Dr. Mark Jordan ~ ENGL 2311: Technical Writing
Chapter Summaries: Chpts. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six
These chapters are "overview" chapters. Taken together, all amount to a detailed discussion of this remark, taken from the Preface to the 9th edition of this text:
Dr. Mark Jordan ~ ENGL 2311: Technical Writing
Chapter Summaries: Chpt. Fourteen,
Below you will find a study aid for visuals. This study aid is not so much a summary of Chapter Fourteen, actually, but rather it is my summary of several general ways to produce visuals of whatever type.
Ways to Produce Visuals
I am familiar with several ways to produce visuals; others may exist. Those I am familiar with, to one extent or another, are using CAD (computer automated drawing) software, copying noncopywrited clipart from the Web, scanning existing images, photocopying existing images, and creating simple visuals with readily available, "low-technology" tools.
Using CAD Software
If this is the option you choose, presumably you own the software and so know how to use it. Of course, to use this option you must have such software on your own computer. If you have such software but are unfamiliar with it, your best resource is the documentation which presumably came with it, or else the help function which should be accessible from the main menu of the program.
Note: it is quite possible that your word processing program itself contains rudimentary CAD features which might be all you require to produce simple but effective visuals. Check your documentation or check for access to available Toolbars which you may not have noticed because you have not needed them.
Copying Clipart from the World Wide Web
Much public domain, uncopywrited clipart is available on the Web. While it is true that much of this material is more focused on general website construction and so would not be useful for specific technical writing documents, that might not always be the case. Also, it might be possible to access a website for a particular field or product and copy a diagram or other visual which would be specifically useful for your document. Even though these images are copywrite-protected, fair use as it is usually interpreted permits them to be copied for academic work so long as in your caption for the visual, you credit your source.
On most systems, it is possible to copy web graphics simply by pointing your mouse at the desired image and right-clicking. You should see a small menu appear which will contain, among other options, the choice to save the image to your harddrive as a gif or jpeg file.
Once that is accomplished, it should be possible with most current word processor programs to integrate the image into a text file without too much trouble. On MS Word 97, these are the steps. They will be similar for other word processing programs:
(1) First, locate a suitable visual and save it.
(2) Second, copy the image.
(3) Next, paste the image into your document file.
(4) Last, modify the image as to size, location, etc.
Note: The above procedure is similar in most ways to integrating a scanned image into a text file.
Scanning Existing Images
That brings us to the next option, using scanned images. Obviously, you must have access to a scanner in order to use this alternative. Our lab in WH206 on the OC campus has one, and you may have access to a scanner at your place of business, or even at your home.
This option is in many ways the best alternative of all. It allows you to photocopy any image from, for example, a textbook, magazine, or company procedures manual, convert that image to a digital image file, and place the image within your document text file. This way, you have sophisticated electronic access to pre-existing visuals which are specifically appropriate for your document. As with copywrited images from the Web, fair use permits them to be copied for academic work so long as you give credit to the source in the caption of your visual.
The scanner in Wilkerson Hall is an Epson Perfection 636 model. The following instructions are based on that scanner, but other brands will be more or less similar in many cases. Here are the steps:
(1) Set up the document and access the scanner.
(2) Adust the scanner settings and scan the document.
(3) Do preliminary editing of the image (selecting exact image area desired, cropping, modifying background or image itself, etc.) and then copy it.
(4) Next, paste the image into your document file. (Note that these last two steps are identical to the last two steps for incorporating an image copied from the Web.)
(5) Last, modify the image as to size, location, etc.
Photocopying Existing Images
You can also use existing visuals without need of access to a scanner, simply by using a good quality photocopier. You will also need some scissors--or, better, a straightedge and an Xacto knife--and some double-stick Scotch-type tape. If you have located a suitable visual, integrate it into your document by following these steps:
(1) Decide where you will place the visual in your document. Desired size has a bearing on this; even more important is to keep the visual as close to related text as possible. Worst choice: On a separate page "tacked on" to the end of your document. Frequent best choice if using only a single visual: Either at the very end of the Introduction--often at the bottom of page one--or at the very beginning of the Main Body, usually at the top of page two. If you are using a "tall and skinny" visual, a columnar arrangement works well, with text on the left and visual on the right.
