Basic Communication Skills for Technology (2nd Edition)

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9780130878229: Basic Communication Skills for Technology (2nd Edition)
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Rutherfoord presents clear simplified explanations of the practical applications of writing in vocational/technical fields. The motivational reading passages are designed to stimulate readers' interest in vocabulary and introduce traditional and applied writing assignments. The text provides accessible explanations and exercises in language and style, writing elements, forms of technical communications, grammar units and mechanics units, as well as job search techniques. For individuals needing an introduction to writing for technical/vocational fields.

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From the Publisher:

Rutherfoord presents clear, simplified explanations of the practical applications of writing in vocational/technical fields.

From the Inside Flap:

Preface to the Student

Your technical skills will be an important factor in your career. However, if the technical skills of two candidates are equal, the decision for hiring (or promoting) is usually based on the ability to communicate. For some positions, communications skills are so vital that poor writers or speakers are passed over, no matter what level of expertise they have in technical skills. To confirm the importance of communication skills in technology, read "Messages from Industry". Leaders of major corporations state their beliefs in the value of good communication.

This book presents the types of writing skills you need to have for a career in technology. Much of the information is based on my career as an educator and professional technical writer. During the course of my career, particularly in the business world, I have witnessed the growing demands and increased expectations for written and spoken communication that employees at every level face on a daily basis.

A few years ago, employees could rely on a department secretary or administrative assistant for help with writing, editing, and distribution. Today, all employees, except those in the highest levels of upper management, are personally responsible for their communication tasks. And the results depend as much on their ability to master a computer and software as on their ability to write effectively.

Companies still hire or contract professional technical writers to produce critical documents, such as proposals, user's guides, and online help. But the majority of employees must write their own e-mail, letters, reports, and presentation aids, sometimes without time for internal review. This can be an intimidating challenge to someone who is unfamiliar with basic writing skills. For those who take the time to practice and experiment, it can be an opportunity to shine.

The tools for communication continue to become more powerful and sophisticated. Most businesses expect workers to operate desktop computers, laptops, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and other equipment for word processing and messaging, as well as peripheral devices such as high-quality printers, scanners, and digital cameras to enhance the quality and detail of documents and graphics.

Writing software has become more powerful, too, ranging from easy-to-use word processors, database programs, and graphic tools, to ever-more-powerful desktop-publishing programs and presentation systems, capable of producing manuals, documents, online help, and presentations in any language and any format, and available on all types of computer platforms. Many companies have adopted strategies such as telecommuting, teleconferencing, and even telework as alternatives to expansion, making it even more important for employees to maintain and manage their own equipment and software. This was driven home to me recently when a service technician came to my home to provide an estimate for a repair. During the process of testing my air conditioning ducts, he also set up his laptop computer, external zip drive, and portable printer. His entire office was now operational on my kitchen table, and he was able to complete the diagnostic pricing and contract, authorize it, and print it in his portable office. This scenario is sometimes called telework. The technician doesn't have an office at his employer's site; instead, he brings his office with him to each customer site.

And of course, no business can afford to overlook the value of e-business, e-commerce, and e-recruiting: conducting all types of transactions using the Internet. Progressive companies know that technology provides the most effective way to communicate with customers, employees and potential employees, business partners, and customers. It also provides immediate access to information, products, and services. Employees often use the Internet as their primary source of company information, research and development, training, and communication.

All of these trends should impress upon you the value of learning more about information technology and how to use the computer as your basic communication tool. Your entire work environment might one day be contained within the casing of your computer and a few peripheral devices.

Many exercises in this text require the use of a word processor. Some require the use of the Internet to research specific topics.

Before you get started, I want to tell you how to use this book. I wrote it using a systems approach to communication. A system is an arrangement of related, individual elements that, together, form a unity. Language has several individual elements, as demonstrated in each chapter of this book. Each chapter has five sections. The first section is an article to READ, followed by WRITING, SPELLING, VOCABULARY, and WORD WATCH sections.

The READING articles for each chapter either discuss or demonstrate the topic of the chapter and consist of facts and ideas presented in an interesting way. If you encounter new words, underline the words and keep reading. Sometimes you will figure out new words by their context—the words around them. Look up the words that you have not figured out after you have finished reading, then reread the sentence. Finally, answer the comprehension questions at the end of the article. They will help you interpret, organize, and respond to what you have read.

The WRITING sections present the skills most useful to technical people and deal with one primary writing skill at a time. Part 1 presents the foundations of technical writing: audience, language and style, and organization. Part 2 presents chapters on specific writing tasks, such as writing a technical definition, technical description, summary, graphics, comparison and contrast, and instructions. Part 3 presents chapters on longer or more complicated tasks, including reports, presentations, and searching for a job.

The SPELLING sections review some spelling patterns that are reliable. They will also give you a helpful aid to remember correct spellings of tricky words. Poor spelling is unprofessional. Spelling checks find and correct some errors, but not all. Since writing takes time, thought, and effort, it seems senseless to degrade our own work with misspellings—it's almost like wearing an expensive shirt inside-out.

The VOCABULARY sections attempt to bring some order to the haphazard collection of foreign roots, prefixes, and suffixes that form technical words. Latin and Greek, particularly, form the roots for most of the difficult words that we encounter in technology. These sections will help you analyze words to determine their meanings.

Finally, the WORD WATCH sections review groups of easily confused and misused words. Sometimes the placement of one letter completely changes the meaning of a word, as in tough and though. Other times, two related words, such as affect and effect, have completely different meanings and uses.

Following the chapters, two sections review the fundamental rules of composing clear and correct sentences: The Grammar and Mechanics Units. The Grammar Units deal with the components of language: individual words, groups of words, and sentence structure and their functions in communication. Just as science is guided by a limited set of theories and principles, English is guided by a limited set of rules. Limited does not mean a small number, just a learnable number. The Grammar Units provide a review of these rules.

The Mechanics Units deal with the tools of our language: symbols, abbreviations, numbers, and punctuation. The longest unit reviews the comma, often the most troublesome punctuation mark for writers. The Mechanics Units provide a review of the rules surrounding punctuation, numbers, and symbols.

At the very end of the book, six appendices include information that supplements other chapters. Look through them to see what is offered. Learning the techniques of effective writing requires thought and practice. Whatever effort you put in, however, will pay off—in this course and in your career. Consider this book as a ladder to career advancement. Good luck!

Andrea J. Rutherfoord ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The second edition is the result of many years of learning from instructors, colleagues, students, and more recently, from my workteams, co-workers, managers, and business associates. I would like to thank them all collectively for their individual contributions, large and small.

I would also like to acknowledge the people who shared their professional experiences with business communication. They each supplied examples and suggestions for applying general writing practices to specific careers. They include Tony Cook and Wayne Wofford, Gwinnett Area Institute of Technology; Sonny Cox, Sonny's Service Center; Earl Friedell and Shirley McCree, DeKalb Technical Institute; David Homback, Southern College of Technology; David Hurst, State Farm Corporation; Jean Burns and Shelley Fischer-Wylie, human resources; Jim Brown and Patrick Williams, Colder Products Company; and Steve Hookstr

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