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The Essentials of Technical Communication

Fourth Edition

Elizabeth Tebeaux and Sam Dragga

Publication Date - December 2017

ISBN: 9780190856144

432 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $65.95

The most accessible, concise, and affordable guide to effective professional communication that ensures your work gets read-not tossed!


In today's complex workplace, no one wants to read what you write. The Essentials of Technical Communication, Fourth Edition, was developed with this principle in mind. The respected author team continues to provide students with accessible and comprehensive instructions for planning, drafting, and revising technical documents that are clear and concise.

Visit the book's free, open-access Companion Website at www.oup.com/us/tebeaux for additional student and instructor resources.

New to this Edition

  • An updated contemporary design
  • Increased coverage of digital platforms and social media
  • Updated instruction on information security
  • New coverage of accessibility and usability testing
  • New examples and case studies throughout

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Tebeaux is Professor of English at Texas A&M University.

Sam Dragga is Professor of Technical Communication at Texas Tech University.


"The Essentials of Technical Communication, Fourth Edition, is authoritative, comprehensive, and accessible with a clear, pedagogically effective organization and a good mix of examples and exercises, all presented in a readable, non-pedantic style." --Paul M. Dombrowski, University of Central Florida

"Tebeaux and Dragga are really good at presenting technical communication as a real thing in the workplace with real value. They are also really good at making the skills and tasks of technical communication achievable." --David L. Major, Austin Peay State University

"This is the best text I have used in over twelve years of teaching these classes. It is succinct, has good sample documents, and is written in a clear style. None of the content is overwhelming to students naturally resistant to learning 'soft' content such as writing." --Michael Shuman, University of South Florida

Table of Contents

    Detailed Contents


    Part One: Principles

    1. Characteristics of Writing at Work
    Writing at Work versus Writing at School
    Requires acute awareness of security and legal liability
    Requires awareness that documents may be read by unknown readers
    Achieves job goals
    Addresses a variety of readers who have different perspectives
    Requires a variety of written documents
    The Foundations of Effective Writing at Work
    The Qualities of Good Technical Writing

    2. Writing for Your Readers
    Understand Your Readers-The Heart of the Planning Process
    Keep in mind that business readers want answers now
    Determine your readers and their perspectives
    Determine your purpose
    Understand your role as a writer
    Plan the content
    Anticipate the context in which your writing will be received
    The Basic Parts of the Composing Process
    Analyzing the writing situation-purpose, readers, and context
    Choosing/discovering information
    Arranging information

    3. Writing Ethically
    Your Professional Obligations
    Codes of Conduct and Standards of Practice
    Recognizing Unethical Communication
    Plagiarism and theft of intellectual property
    Promotion of prejudice
    Failing to make information accessible
    Uncritical use of information
    Managing Unethical Situations

    4. Achieving a Readable Style
    a. The Paragraph
    Examples for study
    Basic Principles of Effective Style
    Determine your readers' knowledge of the subject
    Determine whether a particular style will be expected
    Adjust the style to the readers, the purpose, and the context
    Keys to Building Effective Sentences
    Watch sentence length
    Keep subjects and verbs close together
    Avoid pompous language; write to express, not to impress
    Avoid excessive use of is/are verb forms
    Use active voice for clarity
    Word Choice
    Squeaky Clean Prose

    5. Designing Documents
    Understanding the Basics of Document Design
    Know what decisions are yours to make
    Choose a design that fits your situation
    Plan your design from the beginning
    Make your design accessible
    Reveal your design to your readers
    Keep your design consistent
    Designing Effective Pages and Screens
    Use blank space to frame and group information
    Choose a type design that is legible
    Space the lines of text for easy reading
    Adjust the line length to the size of the page or screen
    Use a ragged right margin
    Position words and illustrations in a complementary relationship
    Helping Readers Locate Information
    Use frequent headings
    Write descriptive headings
    Design distinctive headings
    Use page numbers and headers or footers
    Testing Your Design

    6. Designing Illustrations
    Creating Illustrations
    Bar and column graphs
    Circle graphs
    Line graphs
    Organization charts
    Flow charts
    Project schedule charts
    Video Clips
    Designing Illustrations Ethically
    Testing Your Illustrations
    Part Two: Applications

    7. E-mails, Texts, Memos, and Letters
    E-mail and Text Messages
    Memos and Letters
    Guidelines for Ensuring Quality
    Appropriate Tone in E-mails, Texts, Memos, and Letters
    Guidelines for Dealing with Tone
    Writing for Social Media
    Planning and Writing Correspondence

    8. Technical Reports
    Kinds of Reports
    Report Categories-Informal and Formal
    Informal Report Headings
    Subject line
    Action required
    Distribution list
    Parts of an Informal Technical Report
    Developing Reports
    Elements of Formal Reports
    Prefatory elements
    Abstracts and summaries
    Discussion, or body of the report
    Collecting and grouping information
    Letter Reports
    Writing Collaboratively
    The team leader
    Requirements of team leaders
    Requirements of team members
    Example Report for Study

    9. Proposals and Progress Reports
    The context of proposal development
    Effective argument in proposal development
    Standard sections of proposals
    Structure of progress reports
    Online submission of progress reports
    Style and Tone of Proposals and Progress Reports

    10. Instructions, Procedures, and Policies
    Instructions versus Procedures
    Critical Role of Instructions and Procedures in the Workplace
    Planning Instructions and Procedures
    Structure and Organization
    Theory governing the procedure or instruction
    Warnings, cautions, hazards, and notes regarding safety or quality
    Conditions under which the task should be performed
    Name of each step
    Online Instructions
    Testing Your Instructions

    11. Oral Reports
    Understanding the Speaking-Writing Relationship
    Analyzing the Audience
    Determining the Goal of Your Presentation
    Choosing and Shaping Content
    Analyzing the Context
    Choosing the Organization
    Choosing an Appropriate Speaking Style
    Designing the Slides to Enhance Your Purpose and Your Meaning
    Planning Your Presentation-Questions You Need to Ask
    Speaking to Multicultural Audiences
    Designing Each Segment
    Choose an interesting title
    Develop your presentation around three main divisions
    Focus the introduction
    Organize the body
    Fortify the conclusion
    Choosing an Effective Delivery Style
    Techniques to Enhance Audience Comprehension
    Designing and Presenting the Scripted Presentation
    Structuring the scripted presentation
    Writing the script
    Practicing the presentation

    12. Résumés and Job Applications
    The Correspondence of the Job Search
    Letter of application
    The résumé
    Follow-up letters
    Your Social Media Profile
    The interview
    Before and after the interview

    Appendix A: Brief Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Usage
    Appendix B: Using Sources of Information
    Appendix C: Report for Study and Analysis

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