Annemarie Hamlin, Central Oregon Community College
Chris Rubio, Central Oregon Community College
Pub Date: 2016
Publisher: Open Oregon Educational Resources
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The book is offered in various formats, and they aren't parallel. The organization of chapters in the web-native version defies logic. The expandable table is tricky to get used to because the hyperlink from the Chapter title goes to the chapter... read more
The book is offered in various formats, and they aren't parallel. The organization of chapters in the web-native version defies logic. The expandable table is tricky to get used to because the hyperlink from the Chapter title goes to the chapter but the arrow on the right shows the subsections. It's hard to remember where you are as you navigate. I did not locate a glossary or index, and the book is not fully searchable in the web-native version because all sections can't be expanded onto one screen.
Almost none of the content has references to original sources, and far too little theory is made explicit. Too much of the writing is chatty and conversational to provide a model of technical writing for university students.
The first section includes both platforms and genres. However, currently relevant platforms like Twitter are excluded from this section. Mixing platforms and genres seems odd logically. Later chapters jump between concepts and genres with no obvious logic to the order.
The style is accessible but not professional. The writing attempts to be engaging but is not rich enough in evidence, references, or good, contemporary examples for university students.
Unfortunately, the book consistently raises questions about whether these authors/editors have worked in technical contexts recently. Their advice seems to be off-base, including comparing omitting a conclusion to slamming down a phone on a caller. In fact, much professional writing starts with an abstract, executive summary, or cover sheet that obviates the need for a conclusion. The worst thing we can do in much scientific and technical discourse is build suspense and save the point, answer, or recommendations to the end. The way this book is designed and written does not seem to engage the exigencies of technical writing as I'm familiar with them. Other textbooks, whether consistent or not, provide better examples of practices from many industries to help prepare students from writing after college. This textbook focuses not just on the college experience, but on the Central Oregon Community College experience to the exclusion of other contexts.
The text does not contain modules that stand independently, despite appearing at the outset to be designed that way. Many phrases such as "as seen in the last section," make it difficult for students to follow what's happening. The videos address students in a single section writing a specific assignment and the content of the videos is not transferable to other contexts. The videos I viewed would not work in my courses, ever. Further, the textbook refers constantly to watered-down assignments that I would not assign. In my courses, students DO write a full proposal, not just an academic topic proposal. No one in industry writes topic proposals, so I would not teach that genre in my technical writing course. In fact, this textbook constantly focuses on the specific introductory assignments and methods at Central Oregon Community College, so a more ambitious, advanced curriculum would directly contradict the information in the textbook. If you wanted to teach your students to write proposals, you would be better off with online examples of successful proposals and top-of-the-head commentary than this textbook.
The organization of the textbook appears to be clear and clean, but gets difficult to manage once specific questions are asked, such as, "how should I assign readings to prepare my students for specific assignments?" One of my specializations is teaching proposals. This book doesn't handle proposal writing in a way that fits what I know of proposal writing outside of essay topic proposals used in composition courses. Why is information on Citations and Plagiarism after the chapter on proposals? Professional and academic proposals are robust documents which cite sources, so that background information would be useful earlier. Despite the textbook attempting to be modular, numbering chapters does suggest that there is a logic to the order. Non-numbered TOC might be a solution to this problem. In this book, short chapters are split up into tiny subparts, and navigation between them is tricky in the web-native version. Other Technical Writing/Communication textbooks, from Burnett's 2005 Technical Communication 5th Ed., to the current editions of Markel (and Selber) and Lannon (and Gurak) are superior in terms of internal logic, as is the Engineering Communication Manual (House et al) if the authors/editors need better examples of structure.
I found the design appealing initially. Using it was confusing and there are many incompatibilities between the various versions available. The students would have difficulty locating the correct version of the textbook unless a PDF were provided to them by the instructor, and the PDF is problematic in terms of design and omission of content. In the web-native version, the sections are all very short and navigating to the next section requires clicking back and re-finding your place every time. Not having a "next section" button or arrow almost ensures that students will not complete the readings because they will think, incorrectly, that they are done with the (very short) chapter. The PDF version has many blank pages, making navigation cumbersome. The PDF document is much thinner than the large number of pages suggests. If a student were to print the PDF, much paper would be completely wasted and blank.
The conversational tone isn't ideal for educating students who will need to do technical writing in industry, but there are few overt typographic and spelling errors. The ones that exist are obvious and instructors can correct them if they use those chapters. Sometimes the authors refer to specific genres (like reports, in section 5.1) in a way that would confuse students (because writers cite sources in proposals, memos, and presentations, not just reports), and those errors should be addressed lest the students be misled about the conventions of the genres. Further, references to "your paper" and "paper" demonstrate lack of focus on rhetorical concepts of audience and purpose that should drive every technical communicator in every task. Most of our work is electronic/digital/online, so references to paper may not be incorrect, but they are largely archaic. When the authors refer to student assignments, they might call them "assignments," not "papers." The writing in section 5.2 needs editing. Overuse of "it" and "there" and back-referencing through pronouns ensures that students will have difficulty parsing the information. Further, students are seeing a poor example of a strong technical writing style because the sentences are written in a vague style that would lead to comprehension and translation errors. Further, the authors state that plagiarism is institution-specific, but that's only true in our academic bubble. In fact, plagiarism is an important IP (intellectual property) concern globally, so reference to international publication and copyright standards would be far more useful to students, who are students for 4 years or so, but professionals for up to 40 years.
Ideally, the authors would employ a plain style to avoid usability problems for non-American-dialect users. In the section (2.1 types of audiences) about audience, an opportunity is missed by not getting into user profiles and usability theory. Contrary to what is stated, technicians do not always lack sophisticated theoretical knowledge. It is not true that executives are always the audience for whom our students will or should write. The lack of robust user-based terminology is a problem with this book. I wonder if any of the authors are currently active in the technical communication community or have worked in nonacademic technical environments on communication design tasks. If they have, I would implore them to use better industry examples and the jargon of writers in technical professions. The authors should also focus on plain language in this book, and exemplify it in their prose. Karen Schriver's work is a good starting point.
I recommend this book (only) to instructors at Central Oregon Community College, where it perhaps serves a useful, important purpose. Its structure and content is unsuitable for majors in professional fields including engineering and science, and therefore is not a good choice for instructors teaching at most institutions where the course is offered. The emphasis on MLA style demonstrates the limited appeal of the textbook (to English majors). To be clear, MLA is not used in a single industrial or professional context I am aware of, outside English departments and literature-oriented professions. No mention is made of IEEE, which is the largest professional society in the world and which publishes professional ethics and authorial style guides that many professionals will encounter. It's great to include APA, but that social-science emphasis should be balanced with another professional style such as ASME or IEEE. The authors may have heard this, because they mention ASME in section 5.1, but they give no examples of what ASME looks like in practice. I worry that this textbook potentially does a disservice to the technical communication field as well as to open-access materials, which should be of high quality and represent best practices based on an awareness of the range of communication tasks working professional undertake. David McMurrey's work was far more technical and usable in its time; I'm sad to conclude that this textbook does not build productively on his legacy.
The text does many things very well, but it is too uneven to be truly comprehensive. It will work best as an introduction to technical communication and business writing. It is less helpful, I think, to students going into health care fields and... read more
The text does many things very well, but it is too uneven to be truly comprehensive. It will work best as an introduction to technical communication and business writing. It is less helpful, I think, to students going into health care fields and the social sciences. Chapters are brief and pragmatic, with no discussion of theory, no instruction on clarity or sentence structure, and little discussion of diction and style. The index is helpful; there is no glossary, but this does not seem to be an omission as there is little jargon used throughout the book. Some of the chapters are extremely brief and rudimentary, while others are detailed and nuanced. An example of the former is the section headed "Types of audiences", and an example of the latter is the section on ethics of technical writing. One of the earliest chapters is about texting. There are useful chapters dedicated to resumes, incident reports, proposals, and several other genres - and there is an interesting, though perhaps not as practical, discussion of genres in writing. Like most other technical writing resources, this book has nothing to say about case reports, medical or nursing notes, letters to the editor or position papers for professional and trade journals, all of which are pertinent to the daily work of many professionals in human services or advocacy. Another issue with the book is the lack of writing exercises and assignments. There are some areas with a "Try This" section, but not very many of them, and the assignments lack an assessment component.
