Practical Strategies for Technical Communication

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1/4/2013
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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This brief version of Mike Markel's bestselling Technical Communicationgives students clear advice and practical strategies for writing and designing all the major types of documents they will encounter in their professional lives. Retaining Markel's trademark student-friendly tone, the book offers concise yet thorough coverage of audience and purpose, research, style, and document design, user-friendly features to guide students in the writing process, and a wealth of annotated examples and sample documents to serve as models. Integrated coverage of social media and new technologies gives students the most up-to-date advice about technology in the context of specific tasks and documents. The print text is now integrated with e-Pages for Practical Strategies for Technical Communication, designed to take advantage of what the Web can do.

Author Biography

Mike Markel is director of technical communication at Boise State University, where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. The former editor of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, he is the author of numerous articles and six books about technical communication, including Ethics and Technical Communication: A Critique and Synthesis. His latest book is Big Sick Heart, a mystery.

Table of Contents

e-Pages (online only) are labeled in the contents below. Students receive automatic access to e-Pages with the purchase of a new book. If the code in a book or card is expired, they can purchase access here. 

PART 1: Working in the Technical Communication Environment

1. Introduction to Technical Communication

What Is Technical Communication?

What Are Your Roles as a Communicator?

Technical Communication and Your Career

Characteristics of a Technical Document

Addresses Particular Readers

Helps Readers Solve Problems

Reflects the Organization’s Goals and Culture

Is Produced Collaboratively

Uses Design to Increase Readability

Consists of Words or Images or Both

■ Document Analysis Activity: Studying How Technical Communication Combines Words, Graphics, and Design

A Look at Three Sample Documents

Measures of Excellence in Technical Communication







Professional Appearance


A Process for Writing Technical Documents


2. Understanding Ethical and Legal Considerations

A Brief Introduction to Ethics

Your Ethical and Legal Obligations

Obligations to Your Employer

Obligations to the Public

Obligations to the Environment

Obligations to Copyright Holders

■ Guidelines: Determining Fair Use

■ Guidelines: Dealing with Copyright Questions

■ Ethics Note: Distinguishing Plagiarism from Acceptable Reuse of Information

The Role of Corporate Culture in Ethical and Legal Conduct

Communicating Ethically Across Cultures

Communicating with Cultures with Different Ethical Beliefs

Communicating with Cultures with Different Laws

Principles for Ethical Communication

Abide by Copyright Law

Abide by the Appropriate Professional Code of Conduct

Abide by Your Organization’s Policy on Social Media

Take Advantage of Your Employer’s Ethics Resources

Tell the Truth

Don’t Mislead Your Readers

Use Design to Highlight Important Ethical and Legal Information

Be Clear

Avoid Discriminatory Language

Acknowledge Assistance from Others

Writer’s Checklist


3. Writing Collaboratively and Using Social Media

Advantages and Disadvantages of Collaboration

Advantages of Collaboration

Disadvantages of Collaboration

Managing Projects

■ Guidelines: Managing Your Project

Conducting Meetings

Listening Effectively

■ Guidelines: Listening Effectively

Setting Your Team’s Agenda

■ Guidelines: Setting Your Team’s Agenda

■ Ethics Note: Pulling Your Weight on Collaborative Projects

Communicating and Critiquing Diplomatically

■ Guidelines: Communicating Diplomatically

■ Guidelines: Critiquing a Colleague’s Work

■ Document Analysis Activity: Critiquing a Draft Clearly and Diplomatically

Using Social Media and Other Electronic Tools in Collaboration

■ Choices and Strategies: Choosing Appropriate Tools for Collaboration

■ Tech Tip: How to Use the Review Tab

Messaging Technologies


■ Guidelines: Participating in a Videoconference

Shared Document Workspaces and Wikis

■ Guidelines: Using and Participating in Wikis Effectively

Discussion Boards

■ Guidelines: Participating in Discussion Boards


■ Guidelines: Being a Responsible Blogger

■ Ethics Note: Maintaining a Professional Presence Online

Writer’s Checklist



PART 2: Planning and Drafting the Document

4. Analyzing Your Audience and Purpose

Determining the Important Characteristics of Your Audience

Who Are Your Readers?

