Technical Communication Strategies for Today

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2014-03-04
  • Publisher: Pearson
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For courses in Introduction to Technical Communication or Technical Writing offered in English Departments.


Technical Communication Strategies for Today offers students all of the topics and genres they need for their technical communication course—in fewer pages and at a significantly lower price.


Students want their textbooks to cost less, and they want comprehensive topical coverage presented in a succinct and clear writing style. Technical Communication Strategies for Today offers both and speaks to today's students. Instructional narrative is “chunked,” so that portions of text are combined with graphics. The chunked presentation also integrates an awareness of how documents are read—often skimmed by readers seeking the information they need, and it models the way today’s technical documents should be designed. 


The contemporary writing style is matched by an approach that accurately reflects the modern day computer-centered technical workplace:Technical Communication Strategies for Today presents computers as thinking tools that powerfully influence how we develop, produce, design, and deliver technical documents and presentations. 

Author Biography

Richard Johnson-Sheehan is a Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University. At Purdue, he directed the Introductory Composition program, and he mentored new teachers of composition for many years. He teaches a variety of courses in composition, professional writing, and writing program administration, as well as classical rhetoric and the rhetoric of science. He has published widely in these areas. His prior books on writing include Technical Communication Today, now in its fifth edition, and Writing Proposals, now in its second edition. Professor Johnson-Sheehan was awarded 2008 Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing and has been an officer in the Council for Writing Program Administrators.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Elements of Technical Communication

Chapter 1Communicating in the Technical Workplace 1

Developing a Workplace Writing Process 2

Genres and the Technical Writing Process 4

Stage 1: Planning and Researching 5

Stage 2: Organizing and Drafting 7

Stage 3: Improving the Style 9

Stage 4: Designing 9

Stage 5: Revising and Editing 9

What Is Technical Communication? 10

Technical Communication Is Interactive and Adaptable 11

Technical Communication Is Reader Centered 12

Technical Communication Relies on Teamwork 12

Technical Communication Is Visual 13

Technical Communication Has Ethical, Legal, and Political

Dimensions 13

Technical Communication Is International and Cross-Cultural 15

How Important Is Technical Communication? 15

Chapter Review 16

Exercises and Projects 17


Chapter 2 Readers and Contexts of Use 19

Profiling Your Readers 20

Identifying Your Readers 22

Profiling Your Readers’ Needs, Values, and Attitudes 23

Profiling Contexts of Use 26

Identifying the Context of Use 26

Using Profiles to Your Own Advantage 27

International and Cross-Cultural Communication 28

Differences in Content 32

Differences in Organization 33

Differences in Style 34

Differences in Design 35

Listen and Learn: The Key to International and Cross-Cultural Communication 36

At Work: What Are Some Strategies for Communicating with People from Another Culture? 37

