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ENG 314 – Technical Document Design and Editing

3 Credits, Fall 2016, Class Location: Tompkins Hall, G115, Class times: 4:30 pm -5:45 pm, T-TH

  • Douglas M. Walls, PhD
  • Office: Tompkins Hall, 122
  • Office Hours: 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm, T-TH
  • Phone: (919) 515-4135
  • Email: dmwalls@ncsu.edu

Course Overview

A technical writer makes the writing of the people around them better communicators.

Writing and rhetoric is more than “just getting your words across”. The goal of this class is to create an expansive notion of the work of writing beyond academic and “conduit metaphor” thinking and into a notion of technical writing and editing as deeply embedded in the knowledge work of the creative class. In this class you will learn that technical/professional work is deeply situated in communities and deeply interested in solving “knowledge worker” problems for profit as well as the civic problems (environmental, social justice, etc.) that effect each of us. This class provides a valuable way for thinking about and acknowledging forms of writing and and technology acquisition that take place away from academic settings and especially in the networked social environments that writing takes place.

Another goal for the course is to present students with the option of thinking of themselves as becoming creative class professionals as well as how to articulate what that title means to others. Additionally, you will be provided an important introduction to “Technical Writing” as the situated labor of groups of people like organizations or communities as well as how to think about managing that labor.

This class exposes you to technological assists that communities use every day to assist in solving problems. The concept of “design” is introduced in both aesthetic sense but also in “information” design sense grounded in beginning rhetorical strategies in the design of your own technical/professional portfolio. The goal is to tease technological possibilities and to build a strong connection between the issues of literacy and the issues of technological.

This class does a few things: First, the class will introduce you to the principles and professional practices of technical/professional writers and their careers. Second, the class will introduce you to the writing and project skills and tools you’ll need to succeed as a professional in both small non for profits and large bureaucratic institutions.

In this class, we will address questions like:

  • What is “technical or professional writing?” What other names does technical or professional writing go by?
  • What kinds of tasks do technical/professional writers do? Where and how do they do these things?
  • What are the core concepts of technical/professional writing (such as curation, community, and information design), and what do these concepts look like in practice?
  •  What kinds of documents, design principles, digital tools, writing strategies, editing strategies and research skills should professional writers be familiar with?

Learning Outcomes

After ENG 314, you will be familiar with:

  • various rhetorical principles and how they can be put to use by professional writers
  • be able to answer, “What can you do for me?” to potential employers
  • a range of strategies for doing research—including gathering materials, synthesizing different ideas, analyzing audiences, and conducting surveys

Some of the activities we will focus on include:

  • analyzing rhetorical situations (purpose and audience, goals, ethical issues)
  • analyzing audiences (readers and users of your documents)
  • analyzing the organizational context for your writing

After ENG 314, you will have produced:

  • a writing audit and rhetorical analysis
  • a report on technical/professional writing
  • an audience assessment and content analysis
  • a plan for your technical/professional portfolio

Texts (required):

  • Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Reprint. Penguin (Non-Classics), 2009. Print.
  • Johnson-Eilola, Johndan, and Stuart A Selber. Solving Problems in Technical Communication. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Print.
  • Brereton, John C, and Margaret A. Mansfield. Writing on the Job. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. Print.
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