Writing Technical Instructions
- Resources & Preparation
- Instructional Plan
- Related Resources
Learning to write technical instructions is challenging. Writers must consider audience, purpose, context, length, and complexity—plus the specific content of the instructions, such as the steps in using a stapler. In this lesson, students walk through the process of creating technical instructions by first analyzing existing instructions. They then select an item and an audience for which they will write technical instructions. After writing their own instructions, students conduct usability tests of each other's instructions, providing user feedback. Finally, students use this user feedback to revise their instructions before publishing them.
Analyzing Technical Instructions : Students can use the questions on this handout as a guide when they analyze sample technical instructions. Technical Instructions Planning Sheet : This handout explains the process for working with a partner to plan the technical instructions they will write. Conducting a Usability Test : This handout includes instructions for testing the technical instructions students have written.
From Theory to Practice
Teaching students how to write technical instructions helps them see that "to write, to engage in any communication, is to participate in a community; to write well is to understand the conditions of one's own participation-the concepts, values, traditions, and style which permit identification with that community and determine the success or failure of communication" (Miller 22). Similarly, in discussing finding meaningful writing activities for the English classroom, Weber writes: "The technical writing approach is one of many avenues to this goal. It engages my students in the total communications process: creating, planning, writing, editing, presenting, listening, sharing, and evaluating." Understanding discourse communities requires students to analyze the audience for a written work, and learning to write instructions is one such way students can learn about both audience analysis and technical writing. This lesson works toward building students' understanding of the importance their writing has on real audiences. Further Reading
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Sample technical instructions (Manuals, user guides, etc.)
- Household items for writing instructions
- Access to computer with Internet connection, Microsoft Word or Publisher, and printer
- Large white paper (Chart-sized sticky notes work well for hanging items on wall)
- Digital camera (optional)
- Analyzing Technical Instructions
- Sample Technical Instructions Rubric
- Technical Instructions Planning Sheet
- Visually Drafting Your Instructions
- Using ReadWriteThink Notetaker to Draft Instructions
- Conducting a Usability Test
- Collect a variety of written technical instructions for household items for students to use to analyze. Try to collect both effective and ineffective examples. Examples are also available online, at the Websites listed in the Resources section . Review the examples to familiarize yourself with their features and effectiveness.
- Prepare three or four examples of effective and ineffective written technical instructions, using those you gathered or online examples, to be shown on an overhead or a document camera.
- Make sure students have access to computer labs during sessions two through five.
- Prepare copies of all handouts for distribution in class.
- Test the Notetaker on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- analyze technical instructions to learn what makes them effective or ineffective for an audience.
- analyze and describe the audience for a set of instructions, noting what that audience needs from that document.
- understand the difference between technical writing and other genres of writing.
- use document and audience analysis, drafting, peer response/user feedback, and revision to create effective technical instructions.
- reflect on their writing process, noting how this assignment will be useful to them in future writing.
- Ask students to talk about their experiences reading and using different types of written texts.
- How are these different?
- How do these genres speak to different audiences?
- How do these types of writing work toward different purposes?
- Ask students to focus on technical writing as a genre and to brainstorm the different kinds of written instructions they have seen or used in the past. Record their responses on the board or an overhead transparency.
- What were they using the instructions for?
- How helpful were they?
- What were the best parts of the instructions?
- What parts were difficult or hard to use?
- What did they do if they had trouble using the instructions?
- Arrange the class in groups of two to four students each, and give each group a set of instructions from those that you gathered. If the class meets in a computer classroom, share the links to instructions included in the Resources section.
- Pass out copies of the Analyzing Technical Instructions , and ask students to analyze their instructions and record their observations on the handout.
- When students complete their analysis, bring the class together and have each group report on their set of instructions.
- On a sheet of chart paper, make a list of the top five effective and top five ineffective things students noticed about the instructions.
- Hang this paper on the wall in the classroom for reference during the next three class sessions.
- Ask students to bring one common household item to the next class session. Explain that students will write their own instructions for the item, so they should bring items that do not already have written instructions.
- Brainstorm and discuss with students what would make good items and what would be too complex.
- Encourage them to bring items that are not overly complex but not too simple either. Examples may include a stapler, clock, paper punch, flashlight, mechanical pencil, etc. Students should be able to write instructions for operating 2–3 features of the item. (For example, how to use a stapler and how to replace staples when cartridge is empty.) Encourage students to be creative in their choices.