The book seems unbiased, although some advice feels a little arbitrary, such as the recommendation to limit emails to three paragraphs. I do not find any errors of content. There is a technical error in the middle of the book, where the author refers to a graph about voting in Australia; that graph does not exist on the page but there is this editorial comment that was no doubt not intended for publication: [“How to vote…” – this image is on a blog that is CC-licensed but I don’t think the author used the image with permission. Is it possible to find a sub?] Who is who? Which Australian are we voting for?
Much of the advice will be appropriate forever: know your audience, know your purpose in writing, be respectful, be specific and clear rather than general and vague. The sections about how to present information visually are helpful: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity are given the unfortunate acronym CRAP (so no doubt the reader will never forget it!) I also appreciate the chapter on information literacy, which includes information on scholarly, professional and general publications. This includes trade journals, something that WR 121 classes tend not to mention but are important for technical writing students. Of course, there is some information about PowerPoint that is likely already past its best-buy date, but the authors discuss that and point the reader towards existing and upcoming technologies other than PowerPoint. I was able to see the video on the writing situation but not all of the other links worked. The authors include a caveat that not all links will work, so that seems fair, but a comprehensive resource would not rely on links to external sources with all their potential foibles.
The authors resist the temptation to use jargon, and they stick to simple sentence structures for the most part. In that sense, they exemplify the sort of simple, crisp (if unexciting) prose that technical communication strives for. There is abundant use of the colon to introduce lists, and the authors use bullet points frequently.
The book is highly consistent. Each chapter starts with a brief introduction to what comes in the sections included in the chapter. That means that the first segment of each chapter is extremely short, followed by more detailed segments. What is not consistent is the amount of time spent on various elements of technical writing, which, as mentioned in the section on comprehensiveness, varies quite a bit.
Chapters could be read out of order, and instructors can certain assign some sections and not others. I would be most inclined to use the chapters on ethical issues, research, and proposals. I think that's OK, but the book is almost too modular. Chapters do not relate to one another and the order in which they appear feels arbitrary. There is some redundancy - for example, the issue of audience is addressed repeatedly without adding anything new on the subject. I generally prefer a text in which each chapter leads logically to the material in the next chapter and adds to the student's understanding of technical writing, but there are advantages to a source like this, too.
The book is highly modular and the chapters do not flow into one another. I'm not sure why the chapters are ordered this way. I would tend to put some basic information about what constitutes technical writing at the beginning, followed by some guidance around doing research and writing ethically, followed by chapters on different types of technical writing: texts, emails, case reports, letters, resumes, proposals, recipes, instruction manuals, position papers, abstracts, encounter notes from a visit or interview, letters to the editor, mini-biographies and autobiographies ("about the author"), annotations. I would include an appendix about conventions: when to use a colon, how to convey numbers, the rules of capitalization, and the like.
The navigation was extremely simple and easy to use. The charts and images that are used are minimal but every one is highly useful and easy to see. Some links are broken.
I am prone to noticing grammatical and punctuation errors, but nothing jumped out at me in this textbook.
There is an ageist comment about "so easy that Grandpa could understand it" in the early pages defining technical vs academic writing. There is a very thoughtful section on cultural sensitivity. The authors use an interesting example of cultural differences, using a world map to illustrate the different meanings of the color red in different countries. However, it seems like a serious omission to leave out a discussion of inclusive language. Things in that field are always changing, but the authors could provide information about where to find the most up-to-date recommendations on inclusive language, such as the acceptability of "they" as a singular personal pronoun for gender nonbinary people, and what language is appropriate to describe ethnic groups etc.
The book is quite well written and useful, but not comprehensive. I would love to see this text updated with more sections. Chapters on lab/case reports, medical/interview notes, abstracts, introductions, mini-biographies, position papers and letters to the editor would enhance this text and broaden its appeal to new audiences, especially social science/health care students. I would love to see sections on effective sentences, collaborative writing, inclusive language, and grammatical conventions. Finally, an effective text on this topic should include assignments along with discussion of how to assess the assignments.
Comprehensiveness - Appears to offer all of the standard technical writing topics with an excellent easy bulleted table of contents. It also contains an excellent index and glossary. read more
Comprehensiveness - Appears to offer all of the standard technical writing topics with an excellent easy bulleted table of contents. It also contains an excellent index and glossary.
Content Accuracy - Appears to provide accurate content.
Relevance Longevity - Information appears to fit the relevant longevity category with the exception of the Professional Communication chapter; however, that would be an easy update.
Clarity - Information is presented in a simple and clear format.
Consistency - Information was not found to be incongruent in any way.
Modularity - The text is laid out in chapters with clear and simple sub-headings underneath each one.
Organization Structure Flow - The flow of the text is easy to follow.
Interface - The images could be more ascetically pleasing to the eye. In come cases, it appears that a high school student made them. Investing in a graphic designer might make the graphics more ascetically appealing. Furthermore, breaking the text apart with colorful questions and answers, activities, quotes, etc., is suggested.
Grammatical Errors - There were no grammatical errors found.
Cultural Relevance - The text appears to be culturally sensitive of all races, nationalities and ethnicities.
A text I definitely want to consider for my Technical Writing course. :)
The book covers the typical range of topics for a technical writing guide. At times, the balance feels off. A significant amount of the length is dedicated to topics usually covered in other classes (including research, citations, outlining). I... read more
The book covers the typical range of topics for a technical writing guide. At times, the balance feels off. A significant amount of the length is dedicated to topics usually covered in other classes (including research, citations, outlining). I would have preferred to have more info about the modes typical to technical writing, but what the book has is useful. Also, while the book has examples, I would appreciate even more examples. The book has a dropdown menu with a table of contents and a search feature in the reader.
The book is accurate. I did not observe inaccuracies.
On the whole, the book is relevant and should remain so for several years without the need for updates. One important consideration regarding relevancy is the thematic dominance of references to Oregon. While the frequent mention of things related to the Pacific Northwest does not limit the readability of the text, this reoccurring theme makes the book more relevant for readers from this area than from others.
The book is clear and written with appropriate vocabulary for the typical student of technical writing. The body of the text goes into an adequate depth in the explanation of key concepts. Crucial terms are adequately explained. Examples are frequently included, although even more examples would be a welcome addition. The book lacks a glossary, which would also be a helpful addition.
The text is adequately consistent from beginning to end, but at times the sections feel disconnected. In this respect, the text works well as a modular book with distinct sections. The various parts do seem separate, however. The crossover between chapters could be stronger. This is probably the case due to chapters being derived from other sources. The differences do not render the text unreadable, just lack cohesive than the average textbook.
This text excels as a modular work. The sections are distinct and could be read independently. Teachers can easily pick and choose between sections without assigning the entire text.
The order in which the book’s contents are presented is somewhat arbitrary. (The section on resumes, for example, comes at the end—in many technical writing texts, this would come at toward the beginning.) Still, the ordering of the text is not confusing.
Navigating the text can be slow, with lots of scrolling and clicking through. Some of the sections are particularly long, and can be tiresome to scroll through. However, the table of contents is accurate and helpful. The book also has a search feature.
The text has no grammatical errors. The overall quality of editing is high.
The text is geared towards an American culture. However, the text discusses at length the importance of audience awareness and cultural differences in writing, particularly applications that span multiple cultures.
