Topic Name Description
Course Syllabus Page Course Syllabus
1.1: Audience Analysis URL Getting to Know Your Audience

Read Section 3.4. Pay attention to the key takeaways regarding the ways to better understand your audience. Complete Exercise 1 to analyze yourself as an audience. Then use the same approach to identify an audience you may encounter professional or personally. How do their demographic traits influence their thinking and your ability to persuade or inform them?

Page Audience

In the workplace, oftentimes the person requesting that you prepare a document isn’t the intended or final audience for the communication, just as the professor in a class isn’t necessarily the final audience for a document. Once you have read this document, think of a recent time when you needed to communicate information or directions. Use your experience of this communication to answer the questions listed under "How Do I Identify My Audience and What they Want from Me?" Based on this analysis, what information did you need to provide to the audience for the communication to be effective?

Page Audience and Context

Watch the video. Pay close attention to how the speaker breaks down what might motivate or be important to the intended audience for your message and how that might contrast with your own motivations or beliefs. Make sure you pause the video as needed to practice your understanding during the "Apply Your Knowledge" activities.

1.1.1: Who are They and What do They Know? Page Audience Analysis
Read the sections on Types of Audiences and Audience Analysis. Imagine you need to recommend a supervisor the acquisition of a new tool, piece of equipment, or computer program in the workplace. Which category would your audience fall into: experts, technicians, executives or non-specialists? Is it possible that the request you need to communicate to could impact multiple audiences? How would the content and delivery change for each different audience?
1.1.2: What do They Need to Know or Do? Page Writing Tips: Know Your Audience
This video makes a great point about what your audience needs to do after reading your communication. When we begin a writing project, we must identify what action we want our audience to take after engaging with our communication. What will motivate them to take that action? Identify a time when you needed someone to take action. How did you communicate with them to make sure you gained compliance? What factors within the audience did you consider in crafting that communication?
1.2: How does Audience Impact Delivery? Page What to Think about When Writing for a Particular Audience
Read this article. Focus on the aspects of tone, language, and appeals. Audience determines these three aspects in effective writing.
Page Audience Adaptation

Review this section, which you read earlier. This time, focus on the suggestions on how to apply audience analysis to your writing task.

Page Translating Technical Discussions
Read this article. After you read, examine a recent piece of communication you have written or received. Based on the list of possible audience adaptations in the previous article, how would you revise this document to strengthen it based on what you have learned about audience analysis?
1.2.1: Word Choice Page Word Choice
Watch this video and pause as needed to practice your understanding during the "Apply Your Knowledge" activities. Consider the roles connotation, jargon, slang, idiom, sub-categorization, selectional restrictions, and confusing word pairs have in the revision of technical writing. Focus on how these word choices tie back to your audience analysis. Create a glossary of the major terms (connotation, jargon, slang, idiom, sub-categorization, selectional restrictions, and confusing word pairs) covered in this video, providing your own example for each and a brief discussion of how this will impact the choices you make as a technical writer.
1.2.2: Formatting Page Principles of Design
Both print and digital documents apply similar principles of design and formatting to make documents more readable. With these techniques in mind, examine documents you have received via post or email. What traits do these documents share? How do they differ? What catches your eye as you interact with these documents? How do they make use of contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity, minimalism or visuals?
1.2.3: Purpose Page Purpose

This video explores the third leg of the rhetorical triangle: purpose. The purpose of a piece of communication is determined by its audience. Note the four purposes for professional communication: consulting, informing, valuing, and directing. Make sure you pause as needed to practice your understanding during the "Apply Your Knowledge" activities.

2.1.1: Purpose URL Memorandums and Letters
Read this section on memos. The author notes that memos are "one effective way to address informal, unofficial speculation is to spell out clearly for all employees what is going on with a particular issue".
Page Memorandums and Business Letters
Watch this video, which highlights that memos can "inform, persuade, or even call to action".
2.1.2: Format and Delivery Page Creating a Block-Style Business Memo

Watch this video on the basics of the memo format.

