WRD 204: Technical Writing (Autumn 2017)

Course Description

WRD 204 is designed to familiarize you with basic principles of technical writing and to provide you with structured practice in creating technical and workplace documents. The course highlights the action-orientated goals that readers bring to technical and workplace documents, and teaches you strategies to write for these audiences and situations. We will explore key concepts such as analyzing audience and purpose, organizing information, designing documents and visuals, and writing clear and precise prose. The assignments in WRD 204 will ultimately prepare you to write a range of text types common in the technical professions, including professional emails, memos, proposals, reports, and instructions.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to

  • Assess rhetorical situations typical in the technical professions and write documents that respond appropriately to these situations.
  • Write emails, memos, proposals, reports, and instructions that align with conventional best practices.
  • Use visual design elements—including headings, lists, tables, and figures—to create navigable and usable workplace documents.
  • Write with the plain style, brevity, and frontloaded organization characteristic of professional documents.
  • Use writing technologies in ways appropriate to professional and workplace contexts (e.g., collaborative writing tools, advanced word-processing features).
  • Demonstrate social habits that are valued in technical workplaces, including the ability to work on writing teams and to give and accept critique on workplace writing.

 

Readings

Canavor, N. (2011). “E-mail: Your everyday chance to build a professional image,” in Business writing in the digital age (2nd ed.) (pp. 116–137). Los Angeles: Sage.

Few, S. (2012). Table design. In Show me the numbers: Designing tables and graphs to enlighten (2nd ed.) (pp. 155–184). Burlingame, CA: Analytics Press.

Gopen, G.D., & Swan, J.A. (1990). The science of scientific writing. American Scientist 88(6): 550-58.

Johnson-Sheehan, R. (2011). Working in teams. In Technical communication strategies for today (5th ed.) (pp. 34-57). Boston: Longman.Tebeaux, E. & Dragga, S. (2015). The essentials of technical communication (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford UP.

* Krug, S. (2014). Don’t make me think, revisited: A common sense approach to web and mobile usability. New Riders. [*NOTE: This book is recommended, but not required]

 

Assignments

  1. Fundamentals of Writing in the Technical Professions: deliverable is a packet of typical workplace-writing documents, including a short report written in memo format, a set of instructions, and two revised professional emails
  2. Team Writing & Professional Reports: deliverables are a collaboratively written team work plan, an individually written user-research report, a collaboratively written formal usability report, and an individually written team performance review
  3. Technical Documentation for Users: deliverables are a collaboratively written proposal, collaboratively written documentation, and an individually written completion report