The greatest value this book offers is the ease with which teachers can select limited portions to assign to students based on the class objectives. This could easily replace a standard technical writing textbook in many courses, particularly if other texts further supplemented the class.
The textbook is comprehensive; however, it seems to cover both technical writing and professional or workplace writing. It is absolutely appropriate for a comprehensive service course, but the authors should consider another title. Perhaps... read more
The textbook is comprehensive; however, it seems to cover both technical writing and professional or workplace writing. It is absolutely appropriate for a comprehensive service course, but the authors should consider another title. Perhaps Technical and Professional Writing would be more accurate.
There are a few minor typos and notes from a previous editor in the document and a few leftover editing notes. Regarding bias, the entire text does seem to be written for a particular course. While it is generalized, it does refer to particular assignments and contexts, sometimes without an example given.
The content is up to date; however, it may require revision as technologies evolve and change. For example, the texting section may need to be updated within the next year to account for newer texting apps and conventions.
The entire textbook is clear and accessible. In some places, it is conversational; however, I find that quality increases its accessibility and approachability, which is necessary for a technical writing service course.
The framework and organization of the textbook is consistent and easy to follow.
The modularity is helpful, and the text is well-organized.
All of the topics are presented in a logical and clear fashion.
All of the available interfaces work well.
I did not see any grammatical errors during my review. I did, however, see a few leftover notes from the editor.
The text is culturally appropriate and all example are relevant and inclusive.
In some places, the example links do not work. When there is time, the editors and/or authors should review the book to check for errors and broken links. As mentioned in my first comment, the textbook could benefit from separating technical writing and professional writing as they are separate disciplines.
Although an index/glossary is not provided, the Table of Contents organizes the material and allows for readers to see the breadth of areas and subjects within the Technical Writing textbook. Topics common to technical writing courses are explored... read more
Although an index/glossary is not provided, the Table of Contents organizes the material and allows for readers to see the breadth of areas and subjects within the Technical Writing textbook. Topics common to technical writing courses are explored in this text and include an important section (4.6) on evaluating sources as well as sections on plagiarism and the importance of citing sources. Topics that could perhaps be added to the text include social media (LinkedIn in Chapter 12: Employment Materials, for example) and technical writing for web pages or using online technologies.
Overall, the content appears accurate, error-free, and generally unbiased. Figure 13 in Chapter 11.4, however, doesn’t offer a resume sample for the exercise and simply states “Text of fake resume here”.
Content appears to be mostly relevant and offers up-to-date information on information literacy and other important technical writing concepts. Some of the content could be further updated, however. For example, chapter 12 discusses the idea of the cover letter being potentially outdated but then proceeds to offer guidance on writing one. This and other sections could offer updates, particularly regarding electronic and online documents.
The text is accessible and concise in delivery. Further clarification is offered through examples/samples in the sections on emails, memos, outlines, cover letters, technical reports, and others. Examples could be given in sections on proposals, progress reports, and other sections to offer further clarity.
The text offers consistency through the organization of the chapters and sections. Some chapters have features that others do not have, however. For example, Chapters 11 and 13 are structured with interactive activities not found in other chapters. The “activity” and “try this” in these chapters would be helpful in other chapters, too.
Chapters and sub-units within this text are clearly labeled. Although some overlap is offered, overall chapters and sections can be used individually in a course.
The organization is clear, user-friendly, and easily navigable using all-cap chapter headings and numbers and lower case section headings and numbers.
This text is offered in various formats which likely will help eliminate interface issues with certain sections. The section on resumes and cover letters, for example, might offer display differences depending on the format.
Grammatical errors were not detected.
Much of the text appeared to be neutral, and sections were dedicated to discussing cultural sensitivity within workplace writing. With that said, additional work on representation could be added within the examples. Also, ideas for inclusivity through accessibility in design of workplace documents might be added, too, as well as an updated discussion on gender in written communications beyond using Mr. or Ms. in the sections on email, cover letters, and audience.
This text is well organized with topics appropriate to technical writing, and I will consider using it in technical writing and workplace writing courses for first- and second-year students.
I examined this textbook as a resource for a 100-level Technical Writing class. In this context, questions of comprehensiveness arose almost immediately. The authors offer no discussion of theory, despite a claim on page 1 that theory underlies... read more
I examined this textbook as a resource for a 100-level Technical Writing class. In this context, questions of comprehensiveness arose almost immediately. The authors offer no discussion of theory, despite a claim on page 1 that theory underlies technical writing. There was no mention of the writing process, a confusing oversight on two fronts. First, the omission raised questions about course level. Did the textbook assume students already understood writing as a process? That would put this text higher than entry-level; writing as a process is usually taught in 100-level English. Or, by omitting the writing process, does the textbook defy modern writing pedagogy and emphasize the products of technical writing over the process? There was also no mention of the rhetorical situation: the amalgamation of purpose, stance and tone, genre, media, and, of course, audience. The text offers a separate chapter on analyzing the audience, but no holistic examination of the roles that purpose, stance and tone, genre, and media play in reaching the audience. Omitting a discussion of the rhetorical situation elicits more questions about course level and students’ prerequisite knowledge. Does the text assume students understood the interaction of purpose, stance, and genre in a writing project? The textbook mentions purpose, almost in passing - the purpose of a memo, for instance, or a report. Stance - how the writer feels about the topic versus how she expresses it through her tone - was not addressed at all. Given that technical communicators may be asked to write about things they don’t care about or may disagree with (e.g., an environmentalist writing a press release on new oil exploration), a discussion of stance and tone is important. Lacking an essential discussion of theory and concept, the textbook covers a limited range of genres, another writerly term that is not mentioned. The first chapter reviews types of correspondence, starting with, oddly enough, texting. Next, comes e-mail, then an interjection about netiquette, followed by brief discussions of memoranda and letters. Later chapters describe proposals and progress reports. A recent revision added a chapter on employment-related documents, such as résumés. While this is an adequate list of technical genres, the choices seemed limited and specific. Why the focus on progress reports? A broader chapter covering incident or recommendation reports seems more thorough. Other key genres are missing entirely. Instructions get no mention, although giving directions and documenting procedures are common workplace tasks. Presentations are another key genre for technical communication that is overlooked in the textbook.
Among the genres that are discussed, accuracy falters due to a handful of random, undocumented prescriptions. On page 12, for example, the authors declare,” a good e-mail should get to the point and conclude in three small paragraphs or less.” Really? According to who? In my 30 years of experience in the technical workforce, I have read, and written, countless e-mails longer than three short paragraphs. While I agree that students should keep e-mails short and direct, especially when corresponding with the instructor, there is nothing inherently wrong about a longer e-mail message. Some arguments cannot be made in three short paragraphs. Are the authors saying that longer arguments are better suited for a memorandum or a letter? If so, that indicates a need to discuss the conventions of genre. If the authors are recommending the abbreviated length as a best practice for emerging technical communicators, they should say so. If the authors proclaim the three-paragraph limit as their personal preference, they should say that, too. However, they must also inform students that they may occasionally need to write, and read, longer e-mails in the workaday world. A similar prescription occurs on page 36, with the decree that “an average between 15 and 25 words per sentence is about right. Sentences over 30 words are to be mistrusted.” Again, I wondered, “Says who?” Had the authors cited evidence — a study finding that sentences over 25 words are ignored by readers, for instance — the claim might be more compelling. Lacking documentation, it’s puzzling at how five additional words can separate an effective sentence from an untrustworthy one. Furthermore, while conciseness is an essential feature of technical and professional writing, establishing an arbitrary sentence length may encourage students to emphasize conciseness at the expense of clarity and accuracy. It would be more effective to educate students on the relationship between clarity, conciseness, and accuracy, and teach them to use the shortest, clearest, most direct language needed to effectively address the audience and accomplish the purpose of the text. But this relationship is impossible to discuss with this text, since overarching concepts and conventions are never introduced.