2.1.3: Subject Lines Page Memo Tutorial and Sample Memos

Read this article and review the linked sample memos for an example of well-constructed memos.

2.1.4: Paragraphs, White Space, and Bullets Page Basic Memos

Watch this video, which emphasizes why white space and brevity are important in memos.

2.2.1: Purpose URL Text, E-mail, and Netiquette

Read the second section, "E-mail". The authors define several purposes for email, including serving in both internal and external communications contexts.

Page Effective E-mail Communication

Although email is very common, it is also a new form of correspondence with rules that are not yet settled. Even so, it is still possible to make mistakes. This article brings up some things to consider as you craft effective professional emails.

2.2.2: Best Practices for Emails URL Text, E-mail, and Netiquette

Read the third section, "Tips for Effective Business Emails".

2.3: Ethics of Electronic Communication URL Think Your Email's Private? Think Again

Watch the video or read the transcript. Andy Yen focuses much of his discussion on the privacy concerns related to emails at the server level. We can take this down to a much more personal level – how easy is it to share an email with someone else? How easy is it to share confidential data across the Internet in general? Have you seen new stories about posts on social media that result forced resignations or terminations? Reflect on how a single social media posting or improperly shared email ruin a person's career.

2.3.1: CC and BCC Page Primary, Secondary, and Hidden Audiences

Read this article on primary, secondary, and hidden audiences.

Page Email Blind Carbon Copy

This article describes the uses of hidden recipients of emails.

2.3.2: Confidentiality URL Ethics, Plagiarism, and Reliable Sources

Read the "Business Ethics" section. Study the example in the second paragraph of the business ethics section about the newsletter vendor selection process in light of how easy it is to share documents and information electronically.

2.3.3: Legal Requirements for Record Keeping URL Electronic Recordkeeping

Skim this website. It shows some of the many challenges faced by the public sector in terms of record keeping. These rules and regulations vary by industry and specific company policies. Both public and private industries face certain legal requirements for electronic record keeping. Aside from legal requirements, there are some cases where having a "paper trail" can protect an employee's interests or document customer service issues. Knowing that the documents you create as a technical writer can have larger implications helps you to better plan and prepare what the documents should contain and how they should be retained.

URL Basic Requirements of an Electronic Recordkeeping System at EPA

Skim this website along with the one above.

3.1: Overview of Formal Letter Writing Page Business Letters

Read this article, which focuses on the choices writers make in business letters based on audience and style. Near the end of the article, there are several example letters.

3.2: Business Letter Format Page Creating a Block Style Business Letter

Watch this video. Using the directions, create a formal letter template for your personal use. In your template, make sure to follow the best practices for formatting the heading or using lettering, setting up either block or indent formatting and using a complimentary closing.

Page Write a Nice Professional Letter

After you read this document, prepare an application letter to accompany a resume, paying close attention to the areas of placing "important information strategically", focusing "on the recipient's needs, purposes, or interests instead of your own", avoiding "pompous, inflated, legal-sounding phrasing", and giving "your business letter an "action ending".

URL Memorandums and Letters

Read this section. Afterwards, prepare a business letter welcoming a new client or customer to an organization. Use "Table 9.1: Elements of a Business Letter" as a checklist for evaluating the parts of your letter.

Page Writing Effective Letters

Read this article. Pay special attention to the sections on tone and delivering bad news. Using these tips as a guide, write a formal letter delivering bad news. In a reflection paragraph or discussion with a friend or family member, explain why you made the choices you did in terms of structure, tone, and message.

3.3.1: Application Letters Page Job Application Letters

Read this article, which reviews job application letters and gives you two approaches to this type of business letter: the objective letter (or cover letter) and the highlight letter.

3.3.2: Inquiry Letters Page David McMurrey's "Inquiry Letters: Ask for Information in a Professional Manner"

Read this section on another common type of business letter: the inquiry letter. Be sure to review the two sample letters.

3.3.3: Complaint and Adjustment Letters Page Complaint and Adjustment Letters

Read this section on complaint and adjustment letters. The formality of the mailed letter aids in the persuasive task of both complaint and adjustment letters.

