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.



On Teaching Technical/Business Writing

Whether one teaches business communication or technical writing (or some amalgam of the two), the first statements an instructor makes in class should be to apprise students that the course upon which they are embarking is but a specialty within a larger field of writing, that their courses in English composition, philosophy and survey of literature (and the papers written for those courses) will all apply to the specialized communication field they now must address.

Wyld, Lionel D. Boston Broadside (1992). Articles>Education>Writing>Technical Writing


On Writing

My name is Miranda, and I am an Information Developer (aka technical writer). I am the junior writer on my team, new to the company, and new to the industry. It’s safe to say, I’m the greenhorn. However, I have the honor to work beside some very experienced and very knowledgeable senior writers, so it’s only a matter of time before their good habits rub off on me.

Bennett, Miranda. On Writing (2008). Resources>Documentation>Technical Writing>Blogs


On Writing Engineering Cases

With wider acceptance and use of Engineering Cases in engineering education, there is a new form of engineering writing available. This paper presents some ideas based on our experience with cases over the last ten years, including writing over 25 cases (good or bad), assisting with several student-written cases, using cases extensively in our courses, and reviewing many cases, e.g., for Engineering Education. Use of Engineering Cases is still in its infancy; as use matures, things will change. We have adopted many ideas suggested by colleagues reviewing our cases. We have also drawn heavily on ideas from case writing for business schools. We do not view this as a definitive paper on case writing. We present these ideas as a compilation which may be useful to those who are considering writing cases and wonder what it is about. We also offer our compilation to seasoned case writers as a position with which to differ.

Kardos, Geza and C.O. Smith. Carleton University (1979). Articles>Writing>Engineering>Technical Writing


On Writing, Technical Communication, and Information Technology: The Core Competencies of Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article contributes two arguments to the disciplinary conversation of technical communication with the aim of exploring leadership opportunities our field has in the field of information technology. The arguments assert that 1.) Writing is the core technology in any IT system, and all IT systems attempt to leverage the core strengths of writing to make these systems more valuable. 2.) Technical communicators have a central role to play in IT systems consonant with our core competencies: we attend to the balance of situated as opposed to generalized strategies and the balance of appeals to identity in writing about the practical use of technology, and we are well prepared to attend to these balances in other important arenas of IT discourse. Together, these two arguments are meant to begin or continue conversations—in workplace and academic contexts alike—that bring the issues of IT development and the future of technical communication closely together.

Hart-Davidson, William. Technical Communication Online (2001). Articles>TC>Writing>Technical Writing


One Hundred Simple Tech Writing Errors

Here are the 100 writing errors that the author has encountered in his experience. (Followed by the subsequent article 'Ten More Errors in Technical Writing.')

Kamath, Gurudutt R. IT People (2003). Articles>Editing>Grammar>Technical Writing


One Question Can Change Your Life

Although technical communication was a thriving profession when I finished college, it was nowhere on my radar when I began looking for work after graduation.

Meyer, Lori. Carolina Communique (2013). Articles>Careers>Technical Writing


Open Source For Technical Writing Teams

A presentation introducting how to support technical documentation teams with open-source tools.

SlideShare (2007). Presentations>Collaboration>Technical Writing>Open Source


Open-Source Tech Writing: The Time is Now

We are all going to have to collaborate like never before. Everyone should select at least one area of interest and specialize as best they can. Then we will need to start meeting and sharing information. Immediately. There are several ways to do this, I believe.

Norris, Julie. 2moro Docs (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Technical Writing>Open Source


Oral Communication and Technical Writing: A Reconsideration of Writing in a Multicultural Era   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article investigates the status of orality in the history of technical communication. The article calls for orality as an integral part and driving force of technical writing. The article brings to light the misconceptions that have led to a diminished role of oral communication in technical writing. The article shows the implications of oral skills for improved effectiveness of technical communicators. The article outlines the challenges and promises of teaching oral communication in technical writing.

Cibangu, Sylvain K. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2009). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>History


Organizing Content 22: The Technical Writer as an Outsider: How Ambitious Are You?

After our recent reorg, our tech writing group, now split up, has been wondering about the best way to realign ourselves in the new reporting structure, which has yet to be fully defined. Will we end up at the bottom, relegated into some lonely, forgotten corner of the org chart? Will we be grouped with the finance accountants and the secretaries? Or clumped into some other miscellaneous grouping, like a collection of odd socks?

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Collaboration>Technical Writing>Workflow


Organizing Content 23: The Interface Is Text

Language experts should play a more active role in shaping the interface because the interface is text. As such, writers do a disservice to project teams if they don’t play a role to help clarify and sharpen the interface language.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Information Design>User Interface>Technical Writing


Organizing Content 24: Best Practices for Writing Interface Text

Moving help inside the interface has many advantages, and there are plenty of best practices for style and format. But the biggest shift in perspective, which I argued in my last post, is to stop differentiating between the interface and the help content. The interface is mostly text. It is an orchestra of words on a page that users rely on to navigate and understand the application’s content.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Documentation>Information Design>Technical Writing


Paradigm Shifts are Never Pretty: Advice on Making the Move to XML Authoring

The move toward XML-based authoring in technical publications is a classic paradigm shift. It requires content creators to change their writing process and learn new concepts.