- Gather some extra items from the classroom or your home before the next session so you have options for students who forget to bring items.
- Review the top five effective and ineffective things about technical instructions from previous session with the class.
- Spend more time with this topic, asking students to create a rubric determining what makes technical documents effective or ineffective. Use the Sample Technical Instructions Rubric as a model or starting point for the task.
- Ask students to take out their household item, and spend five minutes freewriting about why they chose that item and how difficult it may or may not be to write instructions for it.
- Arrange students in pairs, and ask them to share the item they brought and their thoughts from the freewriting.
- Have students interview each other, using the Technical Instructions Planning Sheet to take notes about each other’s items.
- Once interviews are complete, have students begin drafting their instructions. Give them large pieces of white paper for them to design, or mock up, their rough drafts.
- Pass out copies or share an overhead transparency of the Visually Drafting Your Instructions sheet. Explain that students will draw separate boxes for each part of the item they want their instructions to cover, following the information on the handout.
- Demonstrate how to use the ReadWriteThink Notetaker to document the steps in instructions, sharing the Using ReadWriteThink Notetaker to Draft Instructions handout with the class.
- Have students use their notes on the Planning Sheet and their copies of the Visually Drafting Your Instructions handout to begin writing. Students can use the Notetaker to draft their instructions.
- After students have outlined their instructions using Notetaker , ask them to print their work. Work cannot be saved in the Notetaker .
- For homework, ask students to continue drafting their outlines using the Notetaker . Students should bring printed copies of Notetaker outlines to next session.
- Review outlines created using ReadWriteThink Notetaker with students.
- Ask students to discuss how they will organize their notes into instructions, how many pages they will need, whether they need to include pictures to illustrate instructions.
- The Process of Writing a Technical Manual
- Instructions: How to Write for Busy, Grouchy People
- After students review the site, ask them to write down three things they learned that they will consider as they write their own instructions.
- Invite students to share their observations and discuss the advice as a whole class.
- Review the expectations for the project using the rubric students created during the previous session. Answer any questions that students have about the project.
- Explain the options that students have for creating polished drafts of their work. Point out the available software (e.g., Microsoft Word, Publisher) that students can use to type and format their instructions. (Depending on the class, instructors may need to instruct students on using the software to do this).
- inserting Clip Art images.
- drawing diagrams of their items using the computer or drawing by hand.
- labeling parts or connecting the diagrams to the instructions.
- importing images taken with a digital camera.
- Ask students to print copies of their instructions when finished.
- If additional time is needed, ask students to finish drafting their instructions for homework.
- Remind students to bring a copy of their instructions and the related item to the next class.
- Students will bring a copy of their printed (complete) instructions and their household item.
- Pass out copies of the instructions for Conducting a Usability Test and review the instructions with students.
- Ask students to use the remaining class time to conduct at least two usability tests. Ensure that students understand that two different students will read and test their instructions for using the household item.
- If time allows, students can begin revising their instructions in class and consult with the testers as appropriate.
- For homework, students can continue working on revising their instructions. Students will finish revisions during the next session and submit their work.
- Have students revise their instructions, using the available resources—word processing software, clip art, and so forth.
- Encourage students to consult the notes from their usability testing as they revise.
- As students revise, circulate through the room, meeting with student to discuss revisions and offer suggestions.
- Ask students to print their technical instructions, staple or attach pages as needed, and present final products to the class or school by the end of the session.
- Spend additional time exploring document design by exploring alternative publishing options such as pamphlets, brochures, and different-sized documents.
- Rather than writing instructions for operating a common household item, ask students to write instructions for completing a basic task, such as making a sandwich or addressing an envelope.
- For a humorous break, share this Wendy’s training video and ask students to discuss what was effective and ineffective about those instructions. Be sure to discuss when the video was produced and how the video fit (or didn’t) the needs of the audience at the time it was produced.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Collect students’ worksheets, including the Analyzing Technical Instructions and the Technical Instructions Planning Sheet , and the notes taken during the Usability Test . Review the work for completion and understanding of the basic goals of the lesson, including comprehension of the role that audience and purpose play in effective technical writing.
- During class discussion and students’ work in pairs, listen for comments that show students can think critically about the goals and effective strategies for technical writing in general and specifically for instructions.
- For a formal assessment, use the rubric created by the class during Session Two, which was based on the the Sample Technical Instructions Rubric .