The digital nature of the textbook assures easy editing and the potential for long-term relevance. In fact, between July 2017, when I downloaded a PDF copy for review, and October 2017, when I began writing the review, the authors added chapter 11 on design and readability, and chapter 12 on writing employment materials. They also expanded chapter 10, adding information about successful report design.
As with comprehensiveness and accuracy, clarity is marred by odd omissions. Page 12 advises that “professional communications require attention to the specific writing context” but there is no explanation of what context is. Again, a question about prerequisite knowledge arises. Can the authors assume that students understand what context is, and how it impacts a writing product? Another missed opportunity occurs on page 16, where the authors admonish “culture and even gender can play a part in how people communicate.” While this is undoubtedly true, two questions arise. First, can instructors assume that students will recognize this intricate interaction? Second, can instructors assume that students will tailor their writing to navigate the interaction and improve communication? Lacking examples, explanations, or a declaration of prerequisite knowledge, the answer to both questions is “no.”
Clarity is further diminished by Inconsistencies within the text. Chapter 8, “Creating and Integrating Graphics,” recommends “including identifying detail in the graphics” (128), yet does ignores its own advice. The sample bar chart on page 123, depicting types of produce grown in Sisters, Oregon, has axis titles, but the y-axis, entitled “Percentage produced in 2015,” has no scale. The chart shows that potatoes are the most plentiful crop. Its bar towers over that of carrots, the closest competitor, by about two-thirds. But, without a scale, the value for potatoes could be 30 percent, or 3 percent, compared to carrots at 10 percent or 1 percent. A pie chart on page 122 shows a similar dearth of detail. The chart is entitled, simply, “Success with Vegetables Grown.” Potatoes account for 60 percent of vegetables grown; carrots for 23 percent. But percent of what? The pie chart doesn’t say. Is it percent of all total crops grown? Is it percent of crop yield, compared to crops planted? Students are left guessing, and, from this, may learn to create charts that inspire their own guesswork. More subtle inconsistency arises in the textbook’s formatting. Chapter 1, on correspondence, uses at least three different formats for bullet points. Pages 12-13 list characteristics of e-mail with bullets featuring a bolded opening phrase. Pages 15-16, on netiquette, uses headings, along with simply, un-bolded bullet points. Meanwhile, page 24 presents a list of correspondence types with no bullets at all; the different types are simply bolded. These inconsistencies model poor document design for students. This is especially problematic given the text’s emphasis on longer documents, such as the progress reports, which require consistent formatting throughout.
Formatting inconsistencies notwithstanding, the text is well-marked for modularity. Clear, consistent headings and sub-headings are used throughout. Students should have no trouble identifying a reading assignment such as “chapter 9, sections 9.1 through 9.3.”
Alas, the headings and sub-headings demarcate a haphazard arrangement of content. Topics are not grouped according to theory (should there be any) and practice, strategies and genres, or from easiest material to more challenging. The chapters appear randomly, with an early chapter often referring to material that has not been introduced yet. Chapter 1, on correspondence, advises, “careful consideration should be given to the audience...” (9), but the chapter on audience analysis follows 14 pages later. Considering the recent addition of chapters on design and employment documents, it appears that chapters are organized in the order that they’re added. New chapters are simply tacked on at the end. While such labor-saving is understandable, it may be worth the effort to reorganize the textbook by introducing overarching concepts, such as audience, research methods, and ethics at the beginning, with specific writing strategies (e.g. outlining) and genres to follow.
This review was prepared from a print-out of a PDF file generated on the textbook’s Web site. Although the charts and graphics conveyed when printed, the videos, understandably, did not. It would have been helpful to include URLs for the videos, so that students preferring a paper-based text could find and watch the videos while reading. The interface for the Web version of the book is clear, simple, and unobtrusive. [Home] and [Table of Contents] buttons are fixed on the right-hand side, allowing students to easily jump among sections. Gray “forward” and “backward” arrows, on the right and left, respectively, make it easy to flip pages. A “search” box, almost invisible in the upper, right-hand corner, offers quick full-text searching. A search for “audience” returned a list, itemized by clickable links to specific sections containing the term. Traditional search conventions, such as double-quotes to find phrases, work as expected. However, more sophisticated search operators, such as “AND,” “OR,” “NOT,” and “NEAR” do not work, though this is not a major shortcoming.
There were no noticeable grammatical errors, though there were occasional long, wordy, confusing sentences. The sentence describing crop yields in Sisters, Oregon was a staggering four lines long, strung together with “and” between three independent clauses (121).
Generally, the text is inoffensive. There was, however, one off-putting cliché: the notion that older people are slow to grasp technical concepts. The book’s Introduction advises, “…plan to write in such a way that even Grandad can understand!” (3). While this was surely a throwaway attempt at levity, the cliché may be discouraging to older students, while cultivating the bias of younger ones.
This text covers numerous facets related to technical writing, including basic business correspondence and determining how best to reach the audience for the particular type of technical writing being done. The authors cover related and integral... read more
This text covers numerous facets related to technical writing, including basic business correspondence and determining how best to reach the audience for the particular type of technical writing being done. The authors cover related and integral elements that help writers produce better documents, including using outlines and graphics as well as information literacy skills that writers should have. While there is no index or glossary, the table of contents clearly displays the content of the text. It’s worth noting that the table of contents on the Open Textbook Library website does not include the two final sections of the book, which cover “Design and Readability of Publications” and “Employment Materials.”
The book is accurate, and even in sections where elements might change - such as screenshots in the Information Literacy chapter - they are general enough that even if the interface changes, the instructions will be relatively similar.
The topics in the book are not likely to become dated immediately. Some of the basic material related to communication and being concise will be consistently useful. While some of the linked material may change over time, that isn’t the fault of the authors. When I reviewed this text, the links tested were still working and relevant.
The text is written at a level accessible for college-level students, and perhaps some high school students. The materials are logically arranged and easy to understand.
As some of the material includes elements remixed from other open texts, there are some differences in the language and layout of chapters. For example, some of the elements of chapter 12 related to cover letters and resumes use color, and have more modern examples than those in chapter 1, which focuses on online etiquette.
Many of the chapters will do well on their own. I plan to adopt this for my information literacy and writing course, and anticipate re-arranging sections to fit the course structure.
This may be a result of my background as a teacher of information literacy first, but it might make more sense to start with the sections on information literacy and citations, then progress to audience analysis and outlines. It seems the chapter on “Professional Communication” might fit better toward the end. Otherwise the flow and structure are generally logical.
The online version of the book is hosted on the Pressbooks platform, which is intuitive to use, but long sections require significant scrolling. The PDF version of the book works as expected, with functioning links in both the table of contents and the text.
There are no grammatical errors in the text, which is what one would expect from a writing textbook.
As appropriate, the book highlights cultural issues to consider when writing for an audience. Examples don’t highlight a variety of backgrounds, but neither are they so pervasive that it’s a problem.
Given the appropriately broad coverage of this text, I can envision it being useful to students after they leave my course and have jobs in their chosen fields.
This is a very compact book, with easily managed lessons in basic concepts that are a quick and easy read for most students in the sciences and technology fields (STEM). Where it summarizes the key details, it does so with general clarity and the... read more
This is a very compact book, with easily managed lessons in basic concepts that are a quick and easy read for most students in the sciences and technology fields (STEM). Where it summarizes the key details, it does so with general clarity and the links to other, more detailed resources appear to be effective, although one or two are dated. It is not designed as a comprehensive or exhaustive resource on technical writing and avoids a heavily academic tone.
The book’s advice, while brief, is extremely solid, backed up by authoritative evidence, and easy to follow. Students would appreciate the very good detail in the table of contents as well as the ease of navigating from section to section as needed. Charts, where used, easily help students find the key differences in concepts, which is something that more detailed, less approachable textbooks tend to overlook.