Why Is Your Audience Reading Your Document?

What Are Your Readers’ Attitude and Expectations?

■ Choices and Strategies: Responding to Readers’ Attitudes

How Will Your Readers Use Your Document?

Techniques for Learning About Your Audience

Determining What You Already Know About Your Audience

Interviewing People

Reading About Your Audience Online

Searching Social Media for Documents Your Audience Has Written

Communicating Across Cultures

Understanding the Cultural Variables "on the Surface"

Understanding the Cultural Variables "Beneath the Surface"

Considering Cultural Variables as You Write

Using Graphics and Design for Multicultural Readers

■ Guidelines: Writing for Readers from Other Cultures

■ Document Analysis Activity: Examining Cultural Variables in a Business Letter

Applying What You Have Learned About Your Audience

Writing for Multiple Audiences

Determining Your Purpose

Writer’s Checklist


5. Researching Your Subject

Understanding the Differences Between Academic and Workplace Research

Understanding the Research Process

Choosing Appropriate Research Methods

■ Guidelines: Researching a Topic

■ Choices and Strategies: Choosing Appropriate Research Techniques

Conducting Secondary Research

Using Traditional Research Tools

Using Social Media and Other Interactive Resources

Evaluating the Information

■ Guidelines: Evaluating Print and Online Sources

■ Document Analysis Activity: Evaluating Information from Internet Sources

Conducting Primary Research

Observations and Demonstrations



Field Research


■ Guidelines: Conducting an Interview



■ Choices and Strategies: Choosing Types of Questions for Questionnaires

■ Ethics Note: Reporting and Analyzing Data Honestly

Writer’s Checklist



6. Writing for Your Readers

Presenting Yourself Effectively

■ Guidelines: Creating a Professional Persona

Using Basic Organizational Patterns

■ Choices and Strategies: Choosing Effective Organizational Patterns

Writing Coherent Titles and Headings

■ Guidelines: Revising Headings

Writing Coherent Paragraphs

Structure Paragraphs Clearly

■ Ethics Note: Avoiding Burying Bad News in Paragraphs

Use Coherence Devices Within and Between Paragraphs

Structuring Effective Sentences

Use Lists

■ Guidelines: Creating Effective Lists

Emphasize New and Important Information

Choose an Appropriate Sentence Length

Focus on the "Real" Subject

Focus on the "Real" Verb

Use Parallel Structure

Use Modifiers Effectively

Choosing the Right Words and Phrases

Select an Appropriate Level of Formality

Be Clear and Specific

■ Ethics Note: Euphemisms and Truth Telling

Be Concise

■ Document Analysis Activity: Revising for Conciseness and Simplicity

Use Inoffensive Language

■ Guidelines: Avoiding Sexist Language

■ Guidelines: Using the People-First Approach

Writer’s Checklist


PART 3: Designing User-Friendly Documents and Web Sites

7. Designing Documents and Web Sites

Goals of Document and Web Design

Planning the Design of Documents and Web Sites

■ Guidelines: Planning Your Design

Understanding Design Principles





Understanding Learning Theory

■ Guidelines: Understanding Learning Theory and Page Design

Designing Documents

Accessing Aids

■ Choices and Strategies: Creating Accessing Aids

Page Layout

■ Tech Tip: How to Set Up Pages



■ Ethics Note: Using Type Sizes Responsibly

Titles and Headings

■ Tech Tip: How to Modify and Create Styles

Other Design Features

■ Tech Tip: How to Create Borders and Screens

■ Tech Tip: How to Create Text Boxes

Analyzing Some Page Designs

■ Document Analysis Activity: Analyzing a Page Design

Designing Web Sites

Create Informative Headers and Footers

Help Readers Navigate the Site

■ Guidelines: Making Your Site Easy to Navigate

Include Extra Features Your Readers Might Need

Help Readers Connect with Others

Design for Readers with Disabilities

Design for Multicultural Audiences

Design Simple, Clear Web Pages

■ Guidelines: Designing Simple, Clear Web Pages

Writer’s Checklist


8. Creating Graphics

The Functions of Graphics

The Characteristics of an Effective Graphic

■ Ethics Note: Creating Honest Graphics

■ Guidelines: Integrating Graphics and Text

Understanding the Process of Creating Graphics

Planning Graphics

Producing Graphics

■ Tech Tip: How to Insert and Modify Graphics

Revising Graphics

Citing Graphics

Using Color Effectively

Choosing the Appropriate Kind of Graphic

■ Choices and Strategies: Choosing the Appropriate Kind of Graphic

Illustrating Numerical Information

■ Guidelines: Creating Effective Tables

■ Guidelines: Creating Effective Bar Graphs

■ e-Pages: Interactive Graphic

■ Tech Tip: How to Use Drawing Tools

■ Guidelines: Creating Effective Line Graphs

■ Guidelines: Creating Effective Pie Charts

Illustrating Logical Relationships

■ Document Analysis Activity: Analyzing a Graphic

Illustrating Process Descriptions and Instructions

Illustrating Visual and Spatial Characteristics

■ Guidelines: Presenting Photographs Effectively

■ Tech Tip: How to Create and Insert Screen Shots

Creating Effective Graphics for Multicultural Readers

Writer’s Checklist



PART 4: Learning Important Applications

9. Writing Correspondence

■ Focus on Process

Selecting a Type of Correspondence

■ Choices and Strategies: Choosing a Type of Correspondence

Presenting Yourself Effectively in Correspondence

Use the Appropriate Level of Formality

Communicate Correctly

Project the "You Attitude"