- Student Interactives
- Lesson Plans
Useful for a wide variety of reading and writing activities, this outlining tool allows students to organize up to five levels of information.
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Explore Resources by Grade
- Kindergarten K
30 Ideas for Teaching Writing
The National Writing Project’s 30 Ideas for Teaching Writing offers successful strategies contributed by experienced Writing Project teachers. Since NWP does not promote a single approach to teaching writing, readers will benefit from a variety of eclectic, classroom-tested techniques.
These ideas originated as full-length articles in NWP publications (a link to the full article accompanies each idea below).
Table of Contents: 30 Ideas for Teaching Writing
- Use the shared events of students’ lives to inspire writing.
- Establish an email dialogue between students from different schools who are reading the same book.
- Use writing to improve relations among students.
- Help student writers draw rich chunks of writing from endless sprawl.
- Work with words relevant to students’ lives to help them build vocabulary.
- Help students analyze text by asking them to imagine dialogue between authors.
- Spotlight language and use group brainstorming to help students create poetry.
- Ask students to reflect on and write about their writing.
- Ease into writing workshops by presenting yourself as a model.
- Get students to focus on their writing by holding off on grading.
- Use casual talk about students’ lives to generate writing.
- Give students a chance to write to an audience for real purpose.
- Practice and play with revision techniques.
- Pair students with adult reading/writing buddies.
- Teach “tension” to move students beyond fluency.
- Encourage descriptive writing by focusing on the sounds of words.
- Require written response to peers’ writing.
- Make writing reflection tangible.
- Make grammar instruction dynamic.
- Ask students to experiment with sentence length.
- Help students ask questions about their writing.
- Challenge students to find active verbs.
- Require students to make a persuasive written argument in support of a final grade.
- Ground writing in social issues important to students.
- Encourage the “framing device” as an aid to cohesion in writing.
- Use real world examples to reinforce writing conventions.
- Think like a football coach.
- Allow classroom writing to take a page from yearbook writing.
- Use home language on the road to Standard English.
- Introduce multi-genre writing in the context of community service.
1. Use the shared events of students’ lives to inspire writing.
Debbie Rotkow, a co-director of the Coastal Georgia Writing Project, makes use of the real-life circumstances of her first grade students to help them compose writing that, in Frank Smith’s words, is “natural and purposeful.”
When a child comes to school with a fresh haircut or a tattered book bag, these events can inspire a poem. When Michael rode his bike without training wheels for the first time, this occasion provided a worthwhile topic to write about. A new baby in a family, a lost tooth, and the death of one student’s father were the playful or serious inspirations for student writing.
Says Rotkow: “Our classroom reverberated with the stories of our lives as we wrote, talked, and reflected about who we were, what we did, what we thought, and how we thought about it. We became a community.”
ROTKOW, DEBBIE. 2003. “Two or Three Things I Know for Sure About Helping Students Write the Stories of Their Lives,” The Quarterly (25) 4.
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2. Establish an email dialogue between students from different schools who are reading the same book.
When high school teacher Karen Murar and college instructor Elaine Ware, teacher-consultants with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, discovered students were scheduled to read the August Wilson play Fences at the same time, they set up email communication between students to allow some “teacherless talk” about the text.
Rather than typical teacher-led discussion, the project fostered independent conversation between students. Formal classroom discussion of the play did not occur until students had completed all email correspondence. Though teachers were not involved in student online dialogues, the conversations evidenced the same reading strategies promoted in teacher-led discussion, including predication, clarification, interpretation, and others.
MURAR, KAREN, and ELAINE WARE. 1998. “Teacherless Talk: Impressions from Electronic Literacy Conversations.” The Quarterly (20) 3.
3. Use writing to improve relations among students.
Diane Waff, co-director of the Philadelphia Writing Project, taught in an urban school where boys outnumbered girls four to one in her classroom. The situation left girls feeling overwhelmed, according to Waff, and their “voices faded into the background, overpowered by more aggressive male voices.”
Determined not to ignore this unhealthy situation, Waff urged students to face the problem head-on, asking them to write about gender-based problems in their journals. She then introduced literature that considered relationships between the sexes, focusing on themes of romance, love, and marriage. Students wrote in response to works as diverse as de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” and Dean Myers’s Motown and DiDi.
