Technical Writing

Preparation
Grade Level: 9-12 Group Size: 20-30

Time: 60-70 Minutes

Presenters: 1

Objectives
This lesson will enable students to: • • • • Define technical writing. Identify characteristics of effective technical writing. Write step-by-step instructions. List differences between technical and creative writing.

Standards
This lesson aligns with the following National Standards for the English Language Arts: • Standard 4: Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively

Standard 5: Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and different audiences for a variety of purposes.

use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with

Materials
• • • • • • • • “What is Technical Writing” overhead or handout (Appendix A) 20-30 mouse traps “Characteristics of Effective Technical Writing” overhead or handout (Appendix B) 20-30 index-sized cards for instructions

20-30 bite-sized chocolate candy bars for bait

20-30 Mouse Trap final draft cards with illustration (Appendix C) “Mouse Trap Instructions” handout (Appendix D) Technical Writing Samples or overheads (www.micron.com/k12/writing/index)

Revision Date: 12/20/2007 1 © 1999 Micron Technology Foundation, Inc. All Rights Reserved

By supplying the illustration for the editing exercise. advertising copy. You may use 3x5 cards or print a sheet with 6 illustrated cards for the editing exercise. instructions and training materials.Preparation Set up the "What is Technical Writing" and "Characteristics. Students should have pencil and paper and sit at a desk so they have a solid surface to set the trap on for research. make overheads of the handouts (Appendix A & B). to communicate a body of factual information that will help an audience understand a subject or carry out a task.” overheads or handouts for the introduction. they don't have to spend time drawing. what are some examples of technical writing? A: Encourage responses from the students and comment on their answers. instructional posters.” Michael H.. maintenance manuals. press releases. data books and catalogs. Here is one definition of technical writing: What is Technical Writing? “Technical writing conveys specific information about a technical subject to a specific audience for a specific purpose… The words and graphics of technical writing are meant to be practical: that is. If you are not using the posters. scripts for training and promotional 2 but may include: user manuals. Introduction Introduce yourself and explain briefly your job or the job of technical writers. Markel Director of Technical Communication Boise State University Q: Keeping this definition in mind.. online help for games and software. newsletters. . cookbooks and clothing patterns. Q: What is technical writing? Q: Have you been doing any technical writing in your classes? Q: What kinds have you tried? Show students the “Definition of Technical Writing” (Appendix A). The purpose of the smaller work area is to force the students to limit the number of steps and the number of words. Today we are going to discuss technical writing and its importance in the work place. Answers will vary software documentation. only labeling the parts. speeches and presentations. presentation materials.

training materials. project of writing instructions for setting a mouse trap. contracts. exploded diagram – engineer. Email. As you are showing the examples explain the types of writers for each example. grants. only for writing about it. Show the “Characteristics of Effective Technical Writing” poster (Appendix B). And quite often Technical Writing . free from bias Comprehensiveness – all necessary information included Accessibility – headings. Today we are going to practice technical writing—writing instructions. Probably more technical the writer does the research. the editing. department technical writer. Let’s discuss the characteristics of effective technical writing. table of contents Conciseness – clear without excess verbiage Correctness – grammatical and follows conventions We are going to compare technical writing to creative writing. You are all working for a company that manufactures mouse traps. specifications – engineers.videos. indexes.First Draft Although some companies can afford to hire a team of technical writers with graphic artists to help them.e. proposals. and often even the illustrating and formatting. Show the overheads or examples from the web page (www. I. technician. questionnaires and forms. feasibility reports. resumes and cover letters. business letters. suggestions – any employee. correct. writers write some sort of instructions than any other type of technical writing. Characteristics of Effective Technical Writing: • • • • • • Clarity – easily understood by intended audience Accuracy – factual. As a writer are given the you to do your own research. Today you will be working independently of each other in order to experience the whole process.com/k12/writing/index) . many companies expect a single writer to do it all. I want to assure you that these traps have never been used for catching mice. I have a trap and some bait for each of 3 .micron. the writing. research and scientific papers.

In your research. deadlines—often totally unreasonable deadlines—are a fact of life for technical writers. Please work quickly and quietly. Q: Have you ever set a trap and had the bait disappear with the trap unsnapped? mouse will be able to get it without getting caught. Because of this. For bait. Frequently with technical writing. If you have new traps. but if the bait isn't pressed into the pedal firmly. As students are working. the writers are the last to know about changes in the process. Let's talk about what you have written keeping in mind the characteristics of good technical writing we talked about earlier. A: You only need a bit of the candy." "to discover what problems a user might have." To be sure we have clarity and accuracy.Pass out the mousetraps. Refer to the “Characteristics of Effective Technical Writing” handout. Discussion Your time is up. you might want to pick up 2 or 3 of the instructions students have written for illustrations as you discuss the process. Q: Why do we need to research? I noticed a few of you did not "research" your project. Refrain from giving any instructions or helping individuals. some of you skipped the baiting part. You will have other observations based on what the students are doing. the 4 . The comments in the discussion are just suggestions. Pass out index sized cards to the students for writing the instructions. Pass out the candy. based on observation rather than trying it yourself. Because of the time constraints the company is under you have 10 minutes to complete your first draft. I am giving you little chocolate candy bars. Mice love chocolate almost as much as people do. or materials. You simply started writing instructions A: Answers should include "to see how it is done. we need to research. When the time is up. walk around and observe what they are doing so that you will be able to comment on it later. choosing to eat the bait yourself! And some of you set the whole piece on the bait pedal. equipment." "to become a user so we know how to write for a user. be sure you remove the wrapper or any instructions that are included.