In general I don’t teach with a textbook, so my comments should be taken in the context of someone who uses texts more as a resource than a work that guides the entirety of our semester’s journey as writers. This is a very relevant work for busy writers who need to grasp the essentials quickly, and get leads on how to find more detail as needed. It is particularly good at using graphics to shape ideas which is a factor in more and more writing courses. If I had to point to one area where it might need updating, it might be in allowing more space for instructions, presentations and video content, as these are emerging as valuable tools and I am not seeing a lot in the text. It appears to focus a lot on the preparation of reports and print materials, but is a good basic resource in those areas.
Very clear, with short, effective paragraphs and guides to other resources clearly labeled as such. As noted earlier, graphics are well supported in the version that I reviewed. It should be noted that different formats might have issues relating to page presentation, as I have noticed that in other primarily online references I have seen.
It can be inconsistent in terms of the amount of space given to, say, some issues over others. However, in general the issues which are not treated in great detail are those for which often there are other, key resources focusing on general principles involved that are attached. Also, in some instance (plagiarism is one example) there are a wealth of other resources available in most higher education communities.
The sections in the book are effectively broken into segments which are short but emphasize key points in about a page or so. This is one of the areas where it might be most attractive to students who rely on it as a reference rather than a week-to-week resource. Teachers who wish to use, say, one or two segments while not using others would find this a very helpful resource.
This is an area of strength for this publication, as it shapes very well around ideas for most proposal writers as well as the ethics of the field as we know it today. Ethical concepts are generally brief, but clear as to impact on the STEM fields. It would be stronger with a little more emphasis on presentations and video, as noted, which are important as digital communications tools for STEM majors.
The online interface I used was generally very easy; with both arrows and a table of contents, writers can easily move to where they need to get their information. It is noteworthy that it does not have questions in the back of each section, so it’s not designed for, say, test development or study for exams. But most technical writing courses don’t focus on exams (there may be quizzes on concepts) so that is not a significant barrier.
I was not able to find any significant errors in grammar.
This could be stronger in its approach to culture across the STEM communities, which is not a small issue in a global economy. However, one challenge with that is attempting to keep it current -- culture, like everything else in science and technology, changes very rapidly.
I have taught from a range of different resources, which change from year to year as it’s important to keep a course relevant in the rapidly evolving STEM fields. I have had trouble finding resources, particularly open source ones, that are approachable but convey the key concepts in an easy to access format. Students in my classes use a text as needed, rather than as the foundation of an entire course. This has worked very well in that role in this semester, and I am hoping to keep it on my list of resources moving forward.
This text includes several sections that I would expect to see in a technical writing textbook: job search materials, reports, proposals, using graphics, professional communications, and audience analysis. It also includes a couple of sections I... read more
This text includes several sections that I would expect to see in a technical writing textbook: job search materials, reports, proposals, using graphics, professional communications, and audience analysis. It also includes a couple of sections I wouldn't necessarily expect, but that would be very useful in any professional writing class: discussions of the ethics involved in report writing, information literacy, and document design. However, there was no section related to manuals or instructions, which is a large gap. In terms of usability in relation to comprehensiveness, the table of contents is nicely detailed, but no index appears so locating overlaps of information among and between chapters would not be as simple or straightforward as it could be.
In general, the information in the text is accurate, although some areas and issues would benefit from more nuanced or complex discussion. For example, in the section on job materials, professional advice varies widely related to the design of resumes, but this text does not discuss any of the variety of advice. One minor note: There are several sentence-level errors (i.e., subject-verb agreement) that don't compromise communication but are occasionally jarring.
The content generally seems up-to-date, and the chapter organization and breakdown appear to lend themselves to easy updating.
The text’s language is clear and accessible. Sufficient background information is presented to give context for new concepts. Other structures that would enhance clarity are not consistently present, however. For example, not all chapters provide examples to illustrate concepts or discussion/reflection questions to encourage students to apply concepts to other situations. Additionally, most chapters have no graphic material – pull-out text boxes, illustrations, summary lists, etc. – that would offer a different presentation method for readers.
This text is consistent in its approach, terminology, and framework.
This text is divided into sections in such a way that individual sections could easily be assigned out of order and at different points in a course. There are few, if any, instances in the text that refer to earlier material in a way that would make non-consecutive reading unworkable or unwieldy. In general, sections are relatively short and are organized under useful headings. Few subheadings are used within the text itself, although chapters are broken down into sections, each of which is labeled on the page and in the table of contents with a heading. These headings should make finding relevant sections in the text fairly easy.
The topics in this text progress clearly enough to avoid confusion, but less clearly than they could. For example, starting with Audience Analysis rather than with a variety of workplace communication genres (text, email, memos, etc.) would be more rhetorically sensible. The progression from Proposals to Information Literacy (research) to Citations to Progress Reports makes sense in that it follows the progression one might follow in a particular workplace project. However, while the order of chapters follows the process of writing a workplace document (proposal, research, progress report, technical report), it doesn’t necessarily follow the order of writing skills. For example, research is usually an integral part of developing a writing topic rather than something that happens at a single defined point mid-way through a project; likewise, a discussion of ethics should happen before a technical report is underway, perhaps in relation to an analysis of audience or to a discussion of the rhetorical situations present in professional writing generally. Because these chapters can be read out of order, the problem isn’t serious, but the chapter order doesn’t make as much use of logical development as it could.
In general, the text’s interface is user-friendly. There are a couple of places, however, notably in the chapter on design, where graphics don’t appear above the caption.
The text is overall clean but there are a handful of grammatical errors.
The text is inoffensive. Its examples aren’t culturally specific – examples don’t refer to particular groups at all, so diversity does not seem to be at issue.
The book covers a broad range of technical communication genres, and it covers everything I would hope to cover in my upcoming course. read more
The book covers a broad range of technical communication genres, and it covers everything I would hope to cover in my upcoming course.
Due to the objective nature of most technical writing, this book certainly follows suit and contains little in terms of bias or subjectivity. The document genres covered fit with standards in the field, and I have found very few errors.
I agree that this book will remain relevant over time. Certainly, notions of "netiquette" and online forms might change, but the essential tech comm genres covered will remain an essential component of workplace literacies, and as such, this book should remain relevant and be easy to update as needed.
The textbook is written in a voice that is straightforward and no-nonsense for students. It isn't the most scintillating reading, but a book on technical writing clearly doesn't need to be! The voice of the text is one that I feel students would appreciate - let's get to the point!
I don't see any major inconsistencies. The text works to reinforce technical communication concepts both in its subject matter and in the style of the text itself. Clarity and intelligibility are essentials, and the text appears to work within those frameworks.
I appreciate the way the sections aren't overly extended or complicated - the individual components make up the larger whole and could easily be reconfigured to suit the needs of instructors. I feel like this is less of a textbook to read in order, but a set of modules for instructors to customize.
The overall structure of the piece makes sense, and I found myself following the process outlined within the overall book structure. It also is able to be modified quite easily if needed, so that's a plus.
Some of the graphics are a bit low-res, but nothing that would inhibit meaning... it's well presented overall.
Very few that I can see!
I see no issues here - it's quite objective overall.
I'm really happy I found this one! It will be a huge help in my upcoming course, and I'm excited to use this as a supplement to my in-class discussions!
Based on the Table of Contents, all subject areas mentioned there were covered adequately. However, there are several mentions of the technical report being the main document produced at the end of the term (which is true) and mentions of several... read more
Based on the Table of Contents, all subject areas mentioned there were covered adequately. However, there are several mentions of the technical report being the main document produced at the end of the term (which is true) and mentions of several prefatory documents needed for benchmarking along the way. Only a couple of those mentioned documents are detailed or explained in the book.
There are a few minor typos and notes from a previous editor in the document, including a question about permission to use a chart. Content itself seemed accurate.
