Technical Communication Today, Books a la Carte Edition

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  • Edition: 5th
  • Format: Loose-leaf
  • Copyright: 2014-08-05
  • Publisher: Pearson
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T echnical Communication Today was written for introduction to technical communication or technical writing courses taught most often in English Departments. 


Technical Communication Today remains the only text to fully centralize the computer in the technical workplace, presenting how writers use computers throughout their communication process.  

Writers use their computers to help them think, research, compose, design, and edit. Not only is Technical Communication Today firmly rooted in core rhetorical principles, but the text also presents computers as thinking tools that powerfully influence how we develop, produce, design, and deliver technical documents and presentations. 

Technical Communication Today  speaks to today's students and how they expect to learn information. Instructional narrative is “chunked,” so that readable portions of text are combined with graphics. This presentation facilitate learning, and models the way today’s technical documents should be designed. Additionally, the chunked presentation integrates an awareness of how documents are read—often “raided” by readers seeking the information they need.  By mirroring these processes in its content and structure, Technical Communication Today offers readers a higher level of accessibility.


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





1          Communicating in the Technical Workplace

Developing a Workplace Writing Process

Genres and the Technical Writing Process

            Stage 1: Plan Out Your Project and Do Start-up Research

            Stage 2: Organizing and Drafting

            Stage 3: Improving the Style

            Stage 4: Designing

            Stage 5: Revising and Editing

What is Technical Communication?

            Technical Communication is Interactive and Adaptable

            Technical Communication is Reader Centered

            Technical Communication Relies on Teamwork

            Technical Communication is Visual

            Technical Communication Has Ethical, Legal, and Political Dimensions

            Technical Communication is International and Cross-Cultural

How Important is Technical Communication?


2          Readers and Contexts of Use

Creating a Reader Profile

            Step 1: Identify Your Readers

            Step 2: Identify Your Readers’ Needs, Values, and Attitudes

            Step 3: Identify the Contexts in Which Readers Will Experience Your Document

Using Profiles to Your Own Advantage

Global and Transcultural Communication

            Differences in Content

            Differences in Organization

            Differences in Style

            Differences in Design

            Listen and Learn: The Key to Global and Transcultural Communication


3          Working in Teams

The Stages of Teaming

Forming: Strategic Planning

            Step 1: Define the Project Mission and Objectives

            Step 2: Identify Project Outcomes

            Step 3: Define Team Member Responsibilities

            Step 4: Create a Project Calendar

            Step 5: Write Out a Work Plan

            Step 6: Agree on How Conflicts Will Be Resolved

Storming: Managing Conflict

            Running Effective Meetings

            Mediating Conflicts    

            Firing a Team Member

Norming: Determining Team Roles

            Revising Objectives and Outcomes

Help: Virtual Teaming

Redefining Team Roles

Using Groupware to Facilitate Work

Performing: Improving Quality

The Keys to Teaming


4          Ethics in the Technical Workplace

What Are Ethics?

Where Do Ethics Come From?

