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Fundamentals of Technical Writing

By professor222 Nov 03, 2008 840 Words
Fundamentals of Technical Writing
ENG221
University of Phoenix

Technical writing and expository writing are both designed to instruct the reader, however technical writing expects the reader to take some sort of action based upon the reading. In the workplace technical writing seems to be more prevalent in the form of technical manuals and instruction booklets, whereas expository writing has a wider variety of uses. Although technical writing and expository writing are very similar, there are significant differences in the two styles. Differences

"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, to communicate a body of factual information that will help an audience understand a subject or carry out a task." (Micron,2008). While expository writing also conveys specific information, it is not meant to elicit a response, only explain or expound upon knowledge. For instance, an instruction manual on how to create a website is a technical writing that expects the reader to follow along and put into practice the steps outlined. However, a letter explaining company policy on attire is meant to be read and understood only. Purpose

The purpose of technical writing is to inform the reader about a particular subject or how to perform a task, while expository writing “exposes a topic analytically and objectively, such as news reports. Like technical writing, the goal of expository writing is to explain or reveal knowledge, but expository writing does not necessarily expect a response or action from the reader.”(Micron,2008) As stated before a good example of expository writing is a new report, meant to update the reader, but not to have the reader take any particular action, whereas the purpose of a technical manual on C++ would expect the reader to follow along and recreate the work. Audience

There are many different types of audiences for technical writing. You have the experts, the ones who created and designed the product. Technicians are the ones that maintain and fix the product, while executives make the decisions about whether or not to use a product, and the average user who will be using the product on a daily basis. All have technical knowledge of a varying degree and will be looking to use the writing for different reasons. A writer must analyze who their audience will be before writing the technical manual. “In technical communication, the main trait that our audiences share is that they are trying to do their jobs using our products: completing tasks, learning new skills, making decisions, and fixing problems.“ (Houser, 2008, para. 4). The language and level of complexity for writing for the expert will be significantly higher than writing for the average user. Tone

The tone of the paper goes hand in hand with the audience type as well as whether the writing is technical or expository. An expository writing has a more objective tone, it is not trying to convince the user of anything, only convey the facts. A technical writing can have a wider range on tone. For the technician or expert the tone may be more advanced, using technical jargon an executive or user may not understand. Examples

At my workplace we have many technical writings. One of which describes common troubleshooting techniques for one of our wireless modems. It explains step by step instructions for locating the connection problem and what to do once the problem is identified. This writing is intended for technician level users who have an understanding of the equipment.

Another is the instruction manual for using telnet services on our modems. Part of the manual explains what telnet is and how to login, while the second section explains different commands and how and when to utilize them. This manual also is geared towards the technical user who has a good knowledge of telnet services.

One last example is the training packet for our billing system. It is setup with step by step instructions on how to access every part of the billing software and how to work with a customers account. This manual is geared towards the average user with little to no prior knowledge of the software. Conclusion

In conclusion technical writing and expository writing are very similar yet their differences are significant. While technical writing and expository writing both educate the reader, expository does not need a response by the reader. Technical writing intends to educate and have the reader accomplish a specified task. With the many types of audiences you must know who you are writing for and gear the work towards that audience. The tone should be such that the target audience can best understand the work.

References

Micron. (2008). Writing in the workplace. Retrieved August 8, 2008, from http://www.micron.com/k12/writing/index

Houser Rob, (2008). What is the value of audience to technical communicators?: A Survey of Audience Research. User Assistance Group. Retrieved August 10, 2008, from http://www.userassistance.com/presentations/audience.htm

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