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Technical Writing Basics / Edition 4

Technical Writing Basics / Edition 4

by Brian R. Holloway


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Technical Writing Basics / Edition 4

This practical guidebook to workplace writing shows how to apply the structure, patterns, and strategies learned in a basic composition course to the production of different types of technical documents. A variety of models of style and format demonstrate how to create technical documents that produce concrete results. Included in this book: Practical examples of simple and complex technical documents, Technical documents in a broad range of institutional contexts, including those of major companies, non-profit organizations, agencies, and small businesses, Sections of the book that build progressively but have been designed as stand-alone units that can be covered in any sequence, offering flexibility in course design, A straightforward, student-friendly style, Practical guidelines for executing a job search.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900132412550
Publisher: Pearson
Publication date: 02/09/2007
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Dr. Brian Holloway was born in Flushing, New York in 1952 and from an early age was fascinated by the written word, dramatic performance, and the wisdom inherent in world cultures. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois with a concentration in literature of the Renaissance, including Shakespeare, and has served as editorial consultant and on the editorial board of Shakespeare and Renaissance Association Selected Papers, volumes 22 and 23.

While in charge of Arts and Sciences at Mountain State University, Dr. Holloway headed the development of its graduate individualized study programs and its interdisciplinary general education program, Spectrum, which have enhanced the lives of many in West Virginia and other states as well. He also served as the editorial advisor of five volumes of the school’s creative writing publication, Mountain Whispers.

The receipt of grants from the West Virginia Humanities Foundation allowed Dr. Holloway to pursue extensive research into the way that the book Black Elk Speaks was created as a collaboration between writer John Neihardt and Lakota holy man Nicholas Black Elk. This research grew into an elaborate project involving archival materials, field notes, family scrapbook photos, and narratives from the Neihardt family, with whom Dr. Holloway quickly became friends. Presentations at the Neihardt Center led to Dr. Holloway’s becoming the editor of the Neihardt Journal for six volumes spanning 1999 to 2004.

Professor of English at Mountain State University in West Virginia, Dr. Holloway is also Dean of Graduate Studies. In that capacity he has taught and guided many students as they explore their academic horizons.

Dr. Holloway is the author of articles, poetry, and presentations. His text Technical Writing Basics, published by Prentice Hall, will soon be in its fourth edition. Proposal Writing Across the Disciplines, also published by Prentice Hall, has readers from the continental United States to the Pacific Rim.

Dr. Holloway’s book Interpreting the Legacy: John Neihardt and Black Elk Speaks has been published by the University Press of Colorado. This book combines historical research, analysis of text, and archival scholarship to discuss that famous work and the lives and times of those who produced it. Notable in the book are rare photographs and high-resolution scans of original transcripts, manuscripts, and drawings.

At Mountain State University, Dr. Holloway has received the Alumni Association’s Teacher of the Year award as well as the Student Government Association’s Outstanding Professional Achievement and Faculty of the Year awards. In the past, he has served as president and as treasurer of the West Virginia Association of College English Teachers.

Read an Excerpt

To the Student and Teacher

To be an effective writer in the workplace, one must know the expectations. Special characteristics govern writing within, to, or for businesses, social-service agencies, health-care providers, and government entities. Often, textbooks surveying the challenges of such writing have stressed one of its several functions. For example, some authors teach entirely from a "technical" perspective, limiting discussion to the mechanics of production. Manuals depicting the proper way to construct tables, pie graphs, and charts are valuable resources; however, they supplement—rather than explain—the process of communication in the workplace. Similarly, a text focusing entirely upon the presentation of data may create an impression that one does not use persuasive techniques when informing an audience. Yet most students know that even the driest report may be made appetizing if its "package"—the format—is enhanced. Communication theorists, in fact, have a difficult time determining where "information" ceases and where "persuasion" begins; the two overlap, rather than comprise the ends of a continuum. A third editorial choice made by writers of texts focuses upon the persuasive aspects of communication in the workplace, as if the modes of presentation mattered most.

