Guest visit: concepts in technical writing

The only way to communicate
is to understand what it is like
not to understand.

Richard Saul Wurman, co-founder of TED

Prep for today (assigned readings):


  • Based on your understanding of the readings, how would you explain or define the Curse of Knowledge? How does it apply to technical writing?
  • What problem(s) does Cooper describe in this reading? What does he mean by the phrase “the inmates are running the asylum”? Can you relate to any of the examples in this chapter on a personal level? How so (or, if not, why not)?  What connections do you see between this reading and the “Curse of Knowledge” readings?

Today’s agenda:

  1. Introductions
  2. Warm-up writing | discussion: “curse of knowledge” and tech writing
  3. Handout (cookies)
    – time for individual markup
    – concepts: SME’s, tacit knowledge, domain knowledge
    – sort into groups by experience
  4. In groups: complete task, assign a note-taker to record your analysis and ideas for revision. Be prepared to report to the class about your analysis.
  5. Concepts:
    – context of use
    – historical context (the PC; more recently, mobile)
    – user analysis and task orientation
  6. Writing instructions  – task orientation – trying it out
    User analysis


Other resources:

Journals on technical communication:

– title
– intro
tool, supplies
– step by step instructions
— imperative mood (command)
— present tense
— action / result
telegrams, should