Content is up to date. With the inclusion of sections on MLA and APA citation style as well as the job application chapters, it would need to be updated in about 5 years to reflect changes to those areas.
Clarity of language and expression of concepts is well done. Language is easy to understand but remains at a college student's level. Special terms are explained and defined.
For the most part, the book is internally consistent. There are some inconsistent elements- some chapters include links to samples, but not all; there is a link to one video only; some chapters include an activity prompt, but others do not.
Modularity is well done. Each larger unit is broken into smaller, easily understood and relevant sub units.
Organization is simple and logical.
I did not experience any navigation problems. Some images had an editor's note next to them, or were quickly covered by a small icon in the top right. The chapters on graphics had some photos that did not connect well to technical writing, and I suspect students in a class would struggle to understand the rhetorical significance of them (particularly the sections with Obama and the girls gymnastics team).
I noticed only one or two minor typos. There were some fragments and sentences beginning with And or But, which I hope were stylistic choices.
There were no culturally insensitive examples or remarks.
The book does not contain an index or a glossary. The book's primarily focuses on the proposal but also covers other traditional technical writing assignments such as the cover letter and resume. read more
The book does not contain an index or a glossary. The book's primarily focuses on the proposal but also covers other traditional technical writing assignments such as the cover letter and resume.
The content is accurate. I would not call the book error free.
The book contains relevant content that could be updated with relative ease.
The book's prose is not tightly edited, but the prose is accessible.
The book's content is consistent.
The text is well-organized for assigning smaller sections of reading at different points within a course.
The book's organization is solid and clear.
The text does not have interfacing issues.
The book needs a careful and close editing by one person.
I found the short chapter on ethics to be presented almost as an afterthought and believe it would be of little help to students.
I would use the book as a resource but not as a textbook for students. I might assign certain sections for reading but would more than likely use information from the book to add to already existing lectures and discussions, of course, giving credit to the authors. In general, I believe both the Web and open source materials provide enough material to work with that textbooks in writing courses are unnecessary.
The text covers a good amount of information related to technical writing; some of the sections are more in depth than others. Many sections would benefit from further inquiry to assist students with more complex issues in the field of technical... read more
The text covers a good amount of information related to technical writing; some of the sections are more in depth than others. Many sections would benefit from further inquiry to assist students with more complex issues in the field of technical writing and communications. While all of the topics are relevant, it sticks to the basics of each topic without exploring innovations and trends in the field. The topics covered are appropriate for a low-level, introductory course in technical writing.
The book is accurate and unbiased. It is a straight-forward text that introduces the basics of technical writing in a clear, error-free format. Each chapter provides references and is accurately cited. The examples are neutral and helpful.
The content is relevant, but not exhaustive. The text does not cover new trends in the field. Many technical writing students, particularly in community college courses, are entering a variety of fields. While this text provides the basics of technical writing, it does not help with a variety of concerns students may face in their chosen fields. The text is arranged in way that will allow for necessary updates moving forward. The text seamlessly incorporates modalities, like video links, that prove helpful as examples. More of these new modalities are desirable as writing and reading moves to the Internet. There are places in the text that could benefit from utilizing new, innovative examples.
The text is written clearly and concisely. Each chapter is divided into sections. The section and chapter headings create parallelism that helps its overall clarity. The table of contents is clear and easy to use. There is not a lot of technical jargon present; the lack of technical writing terminology is one reason the book reads like introductory material.
The text is consistent in its layout. It is easy to use and access. The structural framework of the text is effective for online reading.
The text is not self-referential, but it does reference information only relevant to COCC. The text is divided in a way that feels manageable for students. The downside is the text borders on being too modular. The sections felt purposefully shortened and many chapters left me wanting more information. For instance, visual rhetoric and page layout were lumped together with audience. And in terms of this topic, topics like those deserve their own exploration.
The text works itself through the basics, from small workplace writing tasks like emails and memos, up through more complex writing like proposals and reports. Thought was given to the order of the text and it is logical and predictable.
There were no interface issues as I reviewed the text. i downloaded it as a PDF and also read some parts online.
The text contains no grammatical errors. It was edited well. The grammar is basic and reads at an introductory level reading.
The text remains neutral and uses voice or cartoon like figures in some of the videos. I would have liked to see more examples throughout the text. Visuals and page layout are important features of a lot of technical writing and this text doesn't take advantage of opportunities to incorporate a variety of examples. There are opportunities throughout the book that allow for incorporation of examples from fields of nursing, human services, engineering, computer science, and education.
It should be noted that I am reviewing this text for a 200 level course. At Chemeketa Community College students enter technical writing after completing two-three levels of prerequisite writing courses. Technical writing is the highest level of writing students receive before they enter their professional fields or transfer to four-year universities. The book is well written, clear, useful, and comprehensive for an introductory course, but not for a higher level technical writing course. Much of the focus felt repetitive and covered skills students in technical writing should already possess. There were missed opportunities to expand some of the more relevant topics, like the importance of visual rhetoric in page layout; solicited and unsolicited proposals; and, analytical report writing like feasibility studies.
The text covers all areas that are part of the technical writing curriculum. There is a detailed Table of Contents that lays out the subjects that are covered. There is no index or glossary. read more
The text covers all areas that are part of the technical writing curriculum. There is a detailed Table of Contents that lays out the subjects that are covered. There is no index or glossary.
Content is accurate and error-free.
Content is current for the technical market. It covers current topics and concerns, but also includes all the traditional topics expected for Technical Writing courses.
The text gives full explanation of the content.
The text was consistent with its terms.
The text is divided into multiple sections that are each on a different topic or focus so these sections could be easily assigned at different point for a course.
The topics of the text are ordered in a logical way, beginning with topics that should be covered first in a Technical Writing course.
Some of the images are blurry and hard to see. The 2 videos are designed by an instructor for a specific course and reference specific assignments for that course so these are not good choices for this textbook that is meant to be a general source for any Technical Writing course.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
The text is presented in a neutral way with no offensive or insensitive words or examples.
The format of the content is very text heavy in paragraph structure, which is odd for a Technical Writing book because a general rule in Technical Writing is to use shorter, concise paragraphs with more lists, bullets, and tables for easy reading and referencing of the information. In addition, the text needs more real-life example that demonstrate the points being made in each section.
The text covers proposals and progress reports in depth with links to examples of other types of technical writing including resumes and instructions (but no discussion of these forms in depth). The text does not cover multi-cultural audience in... read more
The text covers proposals and progress reports in depth with links to examples of other types of technical writing including resumes and instructions (but no discussion of these forms in depth). The text does not cover multi-cultural audience in any depth and does not consider disabled audiences (including visually impaired audiences). The text does not include an index or glossary.
The book is accurate, error-free, and unbiased.
The text begins with the most common kinds of professional communication, including texts and e-mails, which demonstrates an understanding of current workplace needs. This section may need updating since technology brings changes to workplace communications. The section on research rightly emphasizes electronic sources, and this too, may need updating as library databases and other electronic sources may change. Other sections, like the ones on audience and ethics, will not need updating.
Students would enjoy the bulleted lists and simple, readable prose. The authors provide some excellent, labeled figures and graphics so that students can comprehend the main ideas quickly. The authors do a good job of defining terms, but students will need to read the text to discover the important terms; no sidebars or lists are used to call attention to specialized vocabulary.
The formatting and tone are consistent with good use of numbered sub-topics and bulleted lists in each chapter. The sources provided as links are not consistent with the formatting of the main text. For instance, the link to examples (titled "Online Technical Writing: Contents") uses yellow background and blue lettering, and does not include any explanatory text. This linked resource is not formatted as professionally as the main text. The terminology is internally consistent.
The text is well organized and clearly divided into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course.
