Technical Communication in the Age of the Internet (4th Edition)

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9780130205742: Technical Communication in the Age of the Internet (4th Edition)

Focusing on what to do, rather than on the theory of why it should be done, this practical, user-friendly guide explores common on-the-job writing/communication requirements. Comprehensive and current, it uses a learn-by-doing approach to cover writing and oral communication, along with current electronic communication opportunities. Chapter topics feature building blocks; reports; correspondence; oral communications; research and development; and grammar, usage, and mechanics. For individuals who want to communicate more effectively—on-the-job and in-their-life.

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From the Back Cover:

Focusing on what to do, rather than on the theory of why is should be done, Technical Communication in the Age of the Internet explores common on-the-job writing and speaking requirements.

Formerly titled Technical Communication: The Practical Craft, this fourth edition recognizes the ways in which electronic communication is revolutionizing how we connect with another. At a time when instantaneous global communication is a daily event for millions, the need to be clear, concise, and complete is greater than ever as a loosely conceived, poorly expressed, and hastily sent message can now more quickly spread confusion, consternation, and conflict among more recipients in more places.

Using a clear, simple, modular format, the authors of Technical Communication in the Age of the Internet, Fourth Edition, focus on specific writing/communication situations to:

  • discuss the value of using specific formats to communicate in a professional environment
  • structure each writing/communication task into a series of choices leading to the most effective format for preventing information
  • explain how to plan and execute a particular assignment
  • provide an example or two to model

A powerful learn-by-doing approach coupled with this modular format makes Technical Communication in the Age of the Internet a valuable learning resource and an indispensable desktop reference.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

We have retitled the fourth edition of this text by adding a phrase that pays deference to the tremendous impact of the Internet. At a time when instantaneous global communication is a daily event for millions, when communications have acquired the potential to incorporate video and audio along with words and conventional graphics, when a vast and growing arsenal of information and images is a few keystrokes away—it would be archaic to think of doing research, developing reports, and sending and receiving messages in the old cut-and-paste ways. The "old ways"—of just a few decades ago—have been replaced by powerful new capabilities.

Such capabilities have not replaced the old tasks of communication, however. The need to be clear, concise, and complete has not been somehow erased by the new technologies. If anything, the need is greater because the message can reach more recipients more quickly, and with more information or disinformation included. A loosely conceived, poorly expressed, and hastily sent message can now more quickly spread confusion, consternation, and conflict among more recipients in more places.

The communications and information retrieval technologies of the Internet are just tools serving a more important purpose—to help us plan, develop, send, and receive messages. The challenging work of creating clear and effective communications is still every person's private responsibility.

To the Instructor

The scope and modular design of Technical Communication in the Age of the Internet, Fourth Edition, offer instructors a range of options for using it:

  1. The spectrum of writing assignment types makes the book suitable for a technical writing or a business writing course at the college level.
  2. The modular approach to topics allows the instructor to structure the course to emphasize special needs and to adjust the structure in mid-course if early results indicate other needs.
  3. Those who teach technical or business subjects, rather than writing, can use the book as a supplement to increase writing in their courses. The modules are organized for self-reference to guide such assignments.

Technical Communication in the Age of the Internet is also designed to support effective teaching of communication skills. Much experience has shown that students take writing seriously when they see it as an essential part of their career preparation. They make the best gains when they can write about subjects in their major field and when they perceive assignments as realistic simulations of career requirements rather than academic exercises—hence, the persistent applications orientation of this book.

Theory is included in limited doses so that students can readily apply it to real-world assignments. To a greater extent, the modules focus on writing situations and on the logic of particular formats for those situations. General principles are derived from the need to solve particular problems.

For most students, this inductive approach provides a comfortable fit. In addition to its motivational advantages, the method gives students a chance to learn by doing. Theory becomes a more functional instrument when it is derived from specific cases.

On Evaluation

To help students improve their communication skills, feedback should play an important role. Unfortunately, this element often proves to be a barrier rather than a means to improvement. Assignments may not be made because they are seen as requiring complex evaluative responses. Technical and business instructors may stint on feedback because of uncertainty about "proper" terminology. Evaluations by writing teachers may be perceived as subjective and arbitrary by students.