In the beginning there was a great dissonance between male and female responses. According to Waff, “Girls focused on feelings; boys focused on sex, money, and the fleeting nature of romantic attachment.” But as the students continued to write about and discuss their honest feelings, they began to notice that they had similar ideas on many issues. “By confronting these gender-based problems directly,” says Waff, “the effect was to improve the lives of individual students and the social well-being of the wider school community.”
WAFF, DIANE. 1995. “Romance in the Classroom: Inviting Discourse on Gender and Power.” The Quarterly (17) 2.
4. Help student writers draw rich chunks of writing from endless sprawl.
Jan Matsuoka, a teacher-consultant with the Bay Area Writing Project (California), describes a revision conference she held with a third grade English language learner named Sandee, who had written about a recent trip to Los Angeles.
“I told her I wanted her story to have more focus,” writes Matsuoka. “I could tell she was confused so I made rough sketches representing the events of her trip. I made a small frame out of a piece of paper and placed it down on one of her drawings — a sketch she had made of a visit with her grandmother.”
“Focus, I told her, means writing about the memorable details of the visit with your grandmother, not everything else you did on the trip.”
“‘Oh, I get it,’ Sandee smiled, ‘like just one cartoon, not a whole bunch.'”
Sandee’s next draft was more deep than broad.
MATSUOKA, JAN. 1998. “Revising Revision: How My Students Transformed Writers’ Workshop.” The Quarterly (20) 1.
5. Work with words relevant to students’ lives to help them build vocabulary.
Eileen Simmons, a teacher-consultant with the Oklahoma State University Writing Project, knows that the more relevant new words are to students’ lives, the more likely they are to take hold.
In her high school classroom, she uses a form of the children’s ABC book as a community-building project. For each letter of the alphabet, the students find an appropriately descriptive word for themselves. Students elaborate on the word by writing sentences and creating an illustration. In the process, they make extensive use of the dictionary and thesaurus.
One student describes her personality as sometimes “caustic,” illustrating the word with a photograph of a burning car in a war zone. Her caption explains that she understands the hurt her “burning” sarcastic remarks can generate.
SIMMONS, EILEEN. 2002. “Visualizing Vocabulary.” The Quarterly (24) 3.
6. Help students analyze text by asking them to imagine dialogue between authors.
John Levine, a teacher-consultant with the Bay Area Writing Project (California), helps his college freshmen integrate the ideas of several writers into a single analytical essay by asking them to create a dialogue among those writers.
He tells his students, for instance, “imagine you are the moderator of a panel discussion on the topic these writers are discussing. Consider the three writers and construct a dialogue among the four ‘voices’ (the three essayists plus you).”
Levine tells students to format the dialogue as though it were a script. The essay follows from this preparation.
LEVINE, JOHN. 2002. “Talking Texts: Writing Dialogue in the College Composition Classroom.” The Quarterly (24) 2.
7. Spotlight language and use group brainstorming to help students create poetry.
The following is a group poem created by second grade students of Michelle Fleer, a teacher-consultant with the Dakota Writing Project (South Dakota).
Underwater Crabs crawl patiently along the ocean floor searching for prey. Fish soundlessly weave their way through slippery seaweed Whales whisper to others as they slide through the salty water. And silent waves wash into a dark cave where an octopus is sleeping.
Fleer helped her students get started by finding a familiar topic. (In this case her students had been studying sea life.) She asked them to brainstorm language related to the sea, allowing them time to list appropriate nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The students then used these words to create phrases and used the phrases to produce the poem itself.
As a group, students put together words in ways Fleer didn’t believe many of them could have done if they were working on their own, and after creating several group poems, some students felt confident enough to work alone.
FLEER, MICHELLE. 2002. “Beyond ‘Pink is a Rose.'” The Quarterly (24) 4.
8. Ask students to reflect on and write about their writing.
Douglas James Joyce, a teacher-consultant with the Denver Writing Project, makes use of what he calls “metawriting” in his college writing classes. He sees metawriting (writing about writing) as a way to help students reduce errors in their academic prose.
Joyce explains one metawriting strategy: After reading each essay, he selects one error that occurs frequently in a student’s work and points out each instance in which the error is made. He instructs the student to write a one page essay, comparing and contrasting three sources that provide guidance on the established use of that particular convention, making sure a variety of sources are available.
“I want the student to dig into the topic as deeply as necessary, to come away with a thorough understanding of the how and why of the usage, and to understand any debate that may surround the particular usage.”