            Personal Ethics

            Social Ethics

            Conservation Ethics

Resolving Ethical Dilemmas

            Step 1: Analyze the Ethical Dilemma

            Step 2: Make a Decision

            Step : React Appropriately When You Disagree with Your Employer

Help: Stopping Cyberbullying and Computer Harassment

Ethics in the Technical Workplace

            Copyright Law




            Information Sharing

            Proprietary Information

            Libel and Slander


Copyright Law in Technical Communication

            Asking Permission

            Copyrighting Your Work






5          Letters, Memos, and E-Mail

Features of Letters, Memos, and E-Mail

            Quick Start: Letters, Memos, and E-Mail

            Step 1: Make a Plan and Do Research

            Step 2: Decide What Kind of Letter, Memo, or E-Mail is Needed

            Step 3: Organize and Draft Your Message

            Step 4: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium

Microgenre: Workplace Texting and Tweeting

Using E-Mail Internationally

            Case Study: The Nastygram


6          Technical Descriptions and Specifications

Types of Technical Descriptions

            Quick Start: Technical Descriptions and Specifications

Step 1: Make a Plan and Do Research

            Step 2: Partition Your Subject

            Step 3: Organize and Draft Your Technical Description

            Help: Using Digital Photography in Descriptions

            Step 4: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium

Microgenre: Technical Definitions

Case Study: In the Vapor



7          Instructions and Documentation

Types of Technical Documentation

Quick Start: Instructions and Documentation

Step 1: Make a Plan and Do Research

            Step 2: Organize and Draft Your Documentation

            Step 3: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium

Help: On-Screen Documentation

Microgenre: Emergency Instructions

Case Study: Purified Junk


8          Proposals

Types of Proposals

Quick Start: Proposals

Step 1: Make a Plan and Do Research

            Step 2: Organize and Draft Your Proposal

            Step 3: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium

Microgenre: The Elevator Pitch

Case Study: The Mole


9          Activity Reports

Types of Activity Reports

Quick Start: Activity Reports

Step 1: Make a Plan and Do Research

            Step 2: Organize and Draft Your Activity Report

            Step 3: Choose the Style, Design, and Medium

Microgenre: The Status Report

Case Study: Bad Chemistry


10        Analytical Reports

Types of Analytical Reports

Quick Start: Analytical Reports

Step 1: Make a Plan and Do Research

            Step 2: Organize and Draft Your Report

            Help: Using Google Docs to Collaborate with International Teams

Step 3: Draft the Front Matter and Back Matter

Step 4: Choose Your Design and Style

Microgenre: The Poster Presentation

Case Study: The X-File


11        Starting Your Career

Setting Goals, Making a Plan

            Quick Start: Career Materials

            Setting Goals

            Making Your Plan

Preparing a Résumé

            Types of Résumés

            Chronological Résumé

            Functional Résumé

            Designing the Résumé

Help: Designing a Searchable Résumé

Writing Effective Application Letters

            Content and Organization


            Revising and Proofreading the Résumé and Letter

Creating a Professional Portfolio

            Collecting Materials

            Organizing Your Portfolio

            Assembling the Portfolio in a Binder

            Creating an Electronic Portfolio

Interviewing Strategies         

            Preparing for the Interview

            At the Interview

            Writing Thank You Letters and/or E-Mails  

Microgenre: The Bio

Case Study: The Lie





12        Strategic Planning, Being Creative

Using Strategic Planning

            Step 1: Set Your Objectives

            Step 2: Create a List of Tasks (or Task List)

            Step 3: Set a Timeline

Help: Planning with Online Calendars

Generating New Ideas

            Tips for Being More Creative

            Inventing Ideas

Case Study: Getting Back to Crazy


13        Persuading Others

Persuading with Reasoning

            Reasoning with Logic

            Reasoning with Examples and Evidence

Persuading with Values

Help: Persuading Readers Online

Appealing to Common Goals and Ideals

Framing Issues from the Readers’ Perspective

Persuasion in High-Context Cultures

Case Study: Trying to Stay Neutral


14        Researching in Technical Workplaces

Beginning Your Research       

            Step 1: Define Your Research Subject

            Step 2: Formulate a Research Question or Hypothesis

            Step 3: Develop a Research Methodology

            Step 4: Collect Evidence Through Sources

            Step 5: Triangulate Your Sources

            Step 6: Take Careful Notes

            Help: Using a Citation Manager

            Step 7: Appraise Your Evidence

            Step 8: Revise, Accept, or Abandon Your Hypothesis

Case Study: The Life of a Dilemma





15       Organizing and Drafting

Basic Organization for Any Document

Using Genres for Outlining

Organizing and Drafting the Introduction

            Six Opening Moves in an Introduction

            Drafting with the Six Moves

Organizing and Drafting the Body

            Carving the Body into Sections

            Patterns of Arrangement

Organizing and Drafting the Conclusion

            Five Closing Moves in a Conclusion

Organizing Transcultural Documents  

            Indirect Approach Introductions

            Indirect Approach Conclusions

Case Study: The Bad News


16        Using Plain and Persuasive Language

What is Style?