(2) Locate a high quality photocopier which can reproduce the visual without either deleting fine lines or detail, and without adding dark smudges. Your choice of visual counts here. Worst choices: Photos, multicolored visuals (especially with light-colored inks), any very "busy" visuals. Best choices: Black ink on white background, crisp lines, with needed details but not overwhelming amounts of detail. Tables of data, black-on-white charts, flowcharts, black-on-white diagrams or line drawings all reproduce very well.
(3) Compose a rough draft of the appropriate page of your document where you will place the visual. Go ahead and compose a title, a number (if more than one visual), an explanatory caption if more explanation is needed beyond the title, and a credit line if the image is from a copyrited source. Locate these items, at this point, simply by estimating where they need to be. You can fine-tune their location later. Also note that the title and perhaps others of these elements may already be included in the existing visual. Note that any later changes to this draft whatsoever will require you to go through the entire following procedure again, unless you do not actually attach the visual (Step Five) until the draft is finalized.
Most importantly, allow enough room for the visual itself. You can do this either by simply hitting "Enter" repeatedly or, if the visual will be at the bottom of a page, insert a page break at the end of the text, and this will leave the rest of the page blank. If you desire columnar placement, you can utilize the columns feature if your word processor has that, or you can manually create an empty right-hand column simply by pressing "Enter" and ending each line approximately halfway across the page.
(4) Make several copies of your desired visual, perhaps of different sizes, so you don't have to return to the copier repeatedly. Whether to use the image at full size or whether to reduce or enlarge it can be decided once you have chosen its location, and is simplest if you have already printed a draft of the appropriate page of your document (steps 2 and 3). If there is a suitable work area available, note that you can do Step Five while you are still at the copier, thus saving a return trip.
(5) Is your draft finalized, at least far enough for your complete rough draft submission? If so, now attach the visual to the appropriate document page. Do this by first cutting it to a suitable size. Scissors will work, but a straightedge (any ruler) and an Xacto or safety razor blade are better. This is because straight cuts will not only photocopy better, but will enable you to more easily "square" the visual with the page.
After you have cut the photocopy of the visual to size, turn it over and carefully place a short strip of double-stick clear tape in each corner. Then just as carefully, position the visual properly and press it down, being careful to get it positioned as square to the text as possible and also perfectly flat, without ripples, creases, or folded corners.
(6) Next, photocopy the page with the visual attached, to achieve a clean, professional copy. Never turn in a final draft with the visual only taped to the page! If you are doing this for a rough draft which will be faxed, while it is true that the fax machine will produce a similar result as the photocopier, most faxes have auto-feed, so it is still better to make this photocopy rather than putting the page with the taped-on visual through your fax machine. That could create a paper jam in the fax machine.
(7) Lastly, check your finished page for neatness.
This last feature is also the test for the quality of your chosen photocopier, because you are making a second-generation photocopy (a copy of a copy), and if the copy quality is mediocre or poor, the image will deteriorate badly. On the other hand, if you began with a good crisp image, worked carefully, and had access to a quality photocopier, your result will be indistinguishable from professionally produced work.
Creating "Low-Tech" Visuals
Many students do not have CAD programs. Additionally, there will be documents for which you need a visual but for which you know of no suitable pre-existing visual for scanning or photocopying. In such cases, it is often possible to produce a simple but useful visual using nothing but inexpensive tools which are easily acquired, coupled with meticulous effort. This method can be used when you have no other way to produce a suitable visual. Using this method you can produce simple flowcharts, pie charts, graphs, tables of figures or information, and depending on your skill level, perhaps even line drawings or diagrams.
Follow these steps below to produce the visual, then follow the steps of the previous procedure in order to integrate it. Reguired tools are the previously mentioned straightedge, blade, and tape, and additionally you will need a high quality, black, razor-tip marker and if possible a plastic, inexpensive draftsman's tool possessing several templates for drawing circles, right angles, and other simple geometric figures. (These can be bought at most office supplies).
