EPW 331/531 - Technical Writing  


Dr. Kristi Siegel  

Associate Professor, English

Mount Mary College

Fall 2003

NDH 249 (Smart Classroom)

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10:00 – 11:50 am

Office hours: 1:00 – 2:00 Tuesdays and Thursdays and by appointment

Office: Fidelis 223, (414) 258-4810, ext. 461

Home: phone no. listed on syllabus

e-mail: siegelkr@mtmary.edu

website: www.kristisiegel.com/techfall2003

textbook website: http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/techcomm/






Required Text:  

Markel, Michael. Technical Communication. 7th Ed. (Bedford – St. Martins Press, 2003).  

Recommended Materials:


Good dictionary, e.g., Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Ed.

Writer’s Handbook or stylebook (or both!)

Handbook on FrontPage 2002 (optional)

3-ring binder or folder for handouts


 Course Description


Quite simply, technical writing “translates” information for a specific target audience. For example, a technical document might consist of computer instructions written clearly enough so that a lay audience—having no previous computer experience—would be able to follow these directions easily. Technical documents now include a wide array of materials, e.g., brochures, newsletters, manuals, proposals, reports, websites, and so forth. Students in this course will learn how to write clearly and succinctly for a defined target audience. They will also learn how to create documents that are professional in both content and design, how to maintain a high standard of professional ethics, and how to present their material optimally (via oral presentations or in text format). The writing, design, and computer skills taught in technical writing help prepare students to take on leadership roles within their profession.

Course Objectives:


to understand the purpose and process of technical writing;

to produce documents reflecting different types of technical communication such as technical
descriptions, proposals, grants, re­ports, webpages, instructional manuals and parts’ manuals;

to use mechanically and grammatically correct language in written and oral communication;

to learn the necessary computer technology to produce documents attractively and efficiently;

to learn how to adjust technical content to meet the needs of a specific target audience;

to learn how to produce clear and concise prose;

to appreciate principles of document design and how they enhance meaning;

to give a professional oral presentation on the final project (web site).  



In-class exercises and assignments


Instructions (Lego and Computer)   10%
Parts’ manual/Informational brochure 5%
Status report  10%  
Proposal (written) 10%
Proposal ( presentation)    5%
Website 15%  
Final Oral Presentation  10%
Participation 10%
Final Portfolio  15%  





Week One  

Sep 4

Course Overview, Introductions

Definition, examples of technical writing

“Chopping block” of technical writing

Basic word processing/design principles  

Using Microsoft Word Efficiently:

Bring in one example of good technical design and one example 
of poor technical design for next class.  

Note: Markel's text is excellent; please read the material carefully and also
consult the many resources available on the text's website


  • Chapter 1  - Introduction to Technical Communication

  • Chapter 3 – Understanding the Writing Process


  • Chapter 2 – Understanding Legal and Ethical Considerations

  • Chapter 4 – Writing Collaboratively  

Week Two  

Sep 9

  • Continued word processing strategies

  • Design principles

  • In-class exercise on design

  • Read:

    • Chapter 8 – Organizing your Information

    • Chapter 13 – Designing the Document  

    Sep 11

    Visual Design and graphics  

    • Review Graphics' tutorial (using Excel) from Florida Gulf 
      Coast University

    In-class exercise on using and formatting visuals

    Read: Chapter 14 – Creating Graphics  

    Week Three  

    Sep 16


  • Visual Design and graphics (continued)  

  • Principles for writing instructions  

    • Tips for Creating Effective Computer Instructions - website

    • How to Write Instructions for Busy, Grouchy People - 
      Dr. Dennis Jerz website (an excellent resource)

  • Lego block assignment - handout

  • Read:

    • Chapter 5 – Analyzing Your Audience and Purpose

    • Chapter 20 – Writing Instructions and Manuals  

    Sep 18

    • Narrative Strategies for writing technical content  

      • How to Put Your Reader into a Coma without Really Trying - handout

      • Having trouble with writing mechanics? Go to Bedford's Exercise Central - 
        grammar exercises

    • In-class work on Lego instructions  

    Week Four  

    Sep 23

    Task analysis exercise on Lego block assignment

    Instructions’ manual assigned - handout

    In-class work on Full Shot software  

    Sep 25 – no class (work independently)