4.1: Visuals Based on Numeric Data Page Tables, Charts, and Graphs

Read this section. Using Excel or another spreadsheet program, create a table that lists the types of visuals and two best practices for using them. Keep this table open and add to it as you work through the other activities in this unit.

URL More Working with Charts, Graphs, and Tables

Review the sections on tables (section 3), bar charts (section 5), and pie charts (section 6). Continue to add to your chart of visuals using the information you find here. You should document more than two best practices for each visual as you get more in depth with the information.

After you have read these sections, complete activities 5, 8, 9, and 12.

Page Creating a Pie Chart in Excel 2013

Read the instructions and watch the video. Use Excel or another spreadsheet program to create a pie chart with the following data:

  • Blueberries: 23%
  • Strawberries: 18%
  • Raspberries: 56%
  • Gooseberries: 3%

4.2.1: Choosing Graphics Page Introduction to Graphics

Read this article. If you'd like more information, you may read this Wikipedia article or this brief rundown on capturing screenshots.

After reading, make your own screen captures to walk someone through a simple task you do frequently on the computer. For example, you might use screen captures to document composing an email message, using a specific website, creating an Excel chart, or any other computer task with which you are comfortable. You may need to provide a few lines of written instructions to accompany your visuals. Share your directions with a colleague, family member or friend, and ask them to evaluate the organization of your instructions and graphics. Make sure you keep these images somewhere you can access them later in the course in the process document section. Think of this exercise a rough draft that you will improve later.

File Technical Writing

Read from the beginning of section 5.8 through the end of unit 6, on pages 62–92. After you have read unit 6, complete the Unit 6 Knowledge Check on pages 93–94.

Page Graphics

Watch this video.

4.2.2: Types of Graphics Page Graphics and Visuals

Read this article. Note how visuals are chosen to represent objects, numbers, concept, or words.

Page Types of Graphical Illustration in Technical Writing

Read this section. After you have finished, add any new types of graphics to your earlier Types of Visuals Chart, along with two tips about best practices for each type.

URL Visual Aids

Read this section, which discusses the use of visuals in presentations. Visuals are another important aspect of business communication.

4.2.3: Using Existing Images: Understanding Copyright File Copyright: A Primer

No lesson about creating and using graphics would be complete without a short overview of copyright law. Read this article, which provides for an overview of standard copyright protections as well as a discussion of Creative Commons and other open licenses. These licenses allow creators to retain some of their rights while encouraging others to reuse or revise their creations to varying degrees. Did you know that Saylor Academy courses – this one included – use such alternatively-licensed materials in the form of Open Educational Resources?

4.3: Multimedia in Technical Writing Page Tips for Creating an Effective Presentation

Read this document and develop a presentation to share three things to improve multimedia presentations to a professional audience. Use the slide presentation software of your choice. If you have access to recording software, you might consider recording yourself giving the presentation. Screencast-O-Matic has free recording software you can try. Use the list of qualities in the conclusion of the article to self-assess your presentation. Consider sharing your presentation online to get feedback from colleagues, friends, and family.

4.4: Integrating Visuals Page Labels, Callouts, Captions, and Notes

Read this section. Reflect back on the graphics you planned in subunit 4.2. Apply the Five Specific Style Rules to the titles and captions in your document. In a few sentences, explain how you applied these rules to visuals and how using labels and callouts improve your graphics’ ability to communicate to the audience.

URL Citing Correctly and Avoiding Plagiarism in APA Format

Review this page, which covers how to cite images from a website or a database. Cite an image you've found online from for a topic related to your hobby or personal interest using the APA Style Guidelines.

Each academic and professional discipline aligns itself with a specific type of documentation style for research. APA from the American Psychological Association tends be used in business and science. MLA from the Modern Languages Association tends to be used in the humanities. Which documentation style you follow often depends on the style requirements of your organization. Knowledge of both styles will prepare you to be versatile should the need arise.

