You are on page 1of 12

Technical Communication Theory and


• What is tech. communication?

Tech. communication is writing and

speaking in the workplace. It is
communication designed to get things done,
to serve practical needs. Readers often need
to follow up on the information they read or hear.

• Consider some differences between

academic writing and technical writing:
-Knowledge level or writer and receiver of
-Audience (how many?)
-Criteria for evaluation?
- How much of the document is read?

• What do workers want to see in documents

they must read in the workplace?
- efficient documents! Information/content they
need found easily (beginning of document, end
of document, and through informative headings
within the document)
- clearly written information (simple, clear
language and style –words and sentences)
- well-organized information that guides readers
and emphasizes important material
(Introduction, Body, Conclusion)
- language they can understand (technical
language/terminology that fits the reader(s)’
level of understanding)
-effective formatting for quick information
-visuals to clarify concepts

Bad writing in the workplace wastes time,

frustrates workers, and sometimes creates

Your goal as a tech. writer is to communicate

clearly and concisely so that your readers can
act on the information they receive from you.

Always write for your readers, not for


Always answer questions about your

purpose and your audience before you begin
your technical writing task in your
-Why am I writing this document?
-Who is (are) my reader(s)?
-What do my readers need to know?

Analyze your readers, their needs, and their

skill set:

Types of readers in your workplace (p.27):

-Managers: often the decision makers; what is
their technical level? They want facts and figures
explained in fairly basic terms.

-Technical Experts: often advise the decision

makers; have high technical level; they want
facts and figures. Open this site for an example:

-Technical Operators: often receivers of

technical information; have mid-range/high
technical level; they want facts and figures with
some explanation; they want to know how the
information affects them.

Open this site for an example:

-Laypersons: often receivers of information,

they need facts and figures that only refer to
them explained in very simple terms.

Write so that NO ONE will misunderstand

your message and can follow up with what
you’ve written.

However, if you have many readers at

different technical levels, your PRIMARY
READER should be the reader who makes

Our text suggests that if we have a short

document—under two pages—we rewrite the
message for readers at different technical levels.

By always considering your readers’ needs for

longer documents, you can often create a
document that works for different technical
• Put main ideas in the opening/introduction of
the document and opening of different
sections within the document.

• Use headings, so that people at different

technical levels can find the sections THEY
need to read: they probably don’t need to
read all the sections of a longer report.

• Use attachments/appendices for technical

data. The people who need to understand
this information will be able to access it
easily. You can summarize your technical
results within the report, including as much
detail as you think your readers need, based
on their technical understanding.

Analyzing and understanding your readers

before you begin your writing task is a good way
to start.

See p. 32 for a sophisticated Audience/

Purpose Profile (provides questions you can
ask about your reader(s).
Consider your Reader’s Knowledge of the
subject (p.33).

Consider Appropriate Details and Format.

-Based on your reader, should you “keep it

short” or “be comprehensive”? (p.33)

-Is my Technical Data at the correct level for my

primary reader?

p. 33 High Technical Level:

The diesel engine generates 10 BTUs per gallon

of fuel as opposed to the conventional gas
engine’s 8 BTUs.

p. 33 Low Technical Level:

The diesel engine yields 25 percent better fuel

mileage than its gas-burning counterpart.

-Have I considered the reader’s cultural

background when choosing the document’s
organization, language and medium? p.34.
• Once you analyze your readers, what do
you do? See Chapter Three: Writing

1. Brainstorm a list of ideas and topics or

brainstorm ideas in a cluster diagram on a
report that a worker must write about a
camera scanner. p.40.

2. Gather and record your information

(primary or secondary research).We’ll
revisit this later!

-Write a scratch (rough) outline. Think of your

reader and your reader’s needs when you do

-Revise your outline. Show relationships among

the ideas. Choose a logical approach for
organizing the information (chronological, most
important to least important, spatial,

-Write a first draft of your document.

1. Schedule at least one hour to write your

first draft.
2. Do not stop to edit.

3. Begin with the easiest section.

4. If you have a longer report, write your

summary last even though it is the first
part of your document! In a report, the
summary should convey your main idea
and results.

-Organize your document.

-Follow the ABC plan to organize everything you

write from sentences to paragraphs to reports!

A. = Abstract, summary or main message

(What does my reader most need to know?)
This is what your reader sees at the beginning of
your document.

B. = Body, details of your document, organized

logically for your reader. Some details (surveys,
specifications, other supporting data) can be
placed as attachments so they don’t clutter the
body of your document.
C. = Conclusion, summarizes/reviews main
information and focuses on follow up action,
including recommendations.

ABC Plan in a Sentence:

A sentence follows the ABC system by starting
with a key word (most important word) with
describing details following it:

For CETYs,

A router is a device that connects two

networks -- frequently over large distances .

instead of

There are some devices used with

computers and computer technology and
one of them that is used often is a router,
that is used to connect two networks….

For MNTNs,

A theodolite is a surveying instrument used

to measure angles.

instead of
There are some tools used in surveying and
one of them that is used often is a theodolite,
that is used to measure angles.

(Notice how many words appear at the

beginning of the sentence above. We are not
sure what the sentence’s purpose is until the
middle of the sentence. This means we have
wasted words at the beginning of the sentence.)

ABC Plan in a Paragraph:

A paragraph follows the ABC system by starting
with a topic sentence and following through
with details. Sometimes a concluding sentence
is used to wrap up the paragraph.

Three problems have been identified with the

solar panel. The first problem…..
The second problem….The third problem….
These problems should be solved by September
25, 2009, so that the home construction can

ABC Plan in a Report:

In a report, the ABC plan can be used as seen in
the report on pp.48-49.
• Does a reader need to read the entire report
to act on the information? No!

• Can a specific type of reader find the

information he or she needs in the reports?

Remember, you want to write for your reader(s)

and make them happy by being clear and

In the workplace, your reader is facing the

following obstacles when he or she reads your

-impatience (can’t find what he or she needs
within your document)
-lack of technical knowledge
-must share decision-making authority with
others who are also reading the same document

• Revise your document.

-Adjust and reorganize content.
-Edit for style.
-Edit for grammar.
-Edit for mechanics.