Avoid Correspondence Clichés

Communicate Honestly

■ Ethics Note: Writing Honest Business Correspondence

Writing Letters

Elements of a Letter

Common Types of Letters

Writing Memos

■ Guidelines: Organizing a Memo

Writing E-mails

■ Guidelines: Following Netiquette

■ Document Analysis Activity: Following Netiquette in an E-mail Message

Writing Microblogs

Writing Correspondence to Intercultural Readers

Writer’s Checklist


10. Writing Job-Application Materials

■ Focus on Process

Writing Paper Résumés

Appearance of the Résumé

Content of the Résumé

■ Ethics Note: Writing Honest Job-Application Materials

Elements of the Chronological Résumé

■ Guidelines: Elaborating on Your Education

Elements of the Skills Résumé

Writing Electronic Résumés

Content of the Electronic Résumé

Format of the Electronic Résumé

■ Guidelines: Preparing a Plain-Text Résumé

■ Guidelines: Preparing a Scannable Résumé

Writing Job-Application Letters

Selectivity and Development

Elements of the Job-Application Letter

Preparing a Portfolio

■ e-Pages: Online Portfolio

Writing Follow-up Letters or E-mails After an Interview

Writer’s Checklist


11. Writing Proposals

■ Focus on Process

The Logistics of Proposals

Internal and External Proposals

Solicited and Unsolicited Proposals

The "Deliverables" of Proposals

Research Proposals

Goods and Services Proposals

Persuasion and Proposals

Understanding Readers’ Needs

Describing What You Plan to Do

Demonstrating Your Professionalism

■ Guidelines: Demonstrating Your Professionalism in a Proposal

■ Ethics Note: Writing Honest Proposals

The Structure of the Proposal



■ Guidelines: Introducing a Proposal

Proposed Program

■ Document Analysis Activity: Writing the Proposed Program

Qualifications and Experience



■ Tech Tip: How to Create a Gantt Chart

Sample Internal Proposal

Writer’s Checklist


12. Writing Informational Reports

■ Focus on Process

Writing Directives

Writing Field Reports

■ Guidelines: Responding to Readers’ Questions in a Field Report

■ e-Pages: Report Presented as a Web Site

Writing Progress and Status Reports

■ Ethics Note: Reporting Your Progress Honestly

Organizing Progress and Status Reports

Concluding Progress and Status Reports

■ Guidelines: Projecting an Appropriate Tone in a Progress or Status Report

Sample Progress Report

Writing Incident Reports

Writer’s Checklist


13. Writing Recommendation Reports

■ Focus on Process

Understanding the Role of Recommendation Reports

Using a Problem-Solving Model for Preparing Recommendation Reports

Identify the Problem or Opportunity

Establish Criteria for Responding to the Problem or Opportunity

Determine the Options

Study Each Option According to the Criteria

Draw Conclusions about Each Option

Formulate Recommendations Based on the Conclusions

Writing Recommendation Reports

Writing the Body of the Report

■ Guidelines: Writing Recommendations

