Re: a quick lecture on technical writing

Subject: Re: a quick lecture on technical writing
From: Don Cunningham <doncunningham79 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Becca <becca -at- di -dot- org>, tech2wr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 1 Sep 2013 13:10:39 -0700 (PDT)

Becca,
Â
As a sometimes lurker, I seldom chime in on a discussion. Besides, I feel like I've said what I wanted to say about technical communication in articles and books (some of the latter can be identified by googling my full name (Donald H. Cunningham) and presentations and lectures over the past four decades. But I have decided to respond to your call for suggestions.
Â
I have heard and seen this request many times during my over forty years as a technical communication faculty member, academic undergraduate and graduate program administrator, department head, and consultant and practitioner. What the professor requests of youÂreveals ourÂhistory of failure as educators, professional practitioners,Âand trainersÂto demonstrate and persuade administrators, managers,Âand new and interested faculty and coworkers that it takes more than one course, let alone an hour-and-a-half presentation,ÂforÂstudents to learnÂhow to write and speakÂin their discipline and profession.
Â
Can you imagine engineering, business, or science faculty or coworkers from other professions believing that students areÂable to learn the basics of their discipline or profession in a single presentation or perhaps even in a single course?
Â
That said and asked, I commend you for agreeing to help the faculty member introduce report writing to students. You mention thatÂthe college's English program has aÂcourse in business writing. Is there also a technical writing course? Perhaps the professor could benefit from visiting with anybody who teaches that course, although I suspect that if the business writing course is "light weight," the technical writing course, if any, is as well.
Â
I suggest that you recommend that the professor get a copy of a venerableÂbut still useful book published by the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing: John S. Harris's Teaching Technical Writing: A Pragmatic Approach, which is surely out of print butÂmay be available online, in used-book stores, or from nearby college and university libraries that have a service or professional program in technical communication. I know no better resource for an initial dip into theÂsubject and preparing to teach the course. As youÂundoubtedly know, there are many useful textbooks and scholarly works that are also available on the subject.
Â
Definitely situational analysis (audiences, purposes--both the writer's and reader's, probable circumstances of use, etc.), that is, teaching the kind ofÂplanningÂthat helps the students to create usable oral, graphic, print, and digital documents should be front-loaded into the presentation.ÂMy experience consultingÂand writing and editing for law enforcement agencies, the military, various kinds of companies and corporations and government agencies leads me to suggest teaching something about proposals, recommendation reports, and Âinstructions and procedures is important, regardless of medium, format, etc.ÂÂI suspect the problem you will face will be overloading students in a single presentation.
Â
Good luck with your presentation and thanks for your willingness to introduce a valuable skill to this professor's students.
Â
Don C.
Â
Donald H. Cunningham
Professor Emeritus of English
Auburn University
Â
Â

________________________________
From: Becca <becca_price -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: tech2wr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Sunday, September 1, 2013 10:45 AM
Subject: a quick lecture on technical writing


I've been doing some technical writing for a professor at a small college in Vermont. While it's basically a military college, there are lots of civilians there too. This particular professor's students will be going into the military, into law enforcement, into intelligence (he teaches cyber forensics), into the consulting world - and therefore will be writing lots and lots of reports.

The English program at this school has one course in business writing, but it sounds like it's a pretty light-weight class - the example of some of the homework my professor friend gave me is to write a letter to a neighbor complaining about a noisy dog.

This is not going to help my friends get ready for all the report writing they're going to have to do.

My professor friend has asked me to put together a 1-1.5 hour presentation that I can give to his students about technical writing. I've got some basic rules that I like to use as my own guidelines (ABCâsâaccuracy, brevity, and clarity. 3Cs: Concise, coherent, and complete.), and I know the report format that my professor friend prefers, so I can speak to that, explain some of the things that should be in each of the sections of his suggested format. I'm also thinking about speaking about Word styles and why you should love them and use them.


What else should I include? How do you teach technical writing to a bunch of kids in an hour or an hour and a half?

Â
Regards,
Becca
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
New! Doc-to-Help 2013 features the industry's first HTML5 editor for authoring.

Learn more: http://bit.ly/ZeOZeQ

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