Problems with organization: Since the topic of "ethics" is one that applies to all forms of technical writing, it seems out of place as "Chapter 9." It also seems that "Outlines" might be addressed sooner since those could apply to writing proposals as well as progress reports. Finally, it seems odd to separate the chapters on graphics and document design (they are chapters 8 and 10 with the ethics chapter in between them. The overall organization progresses logically from shorter forms of technical writing to longer, more complex ones.
The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems or problems with display.
The authors observe standard conventions of grammar.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. The authors could do more to include a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds as part of their discussion of "audience"
The text does an especially good job of explaining how to write proposals and reports in a clear, step-by-step manner.
The text clearly focuses on research and report writing in a business context. These are appropriately and adequately covered. The table of contents is detailed and accessible on each page with a link to each section. The chapters lead students... read more
The text clearly focuses on research and report writing in a business context. These are appropriately and adequately covered. The table of contents is detailed and accessible on each page with a link to each section. The chapters lead students through the steps of producing a formal report including research, proposals, citation, and progress reports. There is a useful section on information literacy and conducting research beyond the first items in a Google search. The importance of keeping readers in mind is stressed throughout. In addition to a link to an audience worksheet, there is a clear explanation of how reports might be used by different readers. Chapter 10 includes a link to a wide variety of examples of technical writing. Missing are sections on topics often included in technical writing: instructions, procedures, descriptions and definitions. These could be easily fit into the overall structure of the text although obviously other sources of information would need to be found.
The principles of professional communication are accurately presented. The authors make the useful point in several places that a business, agency, journal etc. will likely have its own preferences for professional communications but that some aspects, such as avoiding plagiarism, doing proper research, are consistent.
The content is up-to-date since there are not apt to be quick changes to the principles of technical writing nor to the precepts of e-mail, texting etc. and their place in business. Any changes could be quickly made. There are links that are specific to or have comments that are specific to COCC that instructors will probably want to point out and substitute their institution’s or their class policy. Examples are the links in 1.3 and 6.2.
The book is clearly written in an informal, conversational tone that should appeal to students. The terminology is basic without down-writing. Any specialized terms are defined. The link in 8.4 to visuals that need revision is probably not useful for most classes. Figures 1 and 2 are very specialized.
The text is consistently organized. There are clear signals that link each section to the main section. The emphasis is on professional communication throughout so chapters are linked through that context. In section 4.1 there is inconsistency in terminology where “academic” and “scholarly” are used interchangeably.
The book is clearly arranged into chapters with clear titles and headings. The table of contents is linked to each section for quick finding. The pages have ample white space and large readable type.
The book is clearly organized around the perspective of researching and writing a final report. The chapters can easily be rearranged according to an instructor’s preference since the table of contents is linked to each section. However, the book is arranged in a logical progression through the different aspects of research and writing the formal report.
The book is posted in 4 different formats which makes it readily accessible to students. There is an important missing link in 9.2. This link in 4.3 is no longer valid: The Research Cycle derived from A Cycle of Revolving Research by UC Libraries, CC: BY-NC-SA 3.0 Otherwise there are no issues.
There are grammatical errors in section 9 as well as confusing switches in point of view. Grammar errors: 9 “Writers . . . she” 9.3 “. . .your employer to pursue and action” and “the groups’ goal” Point of view First, chapters 1-8 and 10 are written in second person. Chapter 9 is written partly in second person, partly in third person. While some references to “the writer” are logical, it inconsistently directly addresses readers or talks about writers in general. Second, there is inconsistency in an attempt to be gender neutral in the third person. In 9 “she” and “he” are used interchangeably. 9.3 uses “her/himself,” “s/he,” and “his/her.”
The examples in the text and references to writers are neutral. There is nothing to identify a particular culture, race or ethnicity.
The book doesn't completely fit the course in technical writing that I teach but I would consider using if it did. However, I do have some problems with Chapter 9, ethics in technical writing, that I would like to see addressed. These are in addition to the grammatical issues. In 9.1 General Principles, the authors give examples of ethical dilemmas that range from trivial to life and death. These do more to complicate the subject than clarify it. Part of this is due to the phrasing about the friend’s haircut, “This lie, though minor, preserves . . .” What is “though” doing in this sentence? It signals a contrast which isn’t there. More of a concern though is the phrasing of the third choice of saving lives. The person might “risk [her life] to save her children” but to save the stranger, she would have to “choose to die.” Risk and certainty are not equal choices. The second paragraph concludes that “If you would . . . lose your job. . . the action is probably unethical” oversimplifies -- one can lose a job for being ethical as well. Section 9.2 includes the Challenger disaster as an example of unethical writing. The missing link is vital here since there are definitely different accounts of the underlying causes beyond the O rings. The authors speculate about possible motives of the engineers with no source information to support their conjectures. They make statements about the priority of information in the engineers' report which imply that they are in a position to make that judgment. I suggest deleting or re-writing this section of the book.
The text does not include an index or glossary, but does provide a comprehensive table of contents. The text introduces itself as an introductory text to technical writing (or communication), and provides a definition of technical communication... read more
The text does not include an index or glossary, but does provide a comprehensive table of contents. The text introduces itself as an introductory text to technical writing (or communication), and provides a definition of technical communication that is limited to the types, content, and coverage of texts created. A more comprehensive text would address some of the responsibilities of technical writing as it relates to the technical writer herself: team building and collaboration, intermediary across multiple departments and divisions; and negotiator of meaning in workplace cultures. Also missing from the text are generous examples of document types generated by technical writers, like websites, brochures and flyers, and other types of written communication. The text's focus on report writing seems limiting, and its approach to technical writer as largely autonomous does not accurately reflect the complexity of technical writing workplaces.
The content is up-to-date and appears to be thoroughly accurate. Its authors clearly understand and practice technical communication, and its integration of external tools and links are current, complete, and appropriate to the content of the text itself. Chapters in the text address real-world examples and seek to connect communication techniques to workplace and technical contexts. Of particular importance is the text's approach to communication as audience focused and customized; this reflects theoretical accuracy and currency in technical and professional writing and, more broadly, in rhetoric and communications.
The applicability of this question to a text on technical communication is somewhat misplaced; technical writing handbooks must follow technical advances that will necessarily render older technologies less relevant. For example, the section on texting would not have appeared in earlier editions of this text, while the section on memoranda feels somewhat dated in paper-less or paper-reduced workplaces. As a result, the content will regularly have to be updated as modes and media of communication and writing evolve. This is a problem of all technical writing texts, but it's particularly acute as it relates to an online text, which will likely be expected to be current, relevant, and inclusive of the latest trends in technology and writing.
The text is remarkably approachable to its intended audience, those entering into the field of technical writing or those who will, by virtue of their technical positions, be required to compose technical artifacts. Its prose is clear and specific, and it follows the guidelines for writing technical prose that it presents to reader: clear, concise, and effective.
The field of technical and professional communication tends to use terms somewhat synonymously, so the conflation of certain terms in the text is not unusual in the field. For example, “writing” and “communication” are often used largely synonymously in the field, and that practice is also followed throughout this text. The same is true of “business” and “professional” as it relates to writing and communication. An introductory text should seek to better follow consistency while explaining the issues that exist in the field.
The text is quite modular, to the point that certain parts of it might be combined to keep from creating extremely short chapters or sections. This is especially true of several introductory sections. In general, segments are only a few paragraphs in length, with modules easily excerpted for re-use or revised usage. I could definitely see the potential of a teacher taking certain sections and incorporating them into class notes or as a customized resource. But I also see the value of using the entirety of the text as a stand-alone text; I believe the text’s structure enables both uses with little revision or customization necessary.
The text’s organization is not as clear or logical as I would expect. Given that modules or sections can be reordered on demand, this is not a significant drawback. However, I found the default order of modules confusing, shifting between more general, theoretical approaches (like audience analysis and information literacy) and more specific practical approaches (like proposals and progress reports) without a clear rationale for shifting from one to the other. A more logical structure might be to address the general theory in an opening section that includes examples for illustration, then to include a second section to address specific genres and types of technical writing. The structure is not off-putting, but as someone who might consider teaching from this text, I question the rationale behind the logic but am given little explanation.