Writing the Front Matter

■ Tech Tip: How to Format Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers

■ Tech Tip: How to Create a Table of Contents

■ Guidelines: Writing an Executive Summary

■ Document Analysis Activity: Analyzing an Executive Summary

Writing Back Matter

Sample Recommendation Report

■ e-Pages: Recommendations Presented in an Audio Podcast

Writer’s Checklist


14. Writing Definitions, Descriptions, and Instructions

■ Focus on Process

Writing Definitions

Analyzing the Writing Situation for Definitions

■ Choices and Strategies: Choosing the Appropriate Type of Definition

Writing Sentence Definitions

■ Guidelines: Writing Effective Sentence Definitions

Writing Extended Definitions

Writing Descriptions

Analyzing the Writing Situation for Descriptions

Drafting Effective Descriptions

■ Guidelines: Providing Appropriate Detail in Descriptions

A Look at Sample Descriptions

■ e-Pages: Mechanism Description Using Interactive Graphics

■ e-Pages: Process Description Using Video Animation

Writing Instructions

Designing a Set of Instructions

■ Guidelines: Designing Clear, Attractive Pages

Planning for Safety

■ Ethics Note: Protecting Your Readers’ Safety

Drafting Effective Instructions

■ Guidelines: Drafting Introductions for Instructions

■ Guidelines: Drafting Steps in Instructions

Revising, Editing, and Proofreading Instructions

A Look at Several Sample Instructions

■ Document Analysis Activity: Presenting Clear Instructions

■ e-Pages: Instructions Using Video Demonstration

■ e-Pages: Instructions Using Video Screen Capture

■ e-Pages: Instructions Using a Combination of Video Demonstration and Screen Capture

Writing Manuals

Writer’s Checklist


15. Making Oral Presentations

■ Focus on Process

Preparing the Presentation

Analyzing the Speaking Situation

Organizing and Developing the Presentation

■ Guidelines: Introducing and Concluding a Presentation

Preparing Presentation Graphics

■ Tech Tip: How to Create a Master Page Design in PowerPoint

■ Tech Tip: How to Set List Items to Appear and Dim During a Presentation

■ Document Analysis Activity: Integrating Graphics and Text on a Presentation Slide

Choosing Effective Language

■ Guidelines: Using Memorable Language in Oral Presentations

Rehearsing the Presentation

Delivering a Presentation

■ e-Pages: A Proposal Delivered as an Oral Presentation

Calming Your Nerves

■ Guidelines: Releasing Nervous Energy

Using Your Voice Effectively

Using Your Body Effectively

■ Guidelines: Facing an Audience

Answering Questions After a Presentation

■ Ethics Note: Answering Questions Honestly

Writer’s Checklist



APPENDIX: Reference Handbook

A Documenting Your Sources

Note Taking




APA Style

IEEE Style

MLA Style

B Editing and Proofreading Your Documents

Grammatical Sentences



Proofreading Symbols and Their Meanings



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