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1 Introduction TP

By Ashley Morales,2014-07-05 11:12
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1 Introduction TP

    Chapter 1

    Introduction to Technical Communication

    What is technical communication (or TC for short)? To put it in a simple way, TC means the effective exchange of information at work工作中的有效信息交流. To make it clearer, TC is the art

    and craft of communicating technical information appropriately and persuasively to intended audiences, in complex contexts, and for particular purposes.

    Although technical communication has existed as long as people have recorded information, it developed rapidly as a profession only during the second half of the twentieth century. TC was initially defined as writing that dealt primarily with scientific and technical information, but today subject matter is no longer sufficient to define TC. In fact, TC now concerns with the effective information exchange not only in the fields of natural sciences and technology, but also in the fields of social sciences, including politics, economy and culture, even the more traditional art and literature.

I. Importance of Technical Communication

    The rapid advancement of science and technology has brought great changes to human life ever since the second half of the last century. Formerly, technology was mainly used by engineers and experts, but now non-technical occupations are more and more involved in technology. Office managers, political activists, small business owners, salespeople, journalists and many others have

    all seen how technology transform their day-to-day activities. Nowadays computers and computer controlled machines are being used in every profession that virtually every person in every field has to learn to use certain kind of technology.

    Along with the rapid development of technology is the explosion in the amount and variety of technical documents, combined with the fact that they are being read by a broader audience than ever before. Whether to make important business or personal decisions or merely to stay informed, the average person today must read a wide variety of technical material, such as computer tutorials, instruction manuals for home appliances and office machines, news reports on chemical hazards, economic forecasts, and articles on medical advances, etc. Therefore, if you want to be successful in your career, you must learn to communicate technical information effectively.

II. Three Essential Criteria of Technical Communication专业信息交流的三项基本标准

    Our age is rightly called an age of information because huge amount of information comes to us continuously at an amazing speed. It is difficult for anyone to handle so much information even in his or her own field. Therefore, we need effective ways to find out the right message quickly from the sea of information and read it quickly.

    Since technology has got into peoples daily life and work, the vast users of technical

    information are now non-professionals. Common people can not understand technical documents written in a professional way. They want these documents to be easy to understand and easy to use. Therefore the effective methods of technical communication should enable people, especially general readers, to find out the required information quickly (accessibility), to understand the

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    information easily (comprehensibility) and to use the information correctly (usability). These are the three essential criteria of technical communication.

1. Accessibility,信息的!可获得性

    Accessibility means easy to find. In more detail, it means to enable readers to get the required message quickly and accurately, especially from a large amount of information. Now let us compare two pieces of writing of the same contents but with different organization, and see which is easier for readers to catch the right information quickly.

Figure 1-1 Wall of Words

    Effective Reading Strategies

    Reading is not simply looking at words on a page, figuring out their meanings, and stringing them together. It is

    a complex process and has less to do with interpreting the meanings of words than with the way readers interpret

    meaning in particular situations. How well people read has a great deal to do with previous knowledge and reading

    strategies. Researchers have a number of theories about how people read, but most accept the following strategies as critical in effective reading: identifying structure and hierarchy, distinguishing main points, and drawing inferences.

    Technical documents usually have a clear and identifiable structure and hierarchy. This structure and hierarchy

    of contents can often be identified by recognizing genre characteristics. A genre is a category of writing marked by a

    distinctive style, form, or content. For example, the abstract of an original research paper usually includes the following parts in sequence: Background; Purpose; Methods; Results; and Conclusions. You are likely to read

    abstracts more quickly and with greater comprehension if you anticipate their elements and structure, and this is also

    true of other kinds of documents you read if you have knowledge of their genre. A paragraph in technical writing is

    generally composed of two kinds of sentences: a topic sentence that states the main points and several supporting

    sentences that help readers understand the relationships among ideas in a paragraph. Sometimes the main points are

    easy to distinguish because the writer has constructed the document so that topic sentences clearly signal the main points. Sometimes, however, the main points may not be clearly marked by any visual cues, and you must be able to

    distinguish the topic sentence from supporting sentences in a paragraph to find out the main points. The following

    guidelines are used to identify the topic sentence. The topic sentence provides the main idea or the topic of the

    paragraph while supporting sentences give detailed explanations to support the topic sentence. The topic sentence

    introduces new information into the paragraph while supporting sentences provide information that is already known.

    The topic sentence is usually more general in meaning while supporting sentences are more specific in meaning. Although technical writing values straightforward expressions, not everything that you learn from a text is clearly

    stated. Therefore, you should be able to draw inferences. You should be able to understand the implied meaning of

    certain expression and make connections and draw conclusions beyond the words and visuals that are presented. Three specific strategies will help: identify the implied assumptions on which you believe the document is basedwhat is assumed but not clearly stated; extend the ideas to discover reasonable but unstated

    implicationswhat is implied but not clearly stated; reflect on the effect of the implicationswhat is possible but not

    clearly stated.

    The writing in Figure 1-1 is designed in traditional paragraphs. It uses the same font type字体,

    font size字号, and the same line space行距 without any information indicating labels信息标志.

    Readers have to read it sentence by sentence from beginning to end to get the main idea. It is a slow and time-consuming process.

Figure 1-2 Information Map

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    Effective Reading Strategies

Reading is not simply looking at words on a page, figuring out their meanings, and stringing them together. It is a

    complex process and has less to do with interpreting the meanings of words than with the way readers interpret meaning in particular situations. How well people read has a great deal to do with previous knowledge and reading

    strategies. Researchers have a number of theories about how people read, but most accept the following strategies as

    critical in effective reading: identifying structure and hierarchy, distinguishing main points, and drawing inferences.

Identifying Structure and Hierarchy

    Technical documents usually have a clear and identifiable structure and hierarchy. This structure and hierarchy of

    contents can often be identified by recognizing genre characteristics. A genre is a category of writing marked by a

    distinctive style, form, or content. For example, the abstract of an original research paper usually includes the following parts in sequence: Background; Purpose; Methods; Results; and Conclusions. You are likely to read

    abstracts more quickly and with greater comprehension if you anticipate their elements and structure, and this is also

    true of other kinds of documents you read if you have knowledge of their genre.

Distinguishing Main Points

    A paragraph in technical writing is generally composed of two kinds of sentences: a topic sentence that states the

    main points and several supporting sentences that help readers understand the relationships among ideas in a paragraph. Sometimes the main points are easy to distinguish because the writer has constructed the document so that topic sentences clearly signal the main points. Sometimes, however, the main points may not be clearly marked by

    any visual cues, and you must be able to distinguish the topic sentence from supporting sentences in a paragraph to

    find out the main points. The following guidelines are used to identify the topic sentence.

    ; The topic sentence provides the main idea or the topic of the paragraph while supporting sentences give

    detailed explanations to support the topic sentence.

    ; The topic sentence introduces new information into the paragraph while supporting sentences provide

   &n