(1) Unless you are highly talented as an artist or draftsman, keep the concept of your visual simple. This means you should stick to such type visuals as flowcharts (text within boxes), tables (text or data in columns and rows), or very simple line drawings utilizing basic geometric shapes like squares or rectangles.
(2) Begin with some rough sketches on scratch paper. If you will use basic geometric shapes like rectangles or circles, just rough them out to get an idea as to size and placement on the page. Also, decide whether your visual will require text within it, or whether it can be a simple line drawing or diagram.
(3) If your chosen visual is a line drawing or diagram requiring no text other than a title or caption, attempt a final draft using the straightedge and/or drafting tool to produce the desired shapes. Work directly with the razor-tip marker; do not try to first pencil in a drawing or shape. When producing straight lines, always use a straightedge rather than drawing freehand; when producing standard geometric shapes, use the draftsman's template or other geometric shape template, rather than drawing freehand. You may choose to print out a copy of the page which will hold the visual and then draw directly onto that page in the appropriate place, or you may choose to construct the visual on a separate sheet of paper and then attach it to the page using the double-stick tape.
(4a) If your visual requires additional text within it, you have several options. One option is to first produce the text, either by hand or on your word processor, and then draw the shapes around the text. Either way you produce the text, you must first consider the shape it must fit within. If you produce the text by hand lettering, use the straightedge as a base for each character as you letter it, so that your text is not uneven. However, a better result can be obtained if you type the required text on your word processor, manually ending each line at a suitable length to fit within whatever size and shape geometric framing figure you have chosen. (Sans-serif fonts are suitable for this use, perhaps in 9 or 10 point size. ) Then print out the text.
Now, carefully draw your chosen geometric figure(s) for a frame around the text. If you are using geometric shapes like squares or circles, carefully build them around the printed text, either with the draftsman's tool (carefully tracing a circle with it, for example) or by equally carefully using the straightedge and/or a right angle template from the draftsman's tool, if it has that feature.
Dr. Mark Jordan ~ ENGL 2311: Technical Writing
Chapter Summaries: Chpt. Fifteen,
Designing Pages and Documents
This chapter is in a sense the most important one in the text. That is because it presents all the various formatting features which are common to all technical documents, no matter what specialized use the document is intended for. So these features are fundamental to this course. You will be expected to learn to use them. Study this chapter with this use in mind--first on an open-book quiz, then on the various assigned documents of the course.
Page Design in Workplace Writing
Page design determines the look of a page, the layout of words and graphics. An audience's first impression tends to be a purely visual, esthetic judgment. Well-designed pages invite users in, guide them through the material, and help them understand and remember it. Page design is important because of the following realities about reading and writing in the workplace:
Instead of an unbroken sequence of paragraphs, users look for charts, diagrams, lists, various typesizes and fonts, different headings, and other aids to navigation.
Busy users often only skim a document, or they refer to certain sections during a meeting or presentation. Amid frequent distractions, people must be able to leave the document and return to it easily.
If they have easier ways of getting the information, people will use them.
People resist any document that appears overwhelming. They expect a usable design that announces how the document is organized, where they are in the document, which items matter most, and how the items relate.
The norm in today's business world is for employees to utilize desktop publishing capabilities to take charge of all stages in document prep: word processing, typesetting, graphics, and overall design. For this reason, you need to know all aspects of document formatting.
Creating a Usable Design
What follows are all the crucial features of document design.
Shaping the overall look of the page includes the following elements:
Use black ink and standard white 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper for routine documents. For more important documents, use "ragbond" paper, which has some cotton fiber added, and is normally identifiable by a watermark. If you are unsure whether colored ink or paper is appropriate, assume it is not.
Avoid dot-matrix printers if possible; instead rely on inkjet or laser printers. Beware of removing sheets too quickly from inkjet printers, as the ink will smear. If your only resource is a typewriter rather than a word processor, make sure it is in top shape and the keys are clean.
Don't neglect to number your pages, starting with the first text page (more later on using Roman numerals for pages prior to the first page of text). Ideally, learn how to number using a header or footer, which is an extra line in the top or bottom margin, usually in smaller type, and often not only providing the page number but the author's name and/or an abbreviated title.