4.5.1: Data Presentation URL The Forum Guide to Data Ethics Online Course

Watch the "Introduction to Data Ethics" presentation and review the three items under "Canon 7: Promote understanding and accurate analysis of data".

Page Master List of Logical Fallacies

Review this list of logical fallacies.

URL Logical Fallacies

Review the sections of this article on logical fallacies.

Page More on Logical Fallacies

Review this article on logical fallacies. Make a chart of the fallacies that could impact visual representation of information including numeric data. In your chart, note the ways to avoid falling prey to these fallacies.

4.5.2: Photoshop Page The Ethics of Image Manipulation

Read this article and watch the video.

5.1: Planning for the Process Document Page Instructions

Read this section. Focus on the Some Preliminaries section. Begin to brainstorm some ideas of processes for which you could create process document/instructions. These should be processes with which you are quite familiar, and the process should be different than the computer process for which you created screen capture instructions in the previous unit. For one or two of your new ideas, go through the preliminary process outlined. Who is your audience and situation? How many tasks do you anticipate? Will you use a task or tools approach? How could the tasks be grouped?

Page Instructions and Process Reports

Read this article. Note the difference between prescriptive and descriptive processes. 

Page Examples of Process Videos

Watch these videos. As you review the examples provided in the text and the two videos, consider elements that are similar.

URL A Planning Checklist for Business Messages

Read this section, which emphasizes the role of audience in planning for documents in general. Think about how you could apply this approach to document planning to a process document.

5.2.1: Organization and Formatting Page Common Page Design

Read this section on page design. How the overall page with all of its elements looks can contribute to a document's overall effectiveness. 

5.2.2: Supplementing with Visuals Page Graphics

Review this article on choosing graphics for technical writing.

5.2.3: Language Concerns Page You-Centered Business Style

Read this document. Pay close attention to "Case Study 2: Promoting Safety in User Manuals". Using the principles and guidelines for practice, revise your instructions/process document for a "you" centered approach.

Page Sentence-Level Revision

Read this section. Go through each bullet point and evaluate your current draft of the instructions/process document for these elements of clarity. Revise as needed.

Page Gender-Sensitive Language

Read this article, which discusses appropriate use of gender in professional writing.

5.2.4: Concrete Language Page Composing

Review the section on drafts, specifically concrete versus abstract language. Review your latest draft of the instructions/process document. Improve any areas of abstract language.

5.2.5: Anticipating Audience Reaction Page Overcoming Barriers to Effective Written Communication

Read this article. Consider the questions in the final paragraph under the "Review, Reflect, and Revise" section. Review your instructions/process document for a final time. Anticipate your audience’s reaction to the message. Are there any barriers to communication? Are there any nonverbal aspects to your message? Is your document visually attractive? Could it be clearer in some way? More concise? Revise the document one more time.

6.1: Planning for a Proposal Page Proposals

Read this chapter on proposals, a special type of technical writing report.

6.2: Tools of Persuasion URL Principles of Persuasion

Read this chapter. Make a list of the six principles of persuasion. Identify how your proposal might use each principle to persuade the audience you selected in the activity for 6.1.

URL What Is Persuasion?

Read this section. Complete exercise three, discussing your results with a colleague, friend or family member. In your own notes, brainstorm some ways your proposal can demonstrate memorable gain to your audience.

6.3: Writing a Proposal URL Business Proposal

Read this section and the associated links, especially the final one with a proposal sample. Also review the sample proposals collected here.

6.4: Formatting Page Proposals

Review the section on the format of proposals and the sample proposals again. Make notes about the elements of formatting used in the samples. What elements of formatting do you need to add the proposal you wrote in subunit 6.3? Revise as needed to follow formatting standards.

Hidden Page Unit 6 Assessment, Question 1 - RFP

This is the RFP that accompanies the Unit 6 Writing Self-Assessment: Activity 1.

7.1: "New Media" and Generating Content for the Web URL The Evolution of the Internet

Read this section and complete the end of section exercise. Pay special attention to the reflection questions after the activity. In addition to the questions posed in the activity, consider why it is important to understand the revenue streams behind websites as a technical writer, and explore how revenue can impact content.