This text draws from each of these partial perspectives in surveying holistic challenges within business and technical writing. Because this book is intended for students who have taken a freshman composition course but who have not necessarily worked in fields that demand the use of business and technical writing, its examples—real or fictionalized—are practicaland basic. Writing letters of application and adjustment, constructing informational and persuasive reports, and encapsulating material so that it can be convincingly communicated are all activities shared by most college students; therefore, this book derives much of its illustration from such models. Throughout the text, then, three goals drive the content:

  1. Students should study the requirements of informative writing.
  2. Students should learn how the techniques of persuasion operate in writing in the workplace.
  3. Students should practice casting informative and persuasive writing into an appropriate format.

Because what we practice not only depends on different aspects of business and technical writing but transcends it, I recommend that we call such communication transactional writing. In a transaction, the communicator provides information to the recipient of communication, but the recipient often must give up something as well: a prejudice (against the action proposed), free time ,. (which could be spent eating lunch instead of reading a memo), or a method of doing something (which the information just received happens to contradict). Frequently, one must offer the flattest data in terms calculated to make reading a report seem worthwhile. Getting the other person to read one's material, presenting such material clearly and accurately, and adhering to standards of format acceptable in the field become the goals of transactional writing. Educational Approach

The exercises and assignments in this text build in complexity, chapter by chapter, as well as inside such chapters; for example, in Chapter 7 the preliminary report (Figure 7.14) contains material that can be used in the proposal (Figure 7. I 5), and the final report (Figure 7.16) includes imports from the proposal itself. Such an incremental, cumulative approach assists students who use computers in their writing, as saved material that constitutes a previous assignment can be retrieved, modified, and transferred to the new document. Should the final report be collaborative, students can integrate their reports on disk as well. Such a collaborative method might encourage students in similar fields to work together to create unified projects. This approach reaffirms the future value of the work the student has just completed, and is pragmatic-real examples and models demonstrate what should be done. Synopsis of the Table of Contents

This text is conceptually divided into three sections. The first unit, the "apprenticeship," covers the basics of transactional writing and encompasses Chapters I through 3. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 expand the scope of technical and business writing, building on the foundation established earlier but introducing more complex assignments. Chapters 7 and 8 put the acquired knowledge to work in creating two polished, multisectioned documents: the formal report and the job portfolio. A short list of references and an appendix on graphics follow. Chapter 1—Introduction

The first section in Chapter I, What Is "Business" or "Technical" Writing?, surveys the features of transactional writing, exploring differences between such writing and the academic prose taught in composition classes. It discusses working together in small groups to achieve a writing goal, growing a larger document from a smaller one—or from fragments—and using computers to assist the process of creating a document.

Saying What You Mean surveys the basics: grammar and usage. It identifies sentence types and problems, focusing on the impact of phrasing but discussing other mechanical issues as well. A section on diction encourages writing within the context of "world English;' avoiding localisms and expressions that might confuse or antagonize readers. Chapter 2—Organizing Information

Chapter 2 discusses how we impose patterns of logical order upon the infinite field of data around us, selecting from this field that which is necessary to support our message.This chapter reviews specific templates that structure logical presentations—many of them called "modes" in writing texts—such as summary, process, analysis, comparison, and persuasion. Chapter 3—Letters, Memos, E-mail, and Related Forms

Chapter 3 presents a simple organizing framework of business communication: the message-support-closure framework. It next discusses the features of letters, memos, and transmittal documents, drawing on the writing patterns analyzed in Chapter 2. Chapter 4—Our House to Yours: Using Summaries to Inform

Chapter 4 is a respite from all that memo and e-mail writing, but surveys documents similar in form: bulletins, descriptive leaflets and flyers, and public service announcements. This discussion expands the work with summary begun in Chapter 2. Chapter 5—Directions and Instructions: Writing About Process

Chapter 5 focuses on process writing: informative and persuasive documents explaining how to do something or how something gets accomplished. The chapter surveys posted directions, instructional pamphlets, and other examples. Chapter 6—Using Analysis: Writing a Report

Chapter 6 explores analysis and its ally, comparison. It suggests ways to use the templates introduced in Chapter 2 and develops techniques of ensuring continuity when writing analytically. This section offers tips on constructing projects in groups. Chapter 7—Writing the Formal Report

Chapter 7 puts into practice all the skills learned while using this book; the templates studied reappear as parts within a larger concept and assume subordinate roles within that bigger structure.This chapter also covers research techniques, the use of traditional and electronic sources, and writing practices. Reporting on work-in-progress leads to writing the formal proposal; this document can be expanded to construct the final report. Chapter 8—Selling Yourself

Chapter 8 extends the art of informing and persuading to one's search for employment. This chapter covers the research involved in job seeking (both in keeping a work-history file and in tracking down leads in the library). It reminds the reader that modern job searches can be greatly facilitated by new CD-ROM tools and the Internet. This chapter then looks at the components of a job seeker's arsenal: resumes, cover letters, vitae, and portfolios. The chapter discusses interviews and follow-up correspondence as well. References

This section lists other sources of information about business and technical writing, which will enhance and augment the work begun in this text. Appendix—Enhancing Your Document with Graphics

The appendix surveys integrating pictorial material into your document.

