Introduction

Abstract

There are four main topics addressed in this book: professional ethics, technical writing, presentation skills, and online writing. These topics and the intended audience of Information Technology (IT) professionals and others working in technical disciplines define the scope of the book. Although there are at least a couple of chapters devoted to each of these topics, the material about these topics is woven throughout the book, because there is overlap among them. In the next four sections of this introductory chapter, the author provides an overview of approach to professional ethics, technical writing, presentation skills, and online writing. The goal throughout this book is to provide the IT professional with practical techniques, suggestions, and advice that can be immediately applied to improve skills in these four fundamental areas. For example, after reading the chapter on ethics, one will have a foundation and a framework on which to base ethical decisions, and one will have worked through a number of ethical scenarios. In this chapter, the author motivates each of these subjects by providing a section on who should read this book and a section that summarizes the contents of this book.
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Approach To Technical Writing

What is technical writing? In the context of this book we define technical writing as written communication in the fields of science or technology that is performed by subject matter experts. Such writing includes computer-system documentation, a research paper, instructions, a manual, or a user specification. We also include many other types of documents that present information in a technical manner. The writing style in technical writing is more prescriptive than in creative writing. In technical writing we are not so much concerned about entertaining the audience as we are about conveying specific information to our readers in a concise and precise manner. Such writing needs to flow in a logical manner. Although the goal is to convey information, we do not want to bore the reader. Thus the writing needs to be tasteful and suitable for one’s audience. Technical writing requires specific knowledge about a field such as biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, information technology, mathematics, physics, and so on, that is, it requires a subject matter expert.

The origins of technical writing are not clear. When people needed to communicate difficult concepts about technical issues, a new writing style emerged. The first computer algorithm ever written down was by a Persian mathematician named al-Khwārizmī, and one can see the origins of the word ‘algorithm’ in his name (Wikipedia, 2011). Surely, al-Khwārizmī’s algorithm from the 800s must be considered as technical writing. Throughout the second millennium, mathematicians and scientists were regularly making new discoveries and describing their experiments and results in their writings. Their writing was technical writing. As advances in science, mathematics, and computing continued and became more complex in the 1900s, technical writing developed in order to keep pace. “In 1953, two organizations concerned with improving the practice of technical communication were founded in the United States of America: the Society of Technical Writers, and the Association of Technical Writers and Editors” (Wikipedia 2, 2011). At that time technical writing emerged as a discipline. Now technical writing is taught as a class at many institutions throughout the world.

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