Rebecca E. Burnett, Lisa Dusenberry, Andy Frazee, Joy Robinson, and Rebecca Weaver
What do accountants, architects, astrophysicists, biomedical engineers, computer scientists, economists, mechanical engineers, NGO organizers, and military officers have in common? All create and interpret technical communication—written documents, oral presentations, and visuals. What do the silicon chips, prostheses, wetlands conservation, robotics, food banks, and solar panels have in common? All are subjects of technical communication, a broad field that touches every profession, connecting ideas, people, and actions.
- Correspondence (e.g., letters, memos, email, phone calls, conference calls)
- Instructions, procedures, and troubleshooting guides
- Interviews (e.g., interviewer, interviewee, job, information)
- Job application packets (organizational analysis, cover letter, resumes, responses to conventional interview questions)
- Manuals (e.g., policies, tasks, operations)
- Proposals (both solicited and unsolicited)
- Press releases
- Marketing campaigns (e.g., radio spots, brochures, billboards)
- Meeting management (e.g., agendas, minutes, Skype, Hangout)
- Memos of understanding
- Oral presentations (e.g., Pecha kuchas, training demos, teams)
- Posters (e.g., safety, scientific)
- PowerPoints and Prezis
- Reports (e.g., analytical, progress, recommendation, trip, usability)
- Social media presence (e.g., blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
- Visuals (e.g., types, including tables, graphs, maps, diagrams, photos; titles, captions, and in-text references)
- Videos (e.g., training, documentary, surveillance)
- Websites (e.g., marketing, organization)
- White papers
- Project planning (e.g. Gantt charts)
Figure 1.Typical artifacts created by students in technical communication classes.
- Accuracy matters—Is everything correct? No exceptions.
- Conventions matter—Are written, oral, visual, and nonverbal conventions respected? So, for example, all misspellings and grammar and punctuation errors must be eliminated. Words must be pronounced conventionally. Mislabeled graphs and distorted figure scales must be fixed. Design conventions apply to both print and digital artifacts.
- Accessibility matters—Can the audience access the information, technologically as well as physically? The print needs to be large enough for audience to see the information. The sound needs to be audible and crystal clear. The digital links need to work.
- Comprehensibility matters—Does the information make sense to the intended audience? The vocabulary and images explaining the concepts must be adapted to the intended audience(s). The argument must be logically presented and well-supported with credible, well-documented evidence.
- Usability matters—Is the information usable? Just because a document or website is accurate and attractive doesn’t mean it is usable for the intended audience. Can users find the information they need? Is the navigation clear and easy to use?
Figure 2. Criteria for successful artifacts in technical communication