    Work on Instructions’ Manual

    Continued work on using Full Shot

    Read: Chapter 10 – Drafting and Revising Coherent Documents  

    Week Five  

    Sep 30

    In-class work on Instructions’ Manual  

    Oct 2

    In-class work on Instructions’ Manual  

    Week Six

    Oct 7


    Instructions’ Manual Due

    Parts’ Manual/Informational Brochure Assigned - handout

    In-class work on writing clear ad copy

    In class work on writing clear technical content and scanning items for manual


    • Chapter 20 – Writing Instructions and Manuals

    • Chapter 18 – Writing Informal Reports

    • (Skim) Chapter 19 – Writing Formal Reports  

    Oct 9

    In-class work on Parts’ Manual

    Principles of Report writing – Status Report Assigned - handout  

    • Online Technical Writing - Progress reports
      (make sure to look at the example) - website

    • Tips for Writing Short technical reports - website

    • Recommendation and Feasibility Reports (David McMurrey)

    Read: Chapter 6 – Communicating Persuasively  

    Week Seven  

    Oct 14


    Parts’ Manual due

    In-class work on Status Report


    • Chapter 11 – Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences

    • Chapter 16 – Preparing Job-Application Materials (review Chapter 15, 
      if necessary – Writing Letters, Memos, and E-mails  

    Oct 16


    • Status Report Due

    • Employment package assigned - assignment

    • Letters of application discussed - examples provided

    • Chronological vs. Functional Résumés  

      • Résumés - excellent information plus
        additional resources - Dr. Dennis Jerz

    Week Eight  

    Oct 21


    • Effective letters of application  

      • Developing a Letter of Application by Deborah S. Ray

    •  Principles of Résumé design and content

    • In-class work on résumés and letters of application  

    Oct 23


    • In-class work on résumés and letters of application

    • Read: Writing Proposals

    Week Nine

    Oct 28


    Employment package collected

    Principles of Writing Proposals - assignment

    • Online technical writing - Proposals website

    • A Practical Guide to Writing Proposals website
      Alice M. Reid, M.Ed

    Solicited and Unsolicited Proposals

    Proposal Assigned  

    Oct 30


    In-class work on proposals – Guest speaker

    Examples of proposals discussed

    Grants vs. Proposal – assignment


    • Chapter 12 – Drafting and Revising the Front and Back Matter

    • Chapter 22 – Making Oral Presentations  

    Week Ten  

    Nov 4

    • Grant assignment collected

    • In-class work on proposals

    • Task analysis and peer review of proposals

    • Proposal presentation assigned (using PowerPoint)  

    Nov 6

    (Written) Proposal collected

    In-class work on proposal presentation

    PowerPoint fundamentals

    Read: Chapter 21 – Creating Web Sites

    Week Eleven  

    Nov 11

    Proposal Presentations (in-class)

    Sign up for Geocities website

    Geocities manual (note: the manual is about 34 pages)
    and principles of web publishing - assignment

    Nov 13

    Principles of web publishing (cont.)

    Good/bad web design and content discussed  

    • Principles of website design - handout

    In-class Tutorial on Using Yahoo! GeoBuilder  

    Week Twelve

    Nov 18

    • In-class work on website

    • Website plan assigned  

    Nov 20

    Principles of Web content

    Introduction to FrontPage 2002  

    • Creating a Basic Website Using FrontPage (Dr. Dennis Jerz) - Website

    Week Thirteen  

    Nov 25

    Website plan collected

    Additional work on FrontPage 2002

    In-class work on website

    Review: Chapter 22 – Making Oral Presentations  

    Nov 27 – Thanksgiving Holiday


    Week Fourteen  

    Dec 2

    In-class work on website

    Oral Presentation on Website Assigned - handout

    Principles of Effective Oral Presentations  

    Dec 4

    Principles of Portfolio Design

    Portfolio assigned - handout

    In-class work on Portfolio and website  

    Week Fifteen  

    Dec 9

    • In-class work on Portfolio and website

    • Practice on website oral presentations

    • Course evaluations  

    Dec 11

    • Oral Presentations on websites

    • Portfolios collected  


    Tuesday, December 16, 2003: Meet at 10:15 am in NDH 249 – 
    Portfolios returned and discussed.