Table of Contents

Foreword     v
Preface     vii
Acknowledgments     xi
Introduction     1
What Is "Business" or "Technical" Writing?     1
Transactional Writing     1
Transactional Versus Academic Writing     3
Working Together     3
Growing a Document     3
Using Computers     4
Saying What You Mean: A Grammar Refresher     5
Grammar and Usage Assist Credibility     6
Sentence Types in Technical Writing     9
Sentence Problems     10
Other Mechanical Difficulties     11
Dangling Modifiers     11
Parallelism     12
Diction and International Concerns     13
Assignments     16
Organizing Information     21
Introduction     21
Patterns of Order     22
Types of Order     22
Essentials of Logical Order     23
Specific Templates     23
Summary     24
Process     26
Analysis     27
Comparison     30
Persuasion     33
Ethics in Persuasion     36
Assignments     37
Letters, Memos, E-mail, and Related Forms     39
Introduction     39
Letters: The Basics     40
Full Block Form     41
Semi-Block Form     43
Simplified Form     44
Memos: The Basics     47
Varieties of Letters and Memos     49
Neutral Letters     50
Good News Letters     51
Bad News Letters     53
Good News, Bad News, and Neutral Memos     55
E-mail and Related Forms     57
E-mail     57
Fax Cover Sheets     58
Other Transmittals     58
Assignments     58
Our House to Yours: Using Summaries to Inform     63
Introduction     53
Announcements and Bulletins     63
Leaflets and Flyers     67
Analyses of Documents     69
Consumer Circuit     69
The New AT&T Bill     69
Finesse Finishing Papers     76
State Farm 1995 Annual Report     76
Assignments     76
Directions and Instructions: Writing About Process     79
Process Explains "How"     79
Process Writing Concerns     80
Audience     80
Vocabulary     82
Pattern     82
Transition     82
Exemplification     86
Parallelism     86
Format     86
Graphics     86
Invention     88
Developing Ideas     88
Invention Specifics     89
Visualization Techniques     89
"Tasking" Techniques     89
General Patterns for Process Writing     93
International Communications     94
Assignment     94
Using Analysis: Writing a Report     99
Subject Headings     99
Division     99
Classification     102
Definition     103
Use of Narrative     103
Types of Reports     104
Short Reports     105
Semi-Formal Reports     106
Proposals     110
Analysis of Proposal     110
Analysis of Text Prospectus     112
Discussion of Grant Proposal     116
Discussion of Student Proposal     120
Assignments     121
Writing the Formal Report      123
Features of the Formal Report     123
Overview     123
Binding     123
Booklet Format     125
Cover Sheet     125
Transmittal Letter or Memo     126
Table of Contents     127
Table of Illustrations     128
Abstract, or Executive Summary     128
Introduction     130
Support Section     131
Closing Section     132
Back Matter     132
Understanding the Role of the Persuasive Pattern     133
Developing Long Reports from Shorter Ones     134
Methods of Research     135
Strategy     135
Types of Research Materials-Retrospective and Current     135
Primary and Secondary Materials     141
Handling Sources     141
Overview     141
Documentation Systems-Citation and Reference List     142
What Should Get Cited?     142
Integrating References     142
Gallery of Documents     143
Assignments     174
Selling Yourself     177
Introduction     177
Keeping a Work-History File     177
The Modern Job Search     178
Resumes     181
Chronological Resumes     182
Functional Resumes     182
Mixed Resumes     182
Parts of Resumes     187
Cover Letters     189
Vitae and Portfolios     193
Interviews     193
Follow-up Correspondence     197
Assignments     198
References     201
Introduction     201
Valediction     202
Enhancing Your Document with Graphics     203
Index     213

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