The Tech Writer’s Reading/Reference List

The following books were of great use to me as I pursued my master’s degree in technical communication.

Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams
This is still the best book I’ve ever seen for improving the prose of the writer. It covers everything from run-on sentences to subject-verb agreement to “orphaned” subjects, verbs, and objects. Once I got hold of this book, I didn’t look at my writing–or anyone else’s–the same.

The following books are all good starting points for individuals looking to get into the technical communication business. They were required reading while I was attending grad school at University of Central Florida.

Technical Communication by Paul Anderson
Technical Writing Style by Dan Jones and Sam Dragga
Technical Communicator’s Handbook by Dan Jones

Technical Marketing Communication by Sandra Harner, Tom Zimmerman, and Sam Dragga
This work was helpful when I started working on my master’s thesis, but also in my eventual line of work (public outreach for technical organizations).

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman
This is a quirky book about how anything from chairs to computers are designed. Its computer sections have become dated by advances in technology, but it helps the writer focus better on the end user of their products.

You know, it’s been so long since I read either of the following two books, I don’t recall many of the details. However, what the texts talk about are different forms of literacy: how do people read things: books, video, film, whatever. The academics would describe that as “engaging with the texts.”

The Medium is the Message by Marshal McLuhan
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in the Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts

Ethics in Technical Communication by Paul M. Dombrowski
If you’re interested in the whole “heroic technical writing” thing, here’s a good place to start. Written by one of my UCF professors, Dr. D is focuses on the applications of different ethical systems (Aristotelian, Kantian, etc.) in a variety of scenarios, such as communicating the Challenger disaster or the development of a technical manual for a machine the Nazis developed to for killing concentration camp victims. In that last scenario, you get the ethical implications of writing something that might be technically correct, but morally reprehensible. Ethical dilemmas are not usually that black-and-white, but there are some gray areas that could cause technical communicators to think about the right or wrong of what they do. Something to think about, anyway.

More excitement to come…

/b

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Directior, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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