Chapter Review 38

Exercises and Projects 38

Case Study: Installing a Medical Waste Incinerator 40


Chapter 3 Working in Teams 44

The Stages of Teaming 45

Forming: Strategic Planning 45

Step 1: Define the Project Mission and Objectives 46

Step 2: Identify Project Outcomes 47

Step 3: Define Team Member Responsibilities 47

Step 4: Create a Project Calendar 48

Step 5: Write Out a Work Plan 48

Step 6: Agree on How Conflicts Will Be Resolved 49

Storming: Managing Conflict 54

Running Effective Meetings 54

Mediating Conflicts 56

Firing a Team Member 58

Norming: Determining Team Roles 58

Revising Objectives and Outcomes 58

Help: Virtual Teaming 59

Identifying Team Roles 61

Using Groupware to Facilitate Work 62

Performing: Improving Quality 63

The Keys to Teaming 63

Chapter Review 65

Exercises and Projects 65

Case Study: Not a Sunny Day 67


Chapter 4 Letters, Memos, and E-Mails 91

Features of Letters, Memos, and E-Mails 92

Planning and Researching 98

Determining the Rhetorical Situation 98

Ethics in the Technical Workplace 68

What Are Ethics? 69

Where Do Ethics Come From? 72

Personal Ethics 73

Social Ethics 73

Conservation Ethics 76

Resolving Ethical Dilemmas 77

Help: Stopping Cyberbullying and Computer Harassment 78

Confronting an Ethical Dilemma 80

Resolving an Ethical Dilemma 81

When You Disagree with the Company 82

Ethics in the Technical Workplace 85

Copyright Law 85

Trademarks 85

At Work: Why Should Technical Professionals Learn About Ethics? 86

Patents 86

Privacy 87

Information Sharing 87

Proprietary Information 87

Libel and Slander 88

Fraud 88

Chapter Review 88

Exercises and Projects 89

Case Study: This Company Is Bugging Me 90


Part 2: Genres of Technical Communication

Chapter 5 Organizing and Drafting 100

Introduction with a Purpose and a Main Point 100

Body That Provides Need-to-Know Information 103

Conclusion That Restates the Main Point 104

Types of Letters, Memos, and E-Mails 104

Inquiries 105

Responses 105

Claims or Complaints 105

Adjustments 108

Refusals 108

Using Style and Design 111

Strategies for Developing an Appropriate Style 111

Designing and Formatting Letters, Envelopes, and Memos 114

Using E-Mail Internationally 117

Microgenre: Texting at Work 120

Chapter Review 122

Exercises and Projects 122

Case Study: The Nastygram 126


Chapter 6 Technical Descriptions and Specifications 128

Planning and Researching 129

Planning 129

Quick Start: Technical Descriptions and Specifications 130

Researching 135

Partitioning the Subject 135

At Work: How Does Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD)