Writing Plain Sentences

            Basic Parts of a Sentence

            Eight Guidelines for Plain Sentences

            Creating Plain Sentences

Help: Translating and Translation Programs

Writing Plain Paragraphs

            The Elements of a Paragraph

            Using the Four Types of Sentences in a Paragraph

            Aligning Sentence Subjects in a Paragraph

            The Given/New Method

When Is It Appropriate to Use Passive Voice?
Persuasive Style

            Elevate the Tone

            Use Similes and Analogies

            Use Metaphors

            Change the Pace

Balancing Plain and Persuasive Style

Case Study: Going Over the Top


17        Designing Documents and Interfaces

Five Principles of Design

Design Principle 1: Balance

            Weighting a Page or Screen

            Using Grids to Balance a Page Layout


Design Principle 2: Alignment

Design Principle 3: Grouping

            Using Headings

            Using Borders and Rules

Design Principle 4: Consistency

            Choosing Typefaces

            Labeling Graphics

            Creating Sequential and Nonsequential Lists

            Inserting Headers and Footers

Design Principle 5: Contrast

Cross-Cultural Design

Case Study: Bugs on the Bus


18        Creating and Using Graphics

Guidelines for Using Graphics

            Guideline 1: A Graphic Should Tell a Simple Story

            Guideline 2: A Graphic Should Reinforce the Written Text, Not Replace It

            Guideline 3: A Graphic Should Be Ethical

            Guideline 4: A Graphic Should Be Labeled and Placed Properly

Displaying Data with Graphs, Tables, and Charts

            Line Graphs

            Bar Charts


            Pie Charts


Using Pictures and Drawings


            Inserting Photographs and Other Images


Using Transcultural Symbols

Case Study: Looking Guilty


19        Revising and Editing for Usability

Levels of Edit

Level 1 Editing: Revising

Level 2 Editing: Substantive Editing

Level 3 Editing: Copyediting

Level 4 Editing: Proofreading

Using Copyediting Symbols

Lost in Translation: Transcultural Editing

Documenting Cycling and Usability Testing

Case Study: A Machine By Any Other Name





20        Preparing and Giving Presentations

Planning and Researching Your Presentation

            Defining the Rhetorical Situation

            Allotting Your Time

Choosing the Right Presentation Technology

Organizing the Content of Your Presentation

            Building the Presentation

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

Help: Giving Presentations with your Mobile Phone or Tablet

The Body: Tell Them

The Conclusion: Tell Them What You Told Them

Preparing to Answer Questions

Choosing Your Presentation Style

Creating Visuals

            Designing Visual Aids

            Using Graphics

            Slides to Avoid

Delivering the Presentation

            Body Language

            Voice, Rhythm, and Tone

            Using Your Notes


            Evaluating Your Performance

Working Cross-Culturally with Translators

Case Study: The Coward


21        Writing for the Web

Writing for Websites

Basic Features of a Website

Step 1: Develop the Content

Step 2: Organize and Draft Your Webpage or Website

Step 3: Choose the Style and Design of Your Webpage or Website

Step 4: Add Images

Step 5: Anticipate the Needs of Transcultural Readers

Step 6: Upload Your Website

Using Social Networking in the Workplace

            Step 1: Create Your Social Networking Account

            Step 2: Choose Your Friends (Wisely)

            Step 3: Maintain Your Site

            Step 4: Collaborate with Others, but Carefully

            Step 5: Communicate with Your Company’s “Fans”

Creating Blogs and Microblogs

            Step 1: Choose Your Blog’s Host Site

            Step 2: Write and Maintain Your Blog

            Step 3: Let Others Join the Conversation

Making Internet Videos and Podcasts

            Step 1: Write the Script

            Step 2: Shoot the Video or Record the Podcast

            Step 3: Edit Your Video or Podcast

            Step 4: Upload Your Video or Podcast

Writing Articles for Wikis

            Step 1: Write the Text

            Step 2: Post Your Article

            Step 3: Return to Edit Your Articles

Case Study: My Boss Might Not “Like” This



Appendix A      Grammar and Punctuation Guide


Appendix B      Guide for English Language Learners


Appendix C      Documentation Guide











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