Technical Writing, October 8, 2013


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Technical Writing, October 8, 2013

  1. 1. TODAY 1) Topics– check in 2) Looking at the book/putting it in our own words 3) Activity: Finding our stakeholders 4) Send me your topic! 5) Homework
  2. 2. To start today… … I just want to see how everyone is feeling about your potential topics for the report and proposal. We’re going to spend today sort of modeling how to use a chapter of the book’s knowledge and info to shape our work, and it will be helpful if you can start to think toward your next few submissions as we do that.
  3. 3. Anderson: Chapter 4 In this chapter, you get a great deal of practical information to help you to write in a “usable” way. What I want to do with a large portion of this class is unpack what Anderson says and make sure we’re reading and understanding carefully.
  4. 4. POP QUIZ: Someone shout out what the chapter was about.
  5. 5. Anderson’s Ten Usability Guidelines What I’m going to do on the next several slides is give you Anderson’s ten guidelines for writing with a mind toward usability. He’s added one since your edition of the book, but really, it’s just presented as a sub-point of #4 in your book. As each one pops up, let’s talk about what it means in your mind, then on the next slide you’ll see MY definition.
  6. 6. Guideline 1: Identify the information your readers need.
  7. 7. What he means: this one’s pretty obvious, right? You need to know what you reader needs to know… so you can give it to the reader.
  8. 8. Guideline 2: Organize around you reader’s tasks
  9. 9. What he means: As you write, think about how your readers will USE the text (yes, using the word to define itself in usability). Make it easy to scan, place the sections in the order that they will be expected, etc. Think like the reader and this will come easily.
  10. 10. Guideline 3: Identify ways to help readers quickly find what they want
  11. 11. What he means: Numbering. Headings. Indexes or ToCs for longer documents. Infographics. When you tell me the report is about the amount of money spent by the Business school on recruiting, I should be able to find numbers– amounts of money– easily in the document. It should leap out at me.
  12. 12. Guideline 4: For a complex audience, prepare a modular communication
  13. 13. What he means: if you’re talking to a really, really diverse audience, customize. Literally put the information in modules you can pull out and reassemble so that you give the best package to the reader. Quick example: an offensive football player gets a different playbook than a defensive player, but the head coach gets all that content.
  14. 14. That’s the one that is just a sub-point in your edition of the book. It won’t matter to our reports– we aren’t writing that diverse. But it is VERY IMPORTANT to know in terms of professional writing theory.
  15. 15. Guideline 5: Look for a technical writing superstructure you can adapt
  16. 16. What he means: don’t re-invent the wheel. If there’s a structure that works, borrow it and repurpose it. The key is… repurpose and rework. Don’t just take an existing form and drop your info into it.
  17. 17. Guideline 6: plan your graphics
  18. 18. What he means: Um… plan your graphics.  Seriously, though, what you need to consider here is what can be better expressed by a graphic and WHERE to put the graphic.
  19. 19. Guideline 7: Ethics: know your reader’s cultural expectations about what makes a communication usable
  20. 20. What he means: I’m going to get deep for a second. You aren’t like everyone. Everyone isn’t like you. SO DON’T WRITE THAT WAY. Know your audience’s cultural expectations.
  21. 21. Guideline 8: Outline, if it would be useful
  22. 22. Guideline 9: Check your plan with your readers
  23. 23. What he means: If you can, actually ask the audience. If you can’t– make a document that talks about your audience and its needs (hmmm… what might that look like?) then consult it as you make changes. Know how they’ll read what you’re writing.
  24. 24. Guideline 10: Ethics: Know the stakeholder impact
  25. 25. What he means: Do your best to know how what you say is going to impact the people you say it about. If you can and it seems proper, talk to the people you mention. But mostly– follow your gut. If you think saying that Miami University is evil for supporting Coca Cola, make sure the word “Evil” isn’t going to bother Miami University or Coca Cola.
  26. 26. Pro tip: People other than mad scientists, bad guy wrestlers, some rappers and random world leaders don’t like being called “evil.” So try to avoid that word in tech writing.
  27. 27. Activity By now, I hope you’re fairly certain about your research topic. This would be good, as it will allow us to work on our demographic case studies. So what I want us to do, for just a few minutes here, is a little more brainstorming. Yes, I know. We are storming up a great deal of brain.
  28. 28. Stakeholders Write your chosen topic at the top of the page. Now list the primary audience– describe it in quick but decent detail Once you’ve done that, think of all the STAKEHOLDERS. Stakeholders are the audience, people you are writing about, people who depend on the people you are writing about, people concerned with issues relating to what you’re writing about, etc. In other words, if it impacts them, they’re stakeholders.
  29. 29. After writing that down… … it’s commit time. Look at your topic. How do you feel about it? If you’re good with it, email it to me with the subject line “313: Report and Proposal topic” If you’re not sure, email me what you have with the subject line “313: Help!”
  30. 30. For next class Read Anderson, Chapter 5 Remember your instructions, and your usability write-ups from last class, are due to me via email (as PDF, please) on Thursday (any time before 11:59:59 p.m.) If you did your usability stuff in hard copy form, you can hand those in to me in-class Thursday, but please also send your final instructions in PDF form.