• Course Introduction

        • Time: 86 hours
        • Free Certificate
        In every career, you must be able to communicate effectively and clearly if you want to be successful. This course will provide you with a background in the practical, technical writing skills necessary for today's workplace. This course covers internal workplace communications, external business-to-business and business-to-consumer writing skills, presentations and how to use visuals effectively, writing clear instructions and process documents, and using social media effectively.

        Because the goal of this course is to improve your ability to write clear, comprehensible examples of technical writing, most subunits include short writing activities that will give you hands-on experience in many different writing tasks. Each unit also includes a series of writing self-assessments that will allow you to evaluate your own writing based on specific criteria and provide examples and commentary on how to write successfully. This practical focus on specific writing skills will help you learn the writing skills you will need in the workplace. By the end of the course, you will feel comfortable tackling a wide variety of workplace communications.

        • Course Syllabus

          First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

        • Unit 1: Audience Analysis

          Imagine needing to make a phone call but not knowing what number to dial. Beginning a communications project without first establishing your audience is a lot like that phone call without a phone number. If you don't first know who you are communicating with, you can't determine what information they need and in what format. In this unit, we walk through the steps of audience analysis to determine who we are writing to, what they know, what they need to know, and the best ways to reach them.

          When we first take on a writing project, we must first consider who we are communicating with. We should ask ourselves who they are, what they know, and what they need to know to take action.

          After we conduct this audience analysis, the next steps in the process apply this analysis to writing choices. Different audiences require different approaches to word choice, tone, and formatting. We also use our audience analysis to anticipate issues and any concerns or questions the audience might have after accessing the communication we have created.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

        • Unit 2: Internal Communication: Writing Memos and Emails

          Two of the most common forms of technical writing that you will encounter are the memo and the email. After completing an audience analysis, you must determine which form would be best for sending the message; memos and emails often rely on smaller amounts of information or requests for more information. In this unit, we cover the best practices for creating effective memos and emails.

          Once the dominant form of communication in the workplace, memos typically serve as internal communication within an organization. Memos can update policies and procedures, announce meetings or organizational changes, or inform the internal audience as needed. Memos must typically be brief, concise, organized for readability, and addressed to targeted audiences with specific subject lines.

          Emails, which often replace memos for internal communication, can be sent internally or externally. While this form of business communication must take into account the time constraints most readers face as a result of high email volume, people use emails to communicate issues both large and small. Emails must make use of strong subject lines, clear formatting, and concise writing. Email also presents some ethical challenges as the forwarding and BCC function enables you to easily share communications with larger audiences quickly and in a way that is documented for the longer term.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.

        • Unit 3: External Communication: Formal Letters

          While memos are used for internal communication and emails for both internal and external communication, formal letters are mainly used as an external means of communication. Understanding when a communications context requires the more formal delivery of a physical letter falls under the initial considerations of the audience analysis and design/formatting stages of the writing process.

          Letters can range from friendly introductions to more formal announcements with accompanying legal documents. In their more serious capacity, letters seek to create a formal and documented chain of communication. 

          Two main formats exist for letters: the block format and the indented format. Both require the recipient’s and sender’s full names and addresses. They begin with a formal salutation and end with a complimentary closing. Their formal structure helps to convey authority and credibility.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.

        • Unit 4: Using Visuals to Convey Information

          Words are not the only way to present and share information with an audience. Technical writing often utilizes visuals to accompany written information and further deliver information to the audience. This unit leads you through the types of visuals available and the best practices for using them.

          Visuals take many forms; they can be as simple as a photograph of a plant specimen or pie chart breaking down enrollment data or as complex as an embedded video or multi-page, hyperlinked, organizational chart. Visuals must be carefully selected to support the audience's understanding of the topic.

          However strong they are on their own, visuals must be integrated into the text of the document. The written word supports the visuals, and the visuals further exemplify the meaning of the text. The two work in tandem to support the main idea of the document.

          This unit will also cover the important tools needed to properly label, title, and document visuals used in a given communication context.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 11 hours.

        • Unit 5: Process Documentation

          One of the most common formats of technical writing is the process document. The process document explains either how to do something or how something was accomplished. This can be used to teach people or to document a process for the record. These documents vary in level of formality based on audience, but they all share elements of formatting to keep the communication organized and effective. This unit takes you through the ways to create process documents.

          Formatting is probably the first design concern for a process document. The writer must distinguish whether or not the audience will have the directions with them as they accomplish the task or if they must commit the task to memory. Beginning nursing students, for example, are taught the proper way to wash hands in a roughly 1,500-word document. This document details not just the steps of handwashing, but also explains why each aspect of the process is critical to overall handwashing success. This extra detail helps to embed the proper procedure into new nurses' minds; they will, after all, be washing their hands countless times during the day without the instructions handy. Recipes, on the other side of the spectrum, anticipate that the audience will have them close by as they prepare the food; as a result, these feature lots of white space and step by step formatting.

          Process documents must also pay special attention to anticipating potential trouble spots or questions from the audience. Anticipating these moments enables the writer to save time overall and increases the chances that the audience can complete the process without difficulty. Note that in this unit we will work through the writing process to develop complete process documents. We'll start with planning before moving to initial drafting, then revising.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.

        • Unit 6: Writing Proposals

          Proposals are another common form of technical writing. These reports can either be formal or informal depending on the context. Some examples of proposals can be simple estimates for home improvement projects to more complex and formal business plans. This unit covers how to craft proposals.

          Like process documents, proposals also rely on formatting to help them convey professionalism and appeal to the audience. Appealing to the audience is key given the persuasive nature of proposal writing. Proposals seek to persuade the audience to take action on a requested item or task. 

          Like other forms of technical writing, a proposal begins with audience analysis and moves through the steps of planning, writing, and revision.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

        • Unit 7: Communicating on the Internet

          As the Internet rapidly expands, so does the opportunity for businesses to share information and reach audiences online. Technical Writers are increasingly called upon to craft communications to reach a broad online audience. The unit explores how the Internet is used to communicate and how to apply the foundations of technical writing effectively to reach online audiences.

          Reading and writing for the Internet presents certain challenges that the printed word doesn't. The largest concern is the shortened attention span of Internet-based readers and reduced reading comprehension. Given the scrolling feature and the ease of clicking away, savvy writers for the Internet tailor their communications with headings, short paragraphs, clear and engaging visuals, and links for further development. 

          Additional points to consider when writing for the Internet are how to use social media as a tool for both communications and marketing. Given how easy it is to share communication online, the technical writer should be well versed in the social media tools and the common practices for writing on each of the interfaces. For example, what works on a blog post would not work in a tweet. The technical writer must learn how to translate the same idea for several different types of social media and in a way that reaches the intended audience.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 12 hours.

        • Study Guide

          This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walks through the learning outcomes, and lists important vocabulary terms. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

        • Course Feedback Survey

          Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

          If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org.

        • Certificate Final Exam

          Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

          To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

          Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.