JOYCE, DOUGLAS JAMES. 2002. “On the Use of Metawriting to Learn Grammar and Mechanics.” The Quarterly (24) 4.
9. Ease into writing workshops by presenting yourself as a model.
Glorianne Bradshaw, a teacher-consultant with the Red River Valley Writing Project (North Dakota), decided to make use of experiences from her own life when teaching her first-graders how to write.
For example, on an overhead transparency she shows a sketch of herself stirring cookie batter while on vacation. She writes the phrase “made cookies” under the sketch. Then she asks students to help her write a sentence about this. She writes the words who, where, and when. Using these words as prompts, she and the students construct the sentence, “I made cookies in the kitchen in the morning.”
Next, each student returns to the sketch he or she has made of a summer vacation activity and, with her help, answers the same questions answered for Bradshaw’s drawing. Then she asks them, “Tell me more. Do the cookies have chocolate chips? Does the pizza have pepperoni?” These facts lead to other sentences.
Rather than taking away creativity, Bradshaw believes this kind of structure gives students a helpful format for creativity.
BRADSHAW, GLORIANNE. 2001. “Back to Square One: What to do When Writing Workshop Just Doesn’t Work.” The Quarterly (23) 1.
10. Get students to focus on their writing by holding off on grading.
Stephanie Wilder found that the grades she gave her high school students were getting in the way of their progress. The weaker students stopped trying. Other students relied on grades as the only standard by which they judged their own work.
“I decided to postpone my grading until the portfolios, which contained a selection of student work, were complete,” Wilder says. She continued to comment on papers, encourage revision, and urge students to meet with her for conferences. But she waited to grade the papers.
It took a while for students to stop leafing to the ends of their papers in search of a grade, and there was some grumbling from students who had always received excellent grades. But she believes that because she was less quick to judge their work, students were better able to evaluate their efforts themselves.
WILDER, STEPHANIE. 1997. “Pruning Too Early: The Thorny Issue of Grading Student Writing.” The Quarterly (19) 4.
11. Use casual talk about students’ lives to generate writing.
Erin (Pirnot) Ciccone, teacher-consultant with the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project, found a way to make more productive the “Monday morning gab fest” she used as a warm-up with her fifth grade students. She conceived of “Headline News.” As students entered the classroom on Monday mornings, they wrote personal headlines about their weekends and posted them on the bulletin board. A headline might read “Fifth-Grader Stranded at Movie Theatre” or “Girl Takes on Responsibility as Mother’s Helper.”
After the headlines had been posted, students had a chance to guess the stories behind them. The writers then told the stories behind their headlines. As each student had only three minutes to talk, they needed to make decisions about what was important and to clarify details as they proceeded. They began to rely on suspense and “purposeful ambiguity” to hold listeners’ interest.
On Tuesday, students committed their stories to writing. Because of the “Headline News” experience, Ciccone’s students have been able to generate writing that is focused, detailed, and well ordered.
CICCONE, ERIN (PIRNOT). 2001. “A Place for Talk in Writers’ Workshop.” The Quarterly (23) 4.
12. Give students a chance to write to an audience for real purpose.
Patricia A. Slagle, high school teacher and teacher-consultant with the Louisville Writing Project (Kentucky), understands the difference between writing for a hypothetical purpose and writing to an audience for real purpose. She illustrates the difference by contrasting two assignments.
She began with: “Imagine you are the drama critic for your local newspaper. Write a review of an imaginary production of the play we have just finished studying in class.” This prompt asks students to assume the contrived role of a professional writer and drama critic. They must adapt to a voice that is not theirs and pretend to have knowledge they do not have.
Slagle developed a more effective alternative: “Write a letter to the director of your local theater company in which you present arguments for producing the play that we have just finished studying in class.” This prompt, Slagle says, allows the writer her own voice, building into her argument concrete references to personal experience. “Of course,” adds Slagle, “this prompt would constitute authentic writing only for those students who, in fact, would like to see the play produced.”
SLAGLE, PATRICIA A. 1997. “Getting Real: Authenticity in Writing Prompts.” The Quarterly (19) 3.
13. Practice and play with revision techniques.
Mark Farrington, college instructor and teacher-consultant with the Northern Virginia Writing Project, believes teaching revision sometimes means practicing techniques of revision. An exercise like “find a place other than the first sentence where this essay might begin” is valuable because it shows student writers the possibilities that exist in writing.
