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The Essentials of Technical Communication

Fifth Edition

Author Elizabeth Tebeaux and Sam Dragga

Publication Date - November 2020

ISBN: 9780197539200

448 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

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, Fifth 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. Divided into two flexible parts--Principles and Applications--the text lays a strong foundation in the rhetoric principles before examining the principle types of workplace documents with checklists for use in preparing them.

New to this Edition

  • Updated material on information security
  • Simplified and clarified wording and phrasing, with new examples and exercises
  • Collaboration featured as a key ethical responsibility of technical communicators
  • Updated advice on writing for social media
  • New sections on video instructions and poster presentations
  • New and revised examples and exercises about report writing
  • New advice about preparing job application materials for AI screening

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Tebeaux is Professor Emerita of English at Texas A&M University and has taught technical and practices technical writing for close to forty years.

Sam Dragga is Professor Emeritus of English at Texas Tech University. From 2016 to 2020, he served as editor of the quarterly research journal of the Society for Technical Communication.


"Written by leaders in the field, The Essentials of Technical Communication is excellent in content, coverage, and readability."--Paul Dombrowski, University of Central Florida

"This is a hard-headed, economical, and impressively focused effort."--Allen Schwab, Washington University in St. Louis

"The Essentials of Technical Communication provides thorough information, yet treats students like the busy adults they are. It checks all of the boxes for me: informative, direct, and affordable."--Danielle Williams, Baylor University

Table of Contents


    Part One: Principles

    1. Characteristics of Writing at Work
    2. Writing for Your Readers
    3. Writing Ethically
    4. Achieving a Readable Style
    5. Designing Documents
    6. Designing Illustrations

    Part Two: Applications

    7. E-mails, Texts, Memos, and Letters
    8. Technical Reports
    9. Proposals and Progress Reports
    10. Instructions, Procedures, and Policies
    11. Oral Reports
    12. Résumés and Job Applications

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

    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
    Deliberately imprecise or ambiguous language
    Manipulation of numerical information
    Use of misleading illustrations
    Promotion of prejudice
    Failing to make information accessible
    Uncritical use of information
    Writing Collbaoratively
    The team leader
    Requirements of team leaders
    Requirements of team members
    Managing Unethical Situations

    4. Achieving a Readable Style
    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
    Determine which 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
    Compose 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 Effective Correspondence
    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
    Topical arrangement
    Chronological arrangement
    Letter Reports
    Example Report for Study

    9. Proposals and Progress Reports
    The context of proposal development
    Effective argument in proposal development
    Standard sections of proposals
    Project description (technical proposal)
    Personnel (management proposal)
    Budget (cost proposal)
    Progress Reports
    Structure of progress reports
    Structure by work performed
    Structure by chronological order
    Structure by main project goals
    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
    Video 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
    Questions for Planning Your Presentation
    Speaking to International 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 Poster Presentation
    Designing and Presenting the Scripted Presentation
    Organizing the scripted presentation
    Writing the script
    Practicing the presentation

    12. Résumés and Job Applications
    The Correspondence of the Job Search
    Prepare your Application for AI Screening
    Review your Social Media Profile
    Letter of application
    The résumé
    Chronological résumés
    Functional résumés
    Follow-up letters
    No answer
    After an interview
    After being refused a job
    Accepting or refusing a job
    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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