product can be analyzed on the basis of implicature and pragmatics. One is an original copy of the documentation that came with the product, the other an after-market manual. Results show that the aftermarket manual requires far fewer implicatures of the reader and does a better job of providing pragmatically helpful information for the user.
Everyone would prefer reading a technical document that is visually appealing rather than one that is cluttered with dense copy and has little or no white space. Simply put, white space is blank space on the paper. It can be used for various techniques as well as an easy way to enhance your document's appearance.
This paper summarizes the work of a study group on ways to improve the usability of publications that support programming products. Task orientation, an approach to providing, organizing, and packaging information, is covered, together with innovations to improve the usability of programming publications: ease-of-use education, measurement of user opinion, and incorporating usability into the publications development process.
At last year’s STC corlference in Seattle, Dr. Donald Norman spoke about the technical writing community becoming an integral part qf the design/development team. The HCI certificate program qfered through Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute @PI,) provides information and teaches skills that enable the technical communicator to become a valuable part of that team. This paper discusses my experience incorporating what I learned in the HCI class on a work project.
This workshop presents a step-by-step methodology for producing thorough, usable indexes for technical documents. The methodology consists of these four steps: 1) Creating entries based on the material; 2) Creating entries based on users' questions; 3) Adding synonyms; and 4) Cross-referencing related entries. The workshop also includes hands-on exercises which illustrate the methodology and give participants a chance to practice using it.
Information Architecture (IA) as a discipline practiced by professionals in the information processing and development industry has many definitions and levels of understanding.
On-demand printing, easy low-cost Web storefronts, and simple payment processing provide unprecedented methods and opportunities for technical writers to produce small, focused documentation for specific audiences. Seemingly all that is missing is the motivation.
Technical Communication is a broad term which includes technical writing, instructional designing, graphics, website designing or any form of communication which helps in communicating the technical information in a simpler way to the targeted user. This also includes audio tapes, video films and micro clips.
This article argues that, despite the seemingly mechanical context and nature of the underlying process of writing instructions, written instructions ARE works of art, because creative thinking and problem solving are essential to achieve the following goals of instructional writing.
We cause ourselves problems by not knowing what our counterparts in industry are doing. In my case, I taught the textbook in my first business and technical writing courses at Indiana University East, Richmond.
We need a change in mindset because we are being relied on more and more to be key players in our companies’ communication programs… and if we’re not, we should be. Twenty years ago the tech writer’s job resembled a game of hopscotch. It was very straightforward and predictable. We were the makers and keepers of procedural documentation. Technical Writers around the world would get an assignment (hop), create an outline (hop), ask some people who know things some questions (land), write a procedure or a manual turn it in to your boss (hop and land), and wait for the next revision. And often you turn around hop on one foot and go right back to the beginning. We followed that nice straight (and usually reversible) line, often in isolation from other business functions. Why do you think RTFM was such a common and often quoted “solution” to users’ questions?
Dr. Michael Fritz is manging director at tekom. tcworld spoke with him about the effects of the global financial crisis on the organization and the technical communication sector as well as about tekom’s increased efforts to collaborate with organizations internationally.
TechScribe is a UK-based technical writing company. The principal is Dr Michael F Unwalla, who turned a lifetime dream of running his own business into a reality. Here he talks to Ivan about how TechScribe produces its award-winning documentation.
Surprisingly, my first experience as an interviewer was as uneasy as my first job interview. I then realized that being on the other side of the table is not as easy as it is made out to be, especially if conducting an interview is unfamiliar territory. Later on, as I matured into this role, I created a style of my own and soon found it to be an interesting and inspiring proposition, though challenging.
Este curso presenta algunas estrategias generales básicas para la redacción de informes técnicos, tesis, comunicaciones a conferencias y artículos en revistas científicas. El curso está destinado a investigadores en ciencias básicas y aplicadas, estudiantes en las mismas áreas, e ingenieros y otros profesionales de orientación técnica.