First Impressions of Technical Writing in the Digital Age

First Impressions of Technical Writing in the Digital Age
Photo by Joshua Hürzeler / Unsplash

Initial Activities and My Technical Writing Background

My personal definition of technical writing would be the preparation of reports or presentations intended to convey the findings of scientific research. I could also define technical writing as the preparation of instructions that will be used to perform scientific analyses. In my definitions, the digital age would refer to the most useful and appropriate mediums to prepare the reports, presentations, or instructions. This week I read the first chapters in the textbooks Technical Communication Today (Johnson & Sheehan) and Technical Communication (Lannon & Gurak).

I do a fair amount of scientific technical writing in my current work position, but I have not received much direction in the specifics of how it should be performed. I have been left to attempt to improve upon the works of those who came before me or to emulate sources that I find credible. Most of my technical writing experience has involved preparing standard operating procedures to perform chemical analytical methods.

Reader-Centered Writing

This week’s readings have taught me that there are more considerations to technical writing than just compiling scientific information or directions into a word document. Since I write a lot of instructional documents, the characteristic that seems most applicable to my interests is the reader-centered concept. During the process of developing standard operating procedures, I test the documents in trial runs and request the user to mark up the document with improvement suggestions and to provide feedback. After my readings this week, I have determined that I will need to spend an equal amount of time considering the technical content and the reader’s relation to the content as presented. Technical Communication (p. 34) lists the qualities of a document that make it accessible to a reader: worthwhile content, sensible organization, readable style, effective visuals, effective page design, and supplementary materials.

Dr. Rick Lombardo of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln describes the overlapping relationship of technical writing and scientific writing in a question and answer session titled The Basics of Scientific Writing. Dr. Lombardo repeats themes emphasized in this week's assigned readings. He mentions the importance of user-centered writing and the importance of the organization and logical flow of information presented.

Proposals - A New Tool for Me

Recently I had an idea to prepare a presentation that I intend to use to justify the purchase of a new analytical instrument. I learned that my presentation is referred to as a proposal and is a type of writing genre. Writing genres are general guidelines that can be used to guide an author in preparation of a technical communication document (Technical Communication Today, p. 3). I think that proposal writing is a technique that would be beneficial for me to utilize in technical communications at my job for work-related goals that will require the support of other colleagues to achieve. These proposals would be viewed by individuals without a scientific background so the document must be prepared with the user in mind for optimum effectiveness. In contrast to the plain style of my standard operating procedures, these documents would be prepared in the persuasive style as described in Technical Communication Today (p. 10).

Visions for My Future in Technical Writing

My interests are also concerned with the collaborative capacities of technical communication. The breadth and scope of projects that I work in almost always require the efforts of teams that need to relay findings and results as work is accomplished. Daily in person meetings are impractical and time consuming so I am looking to develop methods to communicate more efficiently in digital environments. I am locked into the Microsoft universe at work and utilizing collaborative platforms like LitWiki and blogging platforms like Ghost are completely new experiences for me. This week I have spent hours just working on the basics of navigating these websites and I anticipate quite a bit of trial and error.  At minimum I have developed a little more courage and resiliency when it comes to trying out these new-to-me technologies.

My current goal for the technical writing class is to do some personal innovation in how I communicate technical information. I would like to advance my skills from basic word processing to crafting documents that stand out for their content and presentation. I am also looking to expand the scope of the types of technical writing contributions that I can make to my organization. After reading some of the classmate biographies I am interested in observing how the experienced and professional writers in this class complete the assignments. I am optimistic that I will see new perspectives or learn new techniques from you all that I can incorporate into my own technical communications in digital environments.

Ashley Williamson

Ashley Williamson

I am working toward a Master of Business in Professional Leadership at MGA and have a Bachelor of Chemistry from Georgia Southern Univ. I work as a chemist with a concentration in electroplating.