For Farrington’s students, practice can sometime turn to play with directions to:
- add five colors
- add four action verbs
- add one metaphor
- add five sensory details.
In his college fiction writing class, Farrington asks students to choose a spot in the story where the main character does something that is crucial to the rest of the story. At that moment, Farrington says, they must make the character do the exact opposite.
“Playing at revision can lead to insightful surprises,” Farrington says. “When they come, revision doesn’t seem such hard work anymore.”
FARRINGTON, MARK. 1999. “Four Principles Toward Teaching the Craft of Revision.” The Quarterly (21) 2.
14. Pair students with adult reading/writing buddies.
Bernadette Lambert, teacher-consultant with the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project (Georgia), wondered what would happen if she had her sixth-grade students pair with an adult family member to read a book. She asked the students about the kinds of books they wanted to read (mysteries, adventure, ghost stories) and the adults about the kinds of books they wanted to read with the young people (character-building values, multiculturalism, no ghost stories). Using these suggestions for direction, Lambert developed a list of 30 books. From this list, each student-adult pair chose one. They committed themselves to read and discuss the book and write separate reviews.
Most of the students, says Lambert, were proud to share a piece of writing done by their adult reading buddy. Several admitted that they had never before had this level of intellectual conversation with an adult family member.
LAMBERT, BERNADETTE. 1999. “You and Me and a Book Makes Three.” The Quarterly (21) 3.
15. Teach “tension” to move students beyond fluency.
Suzanne Linebarger, a co-director of the Northern California Writing Project, recognized that one element lacking from many of her students’ stories was tension. One day, in front of the class, she demonstrated tension with a rubber band. Looped over her finger, the rubber band merely dangled. “However,” she told the students, “when I stretch it out and point it (not at a student), the rubber band suddenly becomes more interesting. It’s the tension, the potential energy, that rivets your attention. It’s the same in writing.”
Linebarger revised a generic writing prompt to add an element of tension. The initial prompt read, “Think of a friend who is special to you. Write about something your friend has done for you, you have done for your friend, or you have done together.”
Linebarger didn’t want responses that settled for “my best friend was really good to me,” so “during the rewrite session we talked about how hard it is to stay friends when met with a challenge. Students talked about times they had let their friends down or times their friends had let them down, and how they had managed to stay friends in spite of their problems. In other words, we talked about some tense situations that found their way into their writing.”
LINEBARGER, SUZANNE. 2001. “Tensing Up: Moving From Fluency to Flair.” The Quarterly (23) 3.
16. Encourage descriptive writing by focusing on the sounds of words.
Ray Skjelbred, middle school teacher at Marin Country Day School, wants his seventh grade students to listen to language. He wants to begin to train their ears by asking them to make lists of wonderful sounding words. “This is strictly a listening game,” says Skjelbred. “They shouldn’t write lunch just because they’re hungry.” When the collective list is assembled, Skjelbred asks students to make sentences from some of the words they’ve collected. They may use their own words, borrow from other contributors, add other words as necessary, and change word forms.
Among the words on one student’s list: tumble, detergent, sift, bubble, syllable, creep, erupt, and volcano . The student writes:
A man loads his laundry into the tumbling washer, the detergent sifting through the bubbling water. The syllables creep through her teeth. The fog erupts like a volcano in the dust.
“Unexpected words can go together, creating amazing images,” says Skjelbred.
SKJELBRED, RAY. 1997. “Sound and Sense: Grammar, Poetry, and Creative Language.” The Quarterly (19) 4.
17. Require written response to peers’ writing.
Kathleen O’Shaughnessy, co-director of the National Writing Project of Acadiana (Louisiana), asks her middle school students to respond to each others’ writing on Post-it Notes. Students attach their comments to a piece of writing under consideration.
“I’ve found that when I require a written response on a Post-it instead of merely allowing students to respond verbally, the responders take their duties more seriously and, with practice, the quality of their remarks improves.”
One student wrote:
While I was reading your piece, I felt like I was riding a roller coaster. It started out kinda slow, but you could tell there was something exciting coming up. But then it moved real fast and stopped all of a sudden. I almost needed to read it again the way you ride a roller coaster over again because it goes too fast.
Says O’Shaughnessy, “This response is certainly more useful to the writer than the usual ‘I think you could, like, add some more details, you know?’ that I often overheard in response meetings.”