Page Introduction to New Media Writing

Read this article for an overview of new media writing and key issues to consider.

Page Text-to-Visual Remediation

Read this article on remediation – the process of transforming the content from one medium into another.

URL Viral Messages

Read this section and complete exercise 2. Share your work with a colleague, friend or family member.

URL The Effects of the Internet and Globalization on Popular Culture and Interpersonal Communication

Read this section and complete exercises 1–3.

7.2: Blogging Page Blogging in the Composition Classroom

Read this article. While the bulk of the article is about how to use blogs in the classroom, the author discusses the role of blogs to create public discourse. Companies and nonprofit organizations often use blogs to communicate with potential clients and customers. These blogs inform about new products and services as well the general conditions in the industry.

URL Sound Bites and Quotables

Read this section. As you read, think about why sound bites would be important elements of the communications that technical writers create given the characteristics of new media. When organizations and companies gain so much from viral exposure, technical writers must consider how to gain that viral exposure. The sound bite it a great first step in that process. Complete exercises 1 and 2 at the end of the section.

Page Example Blogs

Explore the following blog examples:

Blogs can be written on a variety of subjects for both personal and professional reasons. For example, in a context for advancing your own career, if you are looking to demonstrate prowess in a new field of study or interest, you could begin to blog about the subject to increase how many people associate you with that new subject. After reviewing some of the examples, brainstorm a list of topics you could write blog entries on, either personally or professionally. In a separate paragraph, make note of the formatting and visual design elements the blogs share. Which ones are effective at capturing your attention and keeping you reading?

7.3.1: Getting Started with Social Media File Quickstart Guide to Social Media for Business
Review this image, which describes using social media in business.
Page Don't Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start

Read this article on social media marketing.

7.3.2: Online Markets Page The Business of Conversations

Read this article, which goes into great detail about the ways in which business analyze and discover their audiences online. This process is not that much different from the audience analysis that we learned about in the beginning of this course.

7.3.3: Using Social Media Tools URL Social Media and Web 2.0

Read this section, which describes ethical and privacy issues related to social media.

7.3.4: Using Social Media Effectively Page The Ultimate Small Business Guide to Social Media Marketing

Read this article, which gives a short overview of social media use for a small business.

Page Six Golden Rules for Building Your Business with Social Media

Read this article on using social media effectively in a business context.

Page Six Quick Ways to Use Social Media for Branding

Read this article, which gives another perspective on using social media effectively.

7.3.5: Twitter Page Spreading Messages on Twitter

Read this article on using Twitter as a form of professional writing.

Page Six Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Small Business Tweets

Read this article on optimizing business related tweets.

7.4: Discussion Forums Page Responding Thoughtfully on Online Forums

Read this article. While it discusses ways to comment on a classroom discussion forum, the comments sections on blogs, social media websites, and even some company's own web pages create opportunities for online discussion.

In fact, be sure to check out the discussion forum here!

Page Managing Your Online Identity for the Job Search

Read this article on how you might manage your online public identity.

7.5: Wikis Page A Student's Guide to Using Wikis

Read this article. It is important to know how these open source documents work because many entries on wikis (like Wikipedia) are about companies and the people that work for them. Knowing how to create and correct any information on a wiki related to you or your company is a great skill to have as a technical writer.

Page Getting Started on Writing a Wiki

Read this article.

7.6: Concerns for Online Writing Page Digital Ethics

Read this article on digital ethics, which is sometimes called "netiquette".

URL Issues and Trends

Read this section, which gives an overview of mass communication on the internet. Pay attention to the sections on bias and credibility.

Page Social Media in the Workplace Research Roundup

Read this article. There is a distinction between communicating online in a professional capacity and communicating online as a private person. As this article discusses, some employees face repercussions for discussing their work life via social media.

Study Guide Book ENGL210 Study Guide
Course Feedback Survey URL Course Feedback Survey