Resources for business and technical writing

Portfolios for technical writers

Portfolios can be excellent tools for technical writers seeking employment. Examine various types and discuss the process of developing a portfolio, including deciding which technical writing documents to include/exclude, organizing work samples and assessing there value from an employer’s point of view. Discuss how a portfolio supports other job search tools.

Porfolios for technical writers micro-site

Rewriting for our reader’s sake

This course focuses on some key aspects of the third stage of writing; rewriting. The goal of this course is to help your writing become clearer, more concise, and more readable by polishing up your rewriting and editing skills. During this course we will examine spelling, grammar and punctuation challenges frequently encountered in technical and business writing; we will consider word choices and phrasing that reduce ambiguity and bloated writing; and we will work with sentence structure and organization to improve readability and support the points we are making.

Rewriting for our user’s sake micro-site

If you ever struggle with when to use a comma or a semicolon, are vague about using which or that, or find you use too many words to make your point; this course is for you.

We recommend that you take the Effective Writing for Business and Technology course before taking this course. This rewriting course focuses on one aspect of writing and builds on the concepts discussed in the effective writing course.

Designing Effective Résumés

Your résumé will not get you a job. But if it’s written well, and it presents the right image, it will get you an interview.

Your résumé is often the first impression a potential employer will have of you; it’s almost like your first interview. The appearance of your résumé should be selected with the same care you would use when selecting the clothes you would wear to an interview. Unfortunately, we often assume potential employers will read the details of our résumé before formulating a first impression of who we are.

Designing Effective Résumés micro-site

Effective Writing for Business and Technology

Technical and business professionals spend a lot of time reading and writing, and yet few have much formal training in this area. A survey from 1986-1998 found that engineers spent an average of 280 hours a year reading and 221 hours a year writing. That’s about 25% of their time. These averages are even higher for scientific and medical professionals.

Effective Writing for Business and Technology micro-site

Improving the effectiveness of our business writing will, as a minimum, result in more productive reading and writing efforts. Even more significant can be the consequences of poorly written material. For example:

  • An analysis of the NASA documents conducted by Dorothy A. Windsor showed a “history of miscommunication” as one of the root causes of the Challenger disaster in 1986.
  • A world-class oil company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a new pesticide, only to discover that one of their own technicians had worked this out 5 years earlier. The reason this wasn’t realized sooner was because the report the technician wrote was so poorly written, that no one finished reading it.
  • Information released by the US Federal Government revealed that a nuclear-power plant supervisor ordered “ten foot long lengths” of radioactive material. But instead of getting the ten-foot units need, the plant received ten one-foot long rods.

The list goes on, and I’m sure many of us could add our own personal experiences to the list. Often avoiding these types of problems is just a matter of knowing and applying some well defined skills; the skills of effective writing.

Writing user guides

User guides help people understand how to use a product. They are a set of instructions for completing the tasks that a product was designed to accomplish. This course will show you how to design and prepare effective user guides that enable the reader to successfully operate a product.

Study and follow through  the process of guide and manual creation, including task and audience  analysis, documentation standards, instruction writing, and information  organization using MS Word.

Writing User Guides micro-site

By the conclusion of this course you will have:

  • Examined methods to understand your audience’s capabilities.
  • Developed a blueprint for the documents required  to satisfy the needs of your audience.
  • Practised many of the writing skills needed to prepare  effective user guides.
  • Considered the appropriate use of various training  approaches.
  • Practised many of the writing skills needed to prepare  effective training guides.

The skills presented during this course are reinforced with practical  hands-on exercises.

Writing Summaries and Abstracts

Writing Summaries and Abstracts is a short course that examines the similarities and differences between summaries and abstracts and outlines strategies for developing each effectively.
Writing Summaries and Abstracts micro-site

Indexing for Technical Writers

A well-crafted index is the best retrieval tool we can provide to our readers.

Our index must meet the needs of all of readers of our publication: those who are experienced with the product or technology, those who are familiar with similar products and technologies, and those who have no experience with the product or technology.

Most technical writers have to create an index sometime during their career, yet preparing an effective index is a complex process. This practical, hands-on course presents a systematic indexing method for technical writers.

Indexing micro-site

This practical, hands-on course presents a systematic indexing method for technical writers.

A well-crafted index is essential to locating information within a document, yet preparing an effective index is a complex process. This practical, hands-on course presents a systematic indexing method for technical writers.

By the conclusion of this course you will have:

  • Reviewed the purpose and types of indexes.
  • Examined the methods and considerations necessary when determining index entries.
  • Discussed how to edit and test an index.
  • Practiced creating, editing, formatting, and testing an index.

The skills presented during this course are reinforced with practical hands-on exercises using Microsoft Word.

A minimum of 80% attendance, active participation, and successful completion of all course assignments are required to complete this course successfully.

Preparing Software Specifications

Functional requirements and design specifications are vital to software development projects.  Explore the role these and other technical documents play in developing a software product, and discover the how to describe a software product properly using Use Cases and other specification documents.  Prepare representative documents using MSWord.

Preparing Software PSecifications micro-site

By the conclusion of this course you will have:

  • Examined methods to capture and communicate business and user requirements.
  • Reviewed some of the document types included in a software product development library.
  • Reviewed some of the requirement and design specification standards in current use.
  • Practised many of the writing skills needed to prepare effective requirement specifications.

The skills presented during this course are reinforced with practical hands-on exercises.

Design and Authoring for the Online Media

The online media presents exciting opportunities for the efficient and effective delivery of information. Web sites, online help systems, intranets, and e-mail are firmly rooted in most of our business and technical world. But the online media extends beyond these to include blogs, chat rooms, online communities, wikis, and more.

The online media differs in many ways from conventional paper publishing and requires a special set of skills to use effectively. Two courses are offered to help you master authoring in the online media: Site Architecture for the online media, and Design and authoring for the online media.

Design and Authoring for the Online Media micro-site (This is now part of the unified OnlineMedia micro-site)

In this course we discover how to author pages that are organized, readable, easily comprehended and credible. We apply these skills while authoring pages using a combination of XHTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) within a managed environment.

Site Architecture for the Online Media

The online media presents exciting opportunities for the efficient and effective delivery of information. Web sites, online help systems, intranets, and e-mail are firmly rooted in most of our business and technical world. But the online media extends beyond these to include blogs, chat rooms, online communities, wikis, and more.

The online media differs in many ways from conventional paper publishing and requires a special set of skills to use effectively. Two courses are offered to help you master authoring in the online media: Site Architecture for the online media, and Design and authoring for the online media.

Site Architecture for the Online Media micro-site

In this course we review the benefits and challenges of the online media, and examine and practise the skills necessary to design sites that are well organized and easy to navigate. We apply these skills while developing an information site using a combination of XHTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and a Content Management System.