O'Keefe, Sarah S. TechCom Manager (2008). Articles>Writing>XML>Technical Writing


The Paradox of Tech Comm

In a tech world obsessed with user experience, the role of technical communication seems paradoxical. On the one hand, documentation is 100% user facing, and 100% intended to enhance the user experience, but most users seem to be dissatisfied with the documentation of the products that they buy and use. On the other hand, there is little evidence I can find that suggests that people’s buying decisions are significantly affected by the quality of documentation.

Baker, Mark. TechWhirl.com (2012). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing


Peer Review Checklist for Writers

The peer review checklist involves completing a copy edit, completing a content edit, and then meeting with the writer to discuss your suggestions. Complete all sections of this checklist during the document’s peer review. (Someone other than the writer should complete the checklist.) Plan on spending at least one full day on the peer review, perhaps longer, depending on the size of the document.

Mulligan, Peg. PegMulligan.com (2009). Articles>Writing>Editing>Technical Editing


Perceptions of Technical Writers

I enrolled in college with the intentions of becoming an engineer. I was good at math and hoped to build something out of a science-fiction magazine. As I struggled through the general engineering curriculum, it was apparent that a specialized engineering degree would not be in my future. English had always been my fail-safe. I enjoyed the different aspects of English: being technical and precise, diagramming a sentence, or creating fluid, expressive, sound prose. I wanted to combine my enjoyment of English and my technical aptitude.

Gray, William. Carolina Communique (2012). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


Performing Professionally as a Writer: Research Revival Vlogs   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Six professional writers who participated in the original Writing Workplace Cultures research published in the initial version of CCC Online (2001) contributed to a revival of that research in its performative dimensions by self-producing video logs about their professional performances as writers.

Henry, James M. College Composition and Communication Online (2012). Articles>Research>Technical Writing>Business Communication


The Personal Narrative of a Technical Writer

When I graduated with an Honours degree in English from St. F.X., I had no idea that I would find work as a freelance technical writer; in fact, I had next to no idea at the time what technical writing was. In short, a technical writer produces the literature of engineering, technology, software, and systems development.

Currie, John. St. Francis Xavier (1999). Careers>TC>Writing>Technical Writing


Pick a Card

Whether magician or crook, the ability to manipulate the contents of a deck of cards, making the right card appear at the right moment, is the key to their success and takes a long time and a lot of practice to perfect. The obvious take away here is that hard work will take you far, but what of working smarter?

McLean, Gordon. Communications from DMN (2009). Articles>Single Sourcing>Technical Writing


Placing Value on User Assistance

User assistance writers are often the Rodney Dangerfields of the UX world, bemoaning the fact that we don’t get any respect. I think the real problem is that user assistance folks are not particularly good at communicating the ways in which we add value to an enterprise. This column explores two models that show how user assistance adds value and how we can communicate that value to those who pay our salaries—something I would like to encourage other user assistance writers to do.

Hughes, Michael A. UXmatters (2008). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Help


Placing Value on User Assistance

User assistance writers are often the Rodney Dangerfields of the UX world, bemoaning the fact that we don’t get any respect. I think the real problem is that user assistance folks are not particularly good at communicating the ways in which we add value to an enterprise. This column explores two models that show how user assistance adds value and how we can communicate that value to those who pay our salaries—something I would like to encourage other user assistance writers to do.

Hughes, Michael A. UXmatters (2008). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Workplace


Plain English

According to Plain English Campaign (www.plainenglish.co.uk), plain English is "… something that the intended audience can read, understand and act upon the first time they read it. Plain English takes into account design and layout as well as language." Many organisations have found that plain English brings commercial advantages.

Unwalla, Mike. TechScribe (2008). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Minimalism


Podcast on Getting a Job in Technical Writing, 7 Steps

Although getting a job is the focus of the podcast, I also talk about what technical writers do, how they approach a project, how they decide what to create, and how they generate ideas for tasks. Specifically, I talk about about a project people can work on at tech.lds.org. People can start writing help for the project here.

Johnson, Tom H. Tech Writer Voices (2009). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing>Podcasts


Portrait of a Maturing Department   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Department of Rhetoric and Writing has been an independent department since 1993. When we left the English Department, the writing programs -- composition, the shared B.A. program in Professional and Technical Writing, and the M.A. program in Technical and Expository Writing -- naturally came with us. What we didn't have was a developmental vision of a program.

L'Eplattenier, Barbara, Betty Freeland, Cindy Nahrwold, Karen Kuralt and Susann Barr. CPTSC Proceedings (2001). Articles>Education>Technical Writing



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