These pitfalls can be avoided. In the area of feedback, the book's applied focus provides a major advantage. The structured nature of the assignments, as well as the general career orientation, establish a logical framework for evaluation that is helpful to students and sparing of instructors. Thus, evaluation guidelines and development parameters are merely the opposite sides of the same coin.

To the Student

This is a book dictated by experience. It describes what you need to do in specific writing situations rather than in general cases. The experience on which the book is based is drawn from thousands of young men and women who went to college to prepare for technical and business careers and found that effective writing and speaking were essential to their education and career plans.

Career education programs are often designed in consultation with business and industry leaders. Increasingly in recent years, these consultants have stressed the importance of clear communication as a basic tool for getting the work done. As the work environment has become more complex and competitive, communication skills have become as important as technical and business skills.

Experience has also shown that communication must be practiced to be learned and that improvement is greatest when communication is applied to meaningful subjects.

The subjects this book points to are the work activities of technical and business careers. The suggested writing topics establish a direction and a basic purpose for your writing. Beyond these suggestions, however, the book structures the writing task into a series of choices leading to effective formats for presentation. Such formats are widely used in the working world because they answer the need for efficient communication. They organize a message so that it is clear and complete to a busy reader. And they help writers achieve their purposes.

You may use this book in a writing class, but you can also use it as a guide for yourself. Most units in Sections 1 to 4 assemble all the information you need to carry out a common writing assignment. The assignment may come from an instructor, but it may also come from yourself when you feel the need. You may wish to write a letter of inquiry, for example, or a set of instructions, or a proposal.

The unit you consult will tell you how to plan and execute the assignment and then show you an example or two. For help with the general rules of writing and questions about form and procedure, refer to Section 6.

Two sections offer units on topics of special importance. Section 4 deals with oral communication and includes units that discuss active listening as well as speaking. Section 5 focuses on research as a stage of the development cycle that may include citations and bibliographies and that applies useful techniques such as electronic searching and word processing.

Most units also include a paragraph or two on the benefits of the exercise. They stress the value of this form of communication to people in industry and the advantages to you in meeting their needs. These comments underscore a central premise of this book: Writing—as well as speaking—must place a high priority on thinking about others and doing one's best to help them understand the message. The discipline this requires makes writing hard work.

But, as the book tries to show, the effort to communicate brings the greatest rewards to you. The more you write, the better you write. The more you struggle to explain, the better you understand the subject yourself. When you work to improve your writing, you enrich yourself.

With a Little Help from Our Friends

This book really began with our students and what they wanted from us when we asked them to write and speak and listen as though their careers depended on it. Thanks to them for being serious about their education and for challenging us to help make it work.

The revision of this book has been an evolutionary process of several years' duration. For their feedback on the first several editions and for specific and general suggestions for change, thanks to the dedicated writing instructors of the DeVry Institutes system. Particular thanks go to the faculty serving in DeVry's systemwide writing assessment program (WRAP) for their real-world perspectives on evaluation. Thanks also to DeVry's campus librarians for developing strategies to build information literacy through planned research assignments requiring critical examination of sources. Particular thanks to jean Field of the Columbus campus for views on Internet citations and to Joe Louderback of the North Brunswick campus for information on counter measures to plagiarism on the Web.

For administrative support and guidance in projects associated with the text, thanks to Marilynn Cason, George Dean, Norm Levine, and Patrick Mayers. A special thanks to our colleagues Amin Karim and Charles Koop for their insights into technology and its role in technical communication. To Gloria Maxwell and to Robert Roze, we owe gratitude for many things, including a set of user-friendly explanations of the principles of electronic communication and of electronic searching.

We also appreciate the helpful comments and suggestions from the following reviewers: Laura Renick-Butera, Central Maine Technical College; Suzanne C. Joy, Kennebec Valley Technical College; Lawrence A. Woodward, Delaware County Community College; Gerald Nix, San Juan College; and Finley C. Campbell, DeVry Institute of Technology-Chicago.

Maris Roze
Simon Maxwell

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