O’SHAUGHNESSY, KATHLEEN. 2001. “Everything I Know About Teaching Language Arts, I Learned at the Office Supply Store.” The Quarterly (23) 2.
18. Make writing reflection tangible.
Anna Collins Trest, director of the South Mississippi Writing Project, finds she can lead upper elementary school students to better understand the concept of “reflection” if she anchors the discussion in the concrete and helps students establish categories for their reflective responses.
She decided to use mirrors to teach the reflective process. Each student had one. As the students gazed at their own reflections, she asked this question: “What can you think about while looking in the mirror at your own reflection?” As they answered, she categorized each response:
- I think I’m a queen – pretending/imagining
- I look at my cavities – examining/observing
- I think I’m having a bad hair day – forming opinions
- What will I look like when I am old? – questioning
- My hair is parted in the middle – describing
- I’m thinking about when I broke my nose – remembering
- I think I look better than my brother – comparing
- Everything on my face looks sad today – expressing emotion.
Trest talked with students about the categories and invited them to give personal examples of each. Then she asked them to look in the mirrors again, reflect on their images, and write.
“Elementary students are literal in their thinking,” Trest says, “but that doesn’t mean they can’t be creative.”
TREST, ANNA COLLINS. 1999. “I was a Journal Topic Junkie.” The Quarterly (21) 4.
19. Make grammar instruction dynamic.
Philip Ireland, teacher-consultant with the San Marcos Writing Project (California), believes in active learning. One of his strategies has been to take his seventh-graders on a “preposition walk” around the school campus. Walking in pairs, they tell each other what they are doing:
I’m stepping off the grass . I’m talking to my friend .
“Students soon discover that everything they do contains prepositional phrases. I walk among my students prompting answers,” Ireland explains.
“I’m crawling under the tennis net ,” Amanda proclaims from her hands and knees. “The prepositional phrase is under the net .”
“The preposition?” I ask.
“ Under .”
IRELAND, PHILIP. 2003. “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.” The Quarterly (25) 3.
20. Ask students to experiment with sentence length.
Kim Stafford, director of the Oregon Writing Project at Lewis and Clark College, wants his students to discard old notions that sentences should be a certain length. He explains to his students that a writer’s command of long and short sentences makes for a “more pliable” writing repertoire. He describes the exercise he uses to help students experiment with sentence length.
“I invite writers to compose a sentence that goes on for at least a page — and no fair cheating with a semicolon. Just use ‘and’ when you have to, or a dash, or make a list, and keep it going.” After years of being told not to, they take pleasure in writing the greatest run-on sentences they can.
“Then we shake out our writing hands, take a blank page, and write from the upper left to the lower right corner again, but this time letting no sentence be longer than four words, but every sentence must have a subject and a verb.”
Stafford compares the first style of sentence construction to a river and the second to a drum. “Writers need both,” he says. “Rivers have long rhythms. Drums roll.”
STAFFORD, KIM. 2003. “Sentence as River and as Drum.” The Quarterly (25) 3.
21. Help students ask questions about their writing.
Joni Chancer, teacher-consultant of the South Coast Writing Project (California), has paid a lot of attention to the type of questions she wants her upper elementary students to consider as they re-examine their writing, reflecting on pieces they may make part of their portfolios. Here are some of the questions:
Why did I write this piece? Where did I get my ideas? Who is the audience and how did it affect this piece? What skills did I work on in this piece? Was this piece easy or difficult to write? Why? What parts did I rework? What were my revisions? Did I try something new? What skills did I work on in this piece? What elements of writer’s craft enhanced my story? What might I change? Did something I read influence my writing? What did I learn or what did I expect the reader to learn? Where will I go from here? Will I publish it? Share it? Expand it? Toss it? File it?
Chancer cautions that these questions should not be considered a “reflection checklist,” rather they are questions that seem to be addressed frequently when writers tell the story of a particular piece.
CHANCER, JONI. 2001. “The Teacher’s Role in Portfolio Assessment.” In The Whole Story: Teachers Talk About Portfolios , edited by Mary Ann Smith and Jane Juska. Berkeley, California: National Writing Project.
22. Challenge students to find active verbs.
Nancy Lilly, co-director of the Greater New Orleans Writing Project, wanted her fourth and fifth grade students to breathe life into their nonfiction writing. She thought the student who wrote this paragraph could do better:
The jaguar is the biggest and strongest cat in the rainforest. The jaguar’s jaw is strong enough to crush a turtle’s shell. Jaguars also have very powerful legs for leaping from branch to branch to chase prey.