Readers make sense of a page by looking for a predictable and consistent underlying structure, with the various elements located where they expect. By subdividing a page (or screen) into square and rectangular modules, a grid helps you organize your layout. Options are a vertical grid (two columns), a horizontal grid (corresponding usually to the paragraphs of text on the page), or a combined grid using both layouts on different parts of the page--perhaps a page-wide paragraph followed by columns, for instance.
White space is all the space not filled by text or images. Use white space to divide a document into small, digestible chunks. Here are three uses:
Narrow margins crowd the page, making the material look difficult, and leaving no room for any possible annotations by the reader. Standard margins are one to one and 1/4 inches all around. In some cases, it is permissible for visual images to use narrower margins as a way to help set them off from the text and also to allow for them to be larger and clearer.
You should also be aware of the choice between a justified or unjustified margin. A justified margin makes the right-hand margin even; an unjustified margin leaves a "ragged right" margin. I much prefer the unjustified , ragged right type margin.
Assuming standard margins, the number of words per line is determined by the size of the type font. Standard size for normal use in sentences and paragraphs is 12 point, which gives nine to twelve words per line with standard margins.
Line spacing is the number of blank lines left between lines of text or other elements. In technical writing, unlike most academic writing, single spacing is standard within the paragraphs of the text. Double space to signal the beginning of another paragraph, instead of indenting the first line.
Learn to begin each paragraph with a topic sentence. For a useful review in this and overall paragraph organization, go to my ENGL 1301 site at the Three-Part Format link.
Also, learn to avoid orphans and widows. An orphan is when you leave a paragraph's first line by itself at the bottom of a page; a widow is when you leave the last line of a paragraph by itself at the top of a page. Another type of orphan is leaving the heading of a paragraph at the bottom of a page; avoid these as well.
Rely on vertical lists, rather than standard sentence format, whenever you have a sequence of items to communicate. There are two main types of lists. If the items require a certain sequence, then use a numbered list. If they don't, use a bulleted list, such as was used earlier in this chapter summary. Here, in a bulleted list, are other characteristics of both types of list:
In styling words and letters, consider typographic choices that will make the text easy to read.
Type sizes commonly used in a document run from nine point to twenty-four point; there is some variance to the same size among different fonts, also. Standard size for text (sentences and paragraphs) is from ten to twelve, usually twelve. Larger sizes are commonly used for headings and subheadings, with the larger sizes reserved for the more important headings, such as those signalling the introduction, main body, and conclusion, or other similarly significant sections. Smaller sizes are sometimes used for captions for visuals and for headers or footers. It is very important to use the same size type consistently for similar elements.
A font, or typeface, is the style of individual letters and characters. Each font has its own personality or look, and so can influence the way readers greet your ideas; font choice can also affect reading speed by as much as 30%. There are two main categories, used in differing ways by countless fonts. These categories are serif and sans serif. Serif fonts (such as Times New Roman or Palatino) feature, on each character, very tiny lines, usually horizontal, extending from the ends or peaks of the main strokes of a letter. Sans-serif fonts (such as Geneva or Helvetica) lack these tiny lines. It is generally agreed that a serif font increases reading speed because the tiny horizontal lines lead the reader's eye from letter to letter. Below are some guidelines for choosing fonts for a document:
Although all caps is at times desirable for headings or for emphasis, it makes for difficult reading in the sentences of your main text. This is because the characters are all of the same height, and thus lack the distinctions which make it easier for the eye to flow from letter to letter.
Various sorts of highlighting can help the reader tell what parts of a document are more important. Kinds of highlighting usually available are bold, italics, underscore, FULL CAPS, and others; they may also be used in combination. Other word processing features which can be used along with these kinds of highlighting are changing type size, changing fonts, using color,enclosing words within a box (as the note at the beginning of this link), or including graphic images which catch the attention and may also help characterize the nature of the message, such as a red stop sign by a warning. However, it is important not to get carried away and make a page too busy with highlighting, or the purpose of clear emphasis of selected crucial elements is defeated.
The use of headings and subheadings is perhaps the most important difference between technical documents and most academic documents (though they can be used to advantage there too). They are also perhaps the most difficult feature for many students to understand. Yet learning to use them is important, because headings are the main feature which allows a busy reader to meaningfully jump about in a document. Headings clearly show organization and help break the document into easily digestible chunks. They also help readers remember information. Below are the main features of headings and subheadings.
