English
3880

Writing for Business and Industry

Spring
2016

 

Audience

Readings

Week 1 -- Audience readings

Week 2 -- Audience readings

Homework

1.

Complete the Audience quiz in Blackboard. The quiz is open book (the browser is not locked down), but you can only take it once.

General quiz rule: Quizes close at 5:00pm on the due date listed on the schedule. Don't ask me to reopen them.

2.

Complete this revision so the text addresses the audience and email me the results. Be sure to give the assignment a proper filename. (I'll return the work and not grade it until it is properly named.)

This paragraph is the introduction to a description of how a gas refrigerator works.  Rewrite the paragraph.  It probably needs to be broken into multiple paragraphs and could use some lists.  If you feel information is missing, you can also insert a note about what you would research or add as the additional text.

After completing the rewrite, write a couple of paragraphs explaining how the changes you made connected to the needs of the audience.  Be sure to define the audience and explain how your changes fit their needs.

If you own a cabin or a recreational vehicle you may already be familiar with the gas-operated refrigerator. Science has enabled the public to achieve refrigeration without the use of electricity. This can be invaluable in more rustic situations. Gas refrigerators are not feasibly repairable on site, but are usually built for longevity. Since one of the main reactions in the cycle of cooling involves ammonia absorption, the refrigerator is sometimes referred to as an absorption refrigerator. The purpose of this piece is to inform the reader about the molecular reactions that create cold in a gas refrigerator, and the parts creating these reactions. Gas fuel is the source of energy used to trigger the process.  Heat initiates a chemical reaction that ultimately results in the absorption of liquid ammonia into a newly formed gas. This refrigerator discussed here, unlike an electric unit, has no parts that move at all. Refrigeration is achieved through means of heating and condensing of ammonia with water and ammonia with hydrogen. A gas flame is used to heat a mixture that creates a chemical reaction resulting in liquid ammonia’s evaporation, which creates cold. The refrigerator is built in a way that a continuous cycle results. As long as gas fuel is present to fire the burner, the process is self-contained. This aspect is the reason they are still used today in situations where electricity is not readily available. The following will explain in detail both the molecular and mechanical processes that result in the cooling of a gas refrigerator.

Discussion questions

Post your answers to the discussion board on Blackboard. (discussion board expectations)

Some comments on answering discussion questions. Too often, discussion question answers are little more than "you need to consider audience because audience is important." Besides being a rather circular argument, it also shows little in-depth understanding of the material. If you could have given the answer before you read anything, then your answer is too shallow. I've tried to ask open-ended question that support different viewpoints.

The Flexibility of the Four Stages of Competence

You have to figure out what stage you are at. The article also gives a basis for why I expect some critical thinking in the discussion responses.

I expect your initial post and responses to reflect an understanding of the material and not be a quick shallow response. Too many answers I see are quick responses (here's two sentences) that don't consider the implications. Or worse, they tend to be a repeat of a previous post, which makes me wonder if you have read the material. Short or repeating answers are too simplistic and providing answers of that quality assures you will be stuck at Unconscious Incompetence, without knowing it. And having you work at that level is definitely not a goal of the course. Some of the questions will have "weak answers" given. These answers are not wrong, but they are little more than either a restatement of the question or a shallow collection of generic statements. Your response must go beyond that.

Week 1

Discussion closes for initial posts, but...you can still make comments to existing posts.

1.

There is a single report on one single topic....one author's take is "I'm writing technical information" and another author's take is "I'm communicating information" Do they have the same view of the writing process? Why?

If the course goal is to learn methods of effectively communicating information, then how does "communicating technical information" or "communicating business information" differ from “writing about technical stuff” or "writing about business stuff"? In this context,all of the communicating/writing refers to writing in formal way, not to oral communication, oral presentations, tweets, text messages, emails, etc. In other words, think of how the two author's differ in their view on the same topic.

Or another way of looking at it:

The question really deals with the difference in people's perception of the meaning differences between communicating about something and writing about something. How does the idea of audience enter into the difference between the two? What about the responsibility of the reader to understand what was presented versus the responsibility of the writer to help the reader understand it?