you would have are just fine. Q: What about illustrations? A: I noticed most of you included an illustration of the mouse trap. These instructions. but for this exercise.I also noticed a few of you got your fingers snapped. your sketches Q: Why do you need an illustration if they have the mousetrap in their hands? in the written instructions. descriptive names. to call this part (point to the bow) the "killer thing" might be descriptive. but it is not appropriate and could be considered offensive." The illustration right next to the instructions allows you to be more Q: Did you include some instructions about where to set the trap? Q: Do you know where you should set a trap? concise and increases accessibility. for a total of only 29 words plus 3 labels on the illustration. Your instructions are not comprehensive without a warning. Q: How many of you included a warning or caution? A: Even if a user never reads your instructions and never sees your warning. And I realize if you were doing this on the computer. Q: How many steps do you have? How many words in those steps? A: Wait for their responses. For example. removed the first time they were used. It also has instructions for removing the staple which held down the locking bar. as we We are also going to come to a consensus about what to call each part. Sometimes this is the hardest part—thinking of appropriate. could be improved. however. which you didn't know about since it had already been will talk about later. 5 . And we probably don't need to label this part (point to the spring) because we don't need to refer to it in our instructions. drawing tools to help you do this. for legal reasons you need to include one if there is any possibility of someone getting hurt or causing damage. This is how much space the actual instructions have—1 1/2 inch by 4 inches—and they are given in three languages! They have only 3 numbered steps. Q: What did you name the various parts? A: Answers will vary. we need it to be comprehensive and accurate. then hold up one of the mouse trap wrappers. A: Answers should include the comment "to label the parts so you don't have to describe them A: Again. Think about conciseness.

I have enlarged them so you can see and removed the foreign languages. I have put the label it. I am going to give each of you a small sheet of paper. And this time. editing. I am going to ask you to edit and rewrite your instructions. This time I want you to limit your number of steps to better. and created an illustration. Let’s look at the instructions that came with the traps. written a first draft. Q: Do you see some things you might change? Answers might 6 . Editing Discussion Q: How did you do with the editing and revising? A: Answers will vary. In fact. Your warning can be in addition to the steps. All you need to do is done the research and you don't have to draw no more than 4 and limit your number words to no more than 12 words per step. Allow students to discuss their samples. since you have already illustration on it for you. you only have 5 minutes.Editing Now we are going to the next step in the process: Editing. and I want both the instructions and the illustration on one side. not counting the warning. not creating new documents. A: Wait for and encourage responses. Q: Were you able to stay within the guidelines: Four steps and no more than 48 words. Pass out small sheets and begin timing after everyone has a rewriting sheet. Pass out the instructions. Less would be the illustration. Q: Was it difficult to cut words and still be precise and accurate? A: Wait for and encourage responses. Q: Do you think someone could easily follow your instructions? A: Wait for and encourage responses. A majority of technical writing involves revising. You have done your research. and improving existing documents.

What The last step doesn't really tell us where to place the trap—where signs of mice have What about the capital letters in the sentences? Are they all necessary? There is always room for improvement. you will probably find yourself having to explain a process. You might also discuss the difference between technical and creative writing using the information below.include the following. and plays? Encourage student responses. Creative writing is entertaining. • • • Creative writing is fictional and imaginative while technical writing is factual. • • • • • • No warning or caution. describe a procedure. you might share it with students. would be better? been seen. but technical writing needs to be clear. Creative Writing versus technical writing (Optional discussion) Q: Do you do any creative writing in your classes—poetry. instructional. or instruct someone about something—in writing. even vague. elaborating on their comments when appropriate. No matter what your job in the future. stories. answer any questions the students may have about technical writing. If you have enough candy. and captivating while technical writing is Creative writing can be artistic. share samples of your work. It isn't just professional technical writers who write. Conclusion If time allows describe a typical day for a technical writer. Q: What differences can you think of between creative and technical writing? A: Answers may include the following responses. symbolic. figurative. Close presentation and gather up mousetraps. precise. informative. leaving no room for 7 . Even the professionals who wrote these instructions might want to rewrite them. It doesn't say anything about pressing the bait in firmly. ambiguous. provocative. or persuasive. The word 'engage' in step 2 may not be the best choice for a general audience. “Step” 1 really is two steps. and straightforward. Point out the problems they don't notice.

Creative writing uses a general vocabulary understood by a general audience narrowed somewhat by age group or interest. It needs to follow accepted standards for grammar and format. Technical writing must be objective. Technical writing uses specialized vocabulary topic. with the thoughts. and attitudes of the writer. • dependent on the topic as well as on the familiarity of the target audience with the Creative writing can be lucrative for the few who create best sellers but technical writing in all kinds of businesses and industries. while • • Creative writing is subjective. creative writing can break the rules. opinions. provides career opportunities with good salaries for thousands and thousands of writers 8 .misinterpretations.

Appendix A – Technical Writing 9 .

Appendix B – Technical Writing 10 .

Appendix C – Technical Writing 11 .

Appendix D – Technical Writing 12 .