Help Write Descriptions? 136

Organizing and Drafting 140

Specific and Precise Title 140

Introduction with an Overall Description 140

Description by Features, Functions, or Stages 141

Description by Senses, Similes, Analogies, and Metaphors 142

Conclusion 144

Help: Using Digital Photography in Descriptions 144

Using Style and Design 146

Plain, Simple Style 146

Page Layout That Fits 146

Graphics That Illustrate 146

Microgenre: Technical Definitions 149

Chapter Review 153

Exercises and Projects 153

Case Study: In the Vapor 157


Chapter 7 Instructions and Documentation 159

Planning and Researching 160

Quick Start: Instructions and Documentation 161

Planning 162

Researching 171

Planning for Cross-Cultural Readers and Contexts 172

Verbal Considerations 173

Design Considerations 173

Organizing and Drafting 174

Specific and Precise Title 174

Introduction 174

List of Parts, Tools, and Conditions Required 175

Sequentially Ordered Steps 176

Safety Information 182

Conclusion That Signals Completion of Task 185

Using Style and Design 185

Help: On-Screen Documentation 187

Plain Style with a Touch of Emotion 188

Functional, Attractive Page Layout 189

Graphics That Reinforce Written Text 190

User-Testing Your Documentation 192

Microgenre: Emergency Instructions 192

Chapter Review 194

Exercises and Projects 195

Case Study: The Flame 197


Chapter 8 Proposals 198

Planning and Researching 199

Planning 199

Quick Start: Proposals 200

Researching 205

Organizing and Drafting 206

Writing the Introduction 206

Describing the Current Situation 208

Describing the Project Plan 209

Describing Qualifications 216

Concluding with Costs and Benefits 216

Using Style and Design 219

A Balance of Plain and Persuasive Styles 219

An Attractive, Functional Design 222

Microgenre: The Elevator Pitch 224

Chapter Review 226

Exercises and Projects 227

Case Study: The Mole 237


Chapter 9 Activity Reports 238

Types of Activity Reports 239

Progress Reports 239

Briefings and White Papers 239

Quick Start: Activity Reports 240

Incident Reports 242

Laboratory Reports 242

Planning and Researching 246

Analyzing the Rhetorical Situation 249

Organizing and Drafting 251

Writing the Introduction 251

Writing the Body 251

Writing the Conclusion 252

Using Style and Design 254

Using a Plain Style 254

Using Design and Graphics 254

Microgenre: The Status Report 255

Chapter Review 257

Exercises and Projects 257

Case Study: Bad Chemistry 259


Chapter 10 Analytical Reports 260

Types of Analytical Reports 261

Quick Start: Analytical Report 262

Planning and Researching 263

Planning 263

Researching 268

Organizing and Drafting 273

Writing the Introduction 273

At Work: What Is the Most Efficient Way to Write a Report? 274

Describing Your Methodology 275

Summarizing the Results of the Study 275

Discussing Your Results 276

Stating Your Overall Conclusions and Recommendations 276

Help: Using Google Drive to Collaborate with InternationalTeams 289

Drafting Front Matter and Back Matter 290

Developing Front Matter 290

Developing Back Matter 294

Using Style and Design 294

Using Plain Style in a Persuasive Way 294

A Straightforward Design 295

Microgenre: The Poster Presentation 299

Chapter Review 300

Exercises and Projects 301

Case Study: The X-File 303


Chapter 11 Starting Your Career 304

Setting Goals, Making a Plan 305

Setting Goals 305

Using a Variety of Job-Seeking Paths 305

Quick Start: Career Materials 306

Preparing a Résumé 310

Types of Résumés 310

Chronological Résumé 310

At Work: How Has the Internet Changed the Job Search Process? 316

Functional Résumé 319

Designing the Résumé 319

Writing Effective Application Letters 321

Content and Organization 321

Help: Designing a Scannable/Searchable Résumé 323

Style 325

Revising and Proofreading the Résumé and Letter 329

Creating a Professional Portfolio 329

Collecting Materials 330

Organizing Your Portfolio 331

Assembling the Portfolio in a Binder 331

Creating an Electronic Portfolio 332

Interviewing Strategies 333

Preparing for the Interview 333

At the Interview 334

Writing Thank You Letters and/or E-Mails 335

Microgenre: The Bio 337

Chapter Review 338

Exercises and Projects 339

Case Study: The Lie 341


Part 3: Researching, Designing, Presenting

Chapter 12 Researching and Research Methods 342

Beginning Your Research 344

Defining Your Research Subject 345

Narrowing Your Research Subject 346

Formulating a Research Question and Hypothesis 346

Developing a Research Methodology 347

Mapping Out a Methodology 347

Describing Your Methodology 347

Using and Revising Your Methodology 348

Triangulating Materials 349

Using Electronic Sources 350

Using Print Sources 351

Using Empirical Sources 353

Managing Information and Taking Notes 356

Managing Information 356

Careful Note Taking 356

Documenting Sources 360

Avoiding Plagiarism 362

Chapter Review 364

Exercises and Projects 364

Case Study: The Patchwriter 366


Chapter 13 Designing Documents and Interfaces 367

Five Principles of Design 368

Design Principle 1: Balance 368

Weighting a Page or Screen 369

Using Grids to Balance a Page Layout 372

Design Principle 2: Alignment 376

Design Principle 3: Grouping 377

Using Headings 378

Using Borders and Rules 381

Design Principle 4: Consistency 382

Choosing Typefaces 382

Labeling Graphics 384

Creating Sequential and Nonsequential Lists 384

Inserting Headers and Footers 386

Design Principle 5: Contrast 386

Adding Shading and Background Color 387

Cross-Cultural Design 388

Chapter Review 390

Exercises and Projects 391

Case Study: Scorpions Invade 393


Chapter 14 Creating and Using Graphics 397

Guidelines for Using Graphics 398

Guideline One: A Graphic Should Tell a Simple Story 399

Guideline Two: A Graphic Should Reinforce the Written Text, Not Replace It 400

Guideline Three: A Graphic Should Be Ethical 400

Guideline Four: A Graphic Should Be Labeled and Placed Properly 402

Displaying Data with Graphs, Tables, and Charts 403

Line Graphs 404

Bar Charts 405

Tables 406

Pie Charts 407

Flowcharts 409

Using Pictures and Drawings 410

Photographs 411

Inserting Photographs and Other Images 412

Illustrations 413

Using Cross-Cultural Symbols 414

Chapter Review 417

Exercises and Projects 417

Case Study: Looking Guilty 419


Chapter 15 Preparing and Giving Presentations 421

Planning and Researching Your Presentation 422

Defining the Rhetorical Situation 424

Allotting Your Time 426

Choosing the Right Presentation Technology 427

Organizing the Content of Your Presentation 430

Building the Presentation 430

The Introduction: Tell Them What You’re Going to Tell Them 431

Help: Giving Presentations with your iPod, MP3, or Mobile Phone 434

The Body: Tell Them 436

At Work: How Can I Overcome My Fear of Speaking in Public? 437

The Conclusion: Tell Them What You Told Them 439

Preparing to Answer Questions 441

Choosing Your Presentation Style 442

Creating Visuals 444

Designing Visual Aids 444

Using Graphics 446

Slides to Avoid 446

Delivering the Presentation 447

Body Language 447

Voice, Rhythm, and Tone 449

Using Your Notes 449

Rehearsing 450

Evaluating Your Performance 450

Working Cross-Culturally with Translators 452

Chapter Review 456

Exercises and Projects 456

Case Study: The Coward 458


Appendix A: Grammar and Punctuation Guide A-1

Appendix B: Documentation Guide A-19

References R-1

Credits C-1

Index I-1

Sample Documents Inside Back Cover

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