In the past, many people address this question by talking about writing for experts (writing technical stuff) or non-technical audience (communicating information). But expert vs non-expert don't really come into this question at all. Documents being written for either group can have a mindset of "communicating information" or "writing technical stuff." It has nothing to do with "one is taking to audience with a similar level of understand." You can assume that whether the author is "communicating technical/business information"or "writing about technical/business stuff" the same audience will be reading it.

Remember to cite the class readings in your response.

Week 2

1.

What makes good business or technical writing? Conversely, what makes business or bad technical writing?

Note

This question often starts to get lots of responses like "if the spelling and grammar are bad, you lose credibility. True. That's not the question. In the professional world, you can assume the spelling and grammar are correct and the document is technically correct. It's not about the obvious things that make a document bad, but can doing all the obvious things still result in a bad document. And why?

The question here is not if good technical writing does contain these things, but the opposite....can someone say "It is technically correct, good grammar, and has graphics, therefore it is good technical writing." I also know some technical writers who consider it very important to go over a text multiple times to ensure there are positively no grammar errors (the content came from marketing or an engineer and the writer doesn't worry about the accuracy, but it must have perfectly written sentences). Is that good business or technical writing?

Does good technical writing relate closely to any of the following ideas:

The text is grammatically correct?
It contains all the required information? (define what "all the required information" means)
All the information is correct? (define what correct information is)
It uses graphics?

What is the relative importance of these six points when it comes to claims that a document is a badly written technical/business document?

 

2.

The reading assignments stressed the need to understand the audience. A goal of your writing must be to meet the audience's expectations with respect to detail, amount of explanation, and clarity of concepts. Yet, there are also the client expectations. The audience may be your reader, but the client is the person who pays you/is your boss. How can audience and client expectations differ? How do you resolve any differences?

Examples

In the medical laboratory world the client can be a pathologist, medical director or hospital administrator who’s primary concern is meeting regulatory and accreditation requirements (this person approves the document). The audience is the bench level technologist or other health care providers, people who are actually doing something with the document.

In the corporate world, the HR person pays someone to write a set of procedures for entering weekly hours-worked and requesting vacation. HR is the client and the person working on the factory floor is the audience since they actually use the document to enter hours and request vacation.

You are the MBA program director and decide you need a new short document with title like "You've been accepted into the program....here's what you need to know". So, your hire a writer to create this report.

You, as the MBA program director, are the client. There is nothing in the report that you don't already know....you supplied the information to the writer. You are not part of the audience of the report. Other than reading it for review/feedback, you will never read or use the document.

Your customers, the newly accepted students, are the audience.

Assuming I am developing a software for the call center reps (CCR). The CCRs are my audience, but purchasing officer at the call center company is my client. I interact with the purchasing officer for the software design and development and never talk with or meet the people using the software. The strategy and requirement specifications come through my client, the the purchasing officer . When I write my technical document it is for the CCRs to follow and help their clients. But, my direct contact is the purchasing officer , not CCRs. I don’t know many details of the requirement from the CCRs. I learn their need from the purchasing officer. Most of the time this constitutes a gap in actual requirements. As the requirement flows from CCR's managers to the purchasing officer to me. My technical document targets CCRs, but sometime it doesn’t solve the need of CCRs, because of the gap in the analysis.

weak answer 1: Expectations between the client and reader can differ across nearly every aspect of a technical writing. These differences can be in terms of length, content, use of graphics or data tables. To resolve these differences, a reconciliation between the two parties would need to be done to identify which expectations differ, and why. Once this is complete, identifying the expectations that carry more weight for either party should be evident and a set of blended expectations could be proposed. This outline was a formal process, certainly open informal dialog between clients and audience would be preferable depending on the importance of the technical writing its purpose.

weak answer 2: A goal of your writing must be to meet the audience's expectations with respect to detail, amount of explanation, and clarity of concepts. Yet, there are also the client expectations. The audience may be your reader, but the client is the person who pays you/is your boss. How can audience and client expectations differ? How do you resolve any differences? Once the writer has analyzed the audience, they have an excellent understanding of the audience's expectations, but the client may not have the same level of understanding. As a result of this, the expectations of the audience and client can differ greatly. The audience may want to have more information, but the client may want to keep the document brief. To resolve the difference in expectations, the writer can explain to the client their understanding of the audience and reasons for including details in the document.

 

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