Technical Writing Tips

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Technical Writing: What Is It?
Technical writing is presenting information to help the reader solve a problem. Technical communicators write, design, and/or edit proposals, manuals, web pages, lab reports, newsletters, and many other kinds of professional documents. For a large project, a technical writer may work with a graphic designer, an interface designer, several computer programmers, and a staff of freelance writers to produce a huge web site. For a small project, or for a small company, the tech writer may be expected to do all of the above, all alone.

Titles for Web Pages: In Context and Out of Context
Most writers know the value of an informative title, but but many beginning web authors don’t know that each web page needs two kinds of titles.

Short Reports: How To Write Routine Technical Documents
This collection of documents uses examples and commentary to teach technical writing principles. Chief among them: good writers don’t need fancy words; a technical document is not a mystery novel; and, break your content into appropriate sections (Abstract or Executive Summary? Introduction or Background?  Recommendations or Conclusions?).

Blurbs: How to write them for web pages
A blurb is a short paragraph that previews what’s on the other end of a link. You’re reading a blurb now. If it helps you decide whether you should click the link, then it has done its job.

by Jessica Bauer (UWEC Student) and Dennis G. Jerz
Writing Effective E-Mail: Top 10 Tips

These ten tips will help teach you how to write effective, high-quality e-mails in today’s professional environment. Write a meaningful subject line; keep the message short and readable; avoid attachments; identify yourself; don’t flame (and more).

Oral Presentations: Delivering Technical Information Face-to-face
The content is the most obvious component of an oral presentation — after all, if you are talking, you had better have something worthwhile to say.  But no matter how well-written, an oral presentation is only as effective as its delivery.

Florida County Ballot Design Raises Questions about Election 2000
The 2000 U.S. Presidential race was so close that some Democratic Party officials think a hard-to-use Florida ballot may have unfairly decided the presidency.

Writing for the Internet: Why is the Advice so Scant?
But the Internet has spawned new writing genres which demand a particular mode of  writing. Learn about that mode here.

Usability Testing: What Is It?
The first rule of technical writing is “know your audience.”  But even the best planning cannot predict all possible user errors.  This document introduces the concept of testing for usability, which measures whether test subjects can actually use your prototype to complete assigned tasks.

Prototypes in Technical Writing: What Are They?
A good prototype will help you identify gaps in your research or mistaken assumptions long before you have dug yourself into a hole by investing a lot of time in it. A sculptor makes a scale model in clay — a prototype — before chiseling away at a full-sized chunk of marble. It it much easier to fix major mistakes in clay than it is to throw away a ruined chunk of marble and start over again.

Writing for the Internet: Illustration of the Need
Many on-line web tutorials give practical, useful technical advice on everything from non-clashing color combinations to effective uses of animated GIFs, but barely mention writing at all. Web designers too frequently ignore their content.

URL-Hacking: Do-it-yourself navigation
You wind up on a strange web page without any hyperlinks, and with the unhelpful message “Use the ‘Go Back’ button to return to the table of contents.”  If you want to explore this web site, what do you do? Try hacking the URL.

Cover Letters — Top 5 Tips
You can’t simply say “I am a good match” — you have to prove it. A detailed resume is only part of the game plan. Your cover letter should emphasize why your experiences and attributes make you a good match for the job

Resumes — Top 5 Problems
I regularly ask my students to submit resumes early in the semester.  Here are the top 5 problems that typically cause stress for my students (and me) during this assignment.

Navigation: An often neglected component of web authorship
To make the best use of hypertext, you should not blindly follow the convention of printed, linear text.  Instead, divide your content into logical, free-standing units that can be strung together, like beads on a string, in different orders.

Instructions: Write for Busy, Grouchy People
People hate reading instructions, and will only glance at them when they are hopelessly lost. By then, they will already be frustrated and behind schedule. Organize your instructions carefully, phrase them clearly, and make them as brief as you possibly can.

Erin Vanden Wymelenberg and Dennis G. Jerz
Resumes — Content
Employers read resumes in order to find evidence that a particular applicant is well qualified for a particular job.  Experience, education, training, and personal qualities relevant to the job are all important. The resume should describe what has led the applicant to where he or she is now.

Erin Vanden Wymelenberg and Dennis G. Jerz
Resumes — Presentation
Many employers look for creativity and imagination when the job calls for it. However, it is best to aim for a professional, neat, and organized look for your resume.  If you are applying for a job that requires radical creativity, you can always include a portfolio of your wildest, most unbusinesslike work!


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