Technical Writing





Week 1 -- Audience readings

Week 2 -- Audience readings

Week 3 -- Audience readings



Week 3

Readability of the gas-operated refrigerator. Text to rewrite.
Be sure to give the assignment a proper filename. (I'll return the work and not grade it until it is properly named.)


Discussion questions

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 sort of mention the topic) 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 as examples. 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.

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

Week 1


Reep p. 67 question 2 (both a & b).

In your responses to other students, consider how your answers agree & disagree. Why are they different? Remember to support your work with citations from the class readings.

Week 2


I've been in some discussions about technical documentation with a conversation like:

person 1: Page 125 doesn't talk about X.

writer: It's over here on page 47.

person 1: But I think it should go here.

writer: Ok, I'll put in a "see page 47" cross reference.

person 1: That'll work.

Does putting in the cross-reference really work? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing it?

How do issues such as that show the lack of a good audience analysis? What needs to change?

Note: Having the same text appear in multiple places is not really acceptable. The problem is that when the document gets updated, the updates tend to only happen in some of the places. Once you change the text about X on page 47, you don't think to look on page 125.


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?


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.

Week 3


Take the text from the 8th grade version of the refrigerator document. Move the sentences around and randomize some of the word order in sentences (in other words, the sentence contains the same words, but in different orders....yeah, it'll make no grammatical sense.) Run the original 8th grade text and your scrambled text through some of the on-line readability tests from the readings.


Provide a clear roadmap for how you would determine the audience needs. In other words, assume I just handed you a report writing assignment and told you to figure out the audience needs for it. What would you do?

This is a trickier problem than it seems. I've asked the question in a thesis defense and gotten (1) a statement of "audience is important because..." Then when the person realized I wanted to know HOW they would figure out the audience, it turned into a deer-in-the-headlights look. The answer is much more than "I'll talk to a few people and maybe do a survey."





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