Try to word your headings informatively rather than using overly vague or general wording. For example, "How to Format your Document" is better than "Document Formatting" because the first wording makes it clear that step-by-step instructions will be given; the second wording is more vague. Specifically, three different useful types of phrasings are as topic headings (just a key word or several: "Usable Page Design"); as statement headings (longer, using a complete sentence or at least a complete, explicit phrase: "How to Create a Usable Page Design"); or as questions ("How Do I Create a Usable Page Design?").
Focus the heading on a specific topic; for example, write "The Effects of Acid Rain" rather than just "Acid Rain." Also, make your use of headings more comprehensive by using a heading for every major section (usually three) and subheadings for the subsections within them. Headings and subheadings can be adapted from the outline you have used to write your document.
Like items in lists, similar headings--headings for one level of your outline, like introduction, body, and conclusion--should match grammatically. That is, if one heading within a certain level (see the explanation of levels of headings below) is a question, then word all similar headings as questions; if one heading is just a noun and a few modifiers, do other similar headings that way; if one is mainly a verb, do other similar ones that way.
As mentioned above, you should use headings and subheadings for each level of your document, working if possible from your outline. For example, the main body should have a heading, but its various sections should also have subheadings. So to avoid confusing the reader, it is very important that all headings or subheadings of the same level of importance should be visually identical in regards to font, size, and type of emphasis. In other words, the introduction, body, and conclusion headings should match each other visually; the subheadings for the sections of the main body should also match each other, but should be less emphatic than for those of the introduction, body, and conclusion.
The most important feature of headings is to give a different look to each level of heading and subheading, reserving the greatest emphasis for the most important headings, normally those used for the introduction, body, and conclusion. So while headings of the same level should be identical, visually speaking, headings of decreasingly important levels should be decreasingly less emphasized. In contrast to your book's method of labeling these different levels of headings, I like to describe them this way (notice I am also illustrating the use of decreasing visual emphasis):
Dr. Mark Jordan ~ ENGL 2311: Technical Writing
Chapter Summary: Chapter Nineteen, Letters and Employment Correspondence
Elements of Usable Letters
Though most letters should be no more than one page in length (if you expect anyone to read them!), writing a professional-looking, effective letter is not as easy as it may seem. Over the years I have taught this course, I frankly have not read very many effective letters written by my students, so this Fall 2003 semester I have decided to emphasize letter writing more. Specifically, I am assigning only three major document assignments rather than four as in the past, with the tradeoff being that you will write two or perhaps three letters with each of those major document assignments, and/or several letters independent of the major documents. As you can see in my Course Requirements within the Syllabus link, these letters will count, together, as 15% of your course grade. With that in mind, here you can begin to study both the standard format of a professional letter and its rhetorical design (how you word it).
Note: This chapter summary on letters is only a stopgap measure. You will need to read the chapter itself. This summary, because it is only a summary, omits some information without which you may not fully understand the format or rhetorical design of a letter. Also, there is one confusing element to the model letter I have supplied below: elements such as the inside address and return address look double-spaced here on my web page, but that is deceiving; they are SINGLE-SPACED, with a double space between those elements, not within them. This confusing layout is unavoidable due to my fairly old HTML editing software. So I repeat, please read Chapter 19 from your book itself!
Here are the basic characteristics of virtually any letter you may write:
Below you can see the basic layout of these elements in the block style, the simpler of the two styles. The borders in the format below are intended to show the edges of a sheet of paper and the side margins; of course, there is no ruled side margin line on your actual typing paper. Also realize that the names of the elements, seen below in the left margin, do not appear in the letter itself.
Following this layout sample are explanations for each element. Note also that there are some useful specialized elements, such as an attention line for use when you do not know the individual recipient's name but do know the title or department. These are discussed in your textbook.
Interpersonal considerations in Workplace Letters
Inquiry Letters, Claim Letters, andResumes / Job Applications
These various types of letters have fairly subtle nuances; you will need to read about them in your textbook itself.
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