My Understanding of Technical writing in a Digital Age

My Understanding of Technical writing in a Digital Age
Photo by Melanie Deziel / Unsplash

This is the last course that I need to take before I graduate this semester. As such, when it comes to the first part of the journal post question “What is your understanding of ‘technical writing in the digital age’ at this point?”, my understanding is a little bit more comprehensive than say someone who is taking this class first at the beginning of the MATPW program. At this point, I am aware of Search Engine Optimizations (SEOs), attractive website design, AP style format, and the hell that can be CSS programming. In my mind, there is a lot that gets placed on the word “technical” that people get stuck on. Just the phrase “technical writing” brings visions of IT degree fellows and computer gurus working on the mainframe and writing long, lengthy code lines. What gets forgotten, I think, is that “technical writing” is a different way to describe instructional writing.

How my Reading Applies to Previous Courses

For my first blog post, I read “Technical Communication in the Entrepreneurial Workplace” from Technical Communication Today by Johnson and Sheehan. This chapter describes the types of genres and microgenres that you would encounter in the workplace and how you would go about designing a genre to put into instruction. One genre that was brought to the forefront was the “elevator pitch,” or a miniature proposal that can be stated in two minutes or less (3). The way to create this type of proposal is kind of like writing an abstract for a grant.

In fact, the stages covered in this section for creating technical communication like a proposal remind me a lot of how the stages of grant writing are: For both, you need to do research, create a step-by-step list for completion, and give a timeline for the project. The next stages about style and designing your project are similar to what I learned this past summer in Instructional System Design: In both, you need to determine the best way that your learners will, well, learn. Johnson and Sheehan give several examples of how a functional design can look across all types of websites and pages used for all types of different purposes.

In both grant writing and instructional system design, both learners and grant approvers are what the text refers to as “Raiders” (10). Readers are raiders for information, meaning that they want the facts and important ideas up front and highlighted for them. At this point in my graduate term, this is common sense, and when paired with the practice of using SEOs in your writing tags so that it can be found quickly and produce the most hit results for an article. And honestly? That’s what I was doing with this chapter: I was looking for the “buzzwords” I could work into my blog post. The textbook my chapter choice was pulled from is set up in a way that I can “raid” it for the general summary of what Johnson and Sheehan are saying.

For this course, I can see my previous experience in Social Media Communication (COMM 6610) coming in handy. With one of our first assignments being “develop a public persona,” I feel like a lot in this course will be devoted to creating a brand for ourselves and learning how to promote ourselves. Johnson and Sheehan identify eight traits in this chapter that make a successful entrepreneur: Innovator, leader, listener, network savvy, self-reliant, ethical, resilient, and communicator. Reviewing COMM 6610, each of these traits is found in a successful social media communicator, so translating them to being a successful entrepreneur isn’t that far of a stretch.

How my Reading Applies to Me as a Digital Writer

One thing that surprised me while reading through this chapter was on page 18, where Johnson and Sheehan state that “51 percent of companies say they ‘frequently or almost always take writing into consideration when hiring salaried employees.” My question to them is this: Where are these companies? My follow up question: Where are they??? My goal with going back to school to obtain a graduate degree is to get a job that I can use my English B.A. degree for while also never working a public facing job ever again. To me, working in a cubicle while writing instruction manuals or creating designs for user friendly interfaces sounds like a dream. If I get paid more than $15/hr to do this, then I would work that job forever. This was the part that was most applicable to my interests as a digital writer.

Erin Byington

Erin Byington

I am a graduate student at Middle Georgia State University. I am working on my Master's in Professional and Technical Writing.
Warner Robins, GA