The text’s interface is clean and clear. Serif fonts are a little unusual in web documents, but the type style used is quite readable online. Table formats don’t always fit on the page, and this requires left/right scrolling to access some of the columns. The text includes few images; most are linked to accessible PDF versions, which are full-screen and easy to read. Embedded videos appear to function as expected; the interface could benefit from a column-width inline viewer that would keep the video window from being narrower than the text columns. This is likely a result of making the interface mobile responsive, and represents what is often a necessary compromise.
Like its prose, the grammar appears to be clean and normalized to American standard English. The tone can be academic, but that is to be expected from a text used in an introductory classroom. I found no grammatical errors.
I did not encounter ethnicity- or gender-specific language in the text. The examples provided represent a number of different document types and genres, generally focused on the professional workplace or the academic environment. However, no text will free itself completely from ideology; I might like to have seen the text more directly address this issue as it relates to business writing. The text could do more to explore cultural contexts in which technical documents are planned, prepared, and consumed, especially given increasing internationalization of workforces. This may reflect an issue with the field — we tend to classify international communication differently from general technical communication — but a section on writing in the global community and for cross-cultural audiences might be useful.
I did not expect to find an open textbook as useful or well-constructed as this is. While its cover and design are unassuming — which, for a text on technical writing, might be a drawback — its content is erudite and targeted to its primary audience and purpose. I would consider using this text in an introductory technical writing class, with the addition of several notable sections identified elsewhere in this review.
The text provides an adequate overview of the field for beginners in technical writing. read more
The text provides an adequate overview of the field for beginners in technical writing.
The content is accurate and straight forward.
The text is up-to-date and covers the range of topics addressed in introductory technical and professional writing courses.
The information is presented effectively in clear, concise language. Provides accurate definitions and many links to examples for easy understanding.
I found no internal inconsistencies.
Text is user-friendly. Effective use of white space. Employ small chunks of text, bullet point lists, and hyperlinks.
Many technical writing textbooks begin with audience analysis. Hamlin, Rubio, and DeSiva begin with common types of professional communication like email and memo format; doing so provides an effective context for beginning writers. The chapters of the book could be easily reorganized to fit user needs and/or preferences.
The text is free of interface issues. Navigation between and within chapters is smooth. Website links opened easily.
Technical Writing contains no grammatical errors.
The text revolves around professional communication. Does not contain offensive or insensitive material or links.
This text seems like a good fit for students in my Technical Writing for Electrical Engineering Technologists course. Practical information, concise presentation.
The book appears to be written for a course designed around a specific major project that asks students to write a proposal for a technical report and then to research and write the report itself. Those sections are adequate, but I would like to... read more
The book appears to be written for a course designed around a specific major project that asks students to write a proposal for a technical report and then to research and write the report itself. Those sections are adequate, but I would like to see more content in general. In particular, I would like information on writing instructions and technical descriptions, as well as the finer points of correspondence writing, like strategies for persuasion, or handling negative news, or emphasizing reader benefits. I would also like to see information on team writing—a must for the modern workplace. The book would also benefit from a section on presentations and a broader section on document design. The current section on design is specific only to reports and is really about organization, not design.
The content is accurate. The book sticks to the basic writing principles which don’t change much over time. I especially appreciate the repeated emphasis on audience and that while particular elements are expected for particular genres, organization and approach can and should be modified to suit the writer’s purpose and the needs of the audience.
The core principles aren’t likely to go out of date any time soon. The limited scope and lack of discussion about the design expectations of the modern audience does make the book feel dated. Although the concept of linking to examples and additional information is an excellent use of this medium, the choice of links could be improved. For example, many of the linked reports are nearly twenty years old, and while they may demonstrate many of the writing principles that stay constant over time, they do not demonstrate contemporary expectations for design, and the topics are so dated as to make them seem irrelevant to most students.
The authors do an excellent job of adhering to plain language principles. The style is clear, simple, and direct. It reads like the authors are speaking directly to the audience.
As mentioned previously, the book reads as though it were designed for a very specific class. It shifts quite a bit between universal advice about writing for a professional audience and specific advice about writing for an instructor. That’s confusing and limits the book’s applicability.
The book is divided into logical sections that would make it easy to customize for a course if not for the problem previously cited of its being designed around a specific course’s project.
Follows a familiar and standard organization for workplace writing textbooks, beginning with basic correspondence and working towards longer and more complex reports.
Some easily correctable issues here: Many widowed headings (which the text advises to avoid). Figures and tables are not always labeled correctly. The visual weight of “Chapter Attribution Information,” which is currently the same as chapter titles, should be reduced. In some chapters, that information is repeated before every section, which adds visual clutter. There are additional problems in the pdf version that make it the pdf only partially usable: Text boxes tend to exceed the width of the page and cannot therefore be read. Everything is rendered as plain text, which means that table formatting is screwy and all images (including images of example documents) are missing. Citations get embedded directly into the text.
Grammar looks fine.
Deals very little with cultural issues, which is surprising given the global ventures of many companies and the increasingly diverse workforce in the US.
The book has the potential to be quite good, but I don't think it’s yet ready to compete with the for-profit options. I look forward to seeing subsequent editions.
Table of Contents
1. Professional Communications
- 1.1 Texting
- 1.2 E-mail
- 1.3 Netiquette
- 1.4 Memorandums
- 1.5 Letters
2. Audience Analysis
- 2.1 Types of audiences
- 2.2 Audience analysis
- 2.3 Adapting your writing to meet your audience's needs
- 3.1 Some preliminaries
- 3.2 Types of proposals
- 3.3 Typical scenarios for the proposal
- 3.4 Common sections in proposals
- 3.5 Special assignment requirements
- 3.6 Proposals and audience
- 3.7 Revision checklist for proposals
4. Information Literacy
- 4.1 Information formats
- 4.2 The information timeline
- 4.3 The research cycle
- 4.4 Research tools
- 4.5 Search strategies
- 4.6 Evaluate sources
5. Citations and Plagiarism
- 5.1 Citations
- 5.2 Plagiarism
6. Progress Reports
- 6.1 Functions and Contents of Progress Reports
- 6.2 Timing and Format of Progress Reports
- 6.3 Organizational Patterns or Sections for Progress Reports
- 6.4 Other Parts of Progress Reports
- 6.5 Revision Checklist for Progress Reports
- 7.1 Creating and using outlines
- 7.2 Developing the rough outline
8. Creating and Integrating Graphics
- 8.1 Deciding which graphics to include
- 8.2 Other considerations: audience
- 8.3 Other considerations: placement and context
- 8.4 Samples
- 8.5 Guidelines for graphics: a final review
9. Ethics in Technical Writing
- 9.1 General Principles
- 9.2 Presentation of information
- 9.3 Typical Ethics Issues in Technical Writing
- 9.4 Ethics and documenting sources
- 9.5 Ethics, Plagiarism, and Reliable Sources
- 9.6 Professional ethics
10. Document Design
- 10.1 Cover letter
- 10.2 Cover page
- 10.3 Abstract and executive summary
- 10.4 Table of contents
- 10.5 List of figures and tables
- 10.6 Introduction
- 10.7 Body of the report
About the Book
This open textbook offers students of technical writing an introduction to the processes and products involved in professional, workplace, and technical writing. The text is broken up into sections reflecting key components of researching, developing, and producing a technical report. Readers will also learn about other professional communication, designing documents, and creating and integrating graphics. Written especially for an academic setting, this book provides readers with guidance on information literacy and documenting sources. This book was collected, adapted, and edited from multiple openly licensed sources.
About the Contributors
Annemarie Hamlin is an Associate Professor of English at Central Oregon Community College.
Chris Rubio is an Assistant Professor at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, OR.