Building on an idea from Stephanie Harvey (Nonfiction Matters, Stenhouse, 1998) Lilly introduced the concept of “nouns as stuff” and verbs as “what stuff does.”
In a brainstorming session related to the students’ study of the rain forest, the class supplied the following assistance to the writer:
Stuff/Nouns : What Stuff Does/Verbs jaguar : leaps, pounces jaguar’s : legs pump jaguar’s : teeth crush jaguar’s : mouth devours
This was just the help the writer needed to create the following revised paragraph:
As the sun disappears from the heart of the forest, the jaguar leaps through the underbrush, pumping its powerful legs. It spies a gharial gliding down the river. The jungle cat pounces, crushing the turtle with his teeth, devouring the reptile with pleasure.
LILLY, NANCY. “Dead or Alive: How will Students’ Nonfiction Writing Arrive?” The Quarterly (25) 4.
23. Require students to make a persuasive written argument in support of a final grade.
For a final exam, Sarah Lorenz, a teacher-consultant with the Eastern Michigan Writing Project, asks her high school students to make a written argument for the grade they think they should receive. Drawing on work they have done over the semester, students make a case for how much they have learned in the writing class.
“The key to convincing me,” says Lorenz, “is the use of detail. They can’t simply say they have improved as writers—they have to give examples and even quote their own writing…They can’t just say something was helpful—they have to tell me why they thought it was important, how their thinking changed, or how they applied this learning to everyday life.”
LORENZ, SARAH. 2001. “Beyond Rhetoric: A Reflective Persuasive Final Exam for the Writing Classroom.” The Quarterly (23) 4.
24. Ground writing in social issues important to students.
Jean Hicks, director, and Tim Johnson, a co-director, both of the Louisville Writing Project (Kentucky), have developed a way to help high school students create brief, effective dramas about issues in their lives. The class, working in groups, decides on a theme such as jealousy, sibling rivalry, competition, or teen drinking. Each group develops a scene illustrating an aspect of this chosen theme.
Considering the theme of sibling rivalry, for instance, students identify possible scenes with topics such as “I Had It First” (competing for family resources) and “Calling in the Troops” (tattling). Students then set up the circumstances and characters.
Hicks and Johnson give each of the “characters” a different color packet of Post-it Notes. Each student develops and posts dialogue for his or her character. As the scene emerges, Post-its can be added, moved, and deleted. They remind students of the conventions of drama such as conflict and resolution. Scenes, when acted out, are limited to 10 minutes.
“It’s not so much about the genre or the product as it is about creating a culture that supports the thinking and learning of writers,” write Hicks and Johnson.
HICKS, JEAN and TIM JOHNSON. 2000. “Staging Learning: The Play’s the Thing.” The Quarterly (22) 3.
25. Encourage the “framing device” as an aid to cohesion in writing.
Romana Hillebrand, a teacher-consultant with the Northwest Inland Writing Project (Idaho), asks her university students to find a literary or historical reference or a personal narrative that can provide a fresh way into and out of their writing, surrounding it much like a window frame surrounds a glass pane.
Hillebrand provides this example:
A student in her research class wrote a paper on the relationship between humans and plants, beginning with a reference to the nursery rhyme, “Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies….” She explained the rhymes as originating with the practice of masking the stench of death with flowers during the Black Plague. The student finished the paper with the sentence, “Without plants, life on Earth would cease to exist as we know it; ashes, ashes we all fall down.”
Hillebrand concludes that linking the introduction and the conclusion helps unify a paper and satisfy the reader.
HILLEBRAND, ROMANA. 2001. “It’s a Frame Up: Helping Students Devise Beginning and Endings.”The Quarterly (23) 1.
26. Use real world examples to reinforce writing conventions.
Suzanne Cherry, director of the Swamp Fox Writing Project (South Carolina), has her own way of dramatizing the comma splice error. She brings to class two pieces of wire, the last inch of each exposed. She tells her college students, “We need to join these pieces of wire together right now if we are to be able to watch our favorite TV show. What can we do? We could use some tape, but that would probably be a mistake as the puppy could easily eat through the connection. By splicing the wires in this way, we are creating a fire hazard.”
A better connection, the students usually suggest, would be to use one of those electrical connectors that look like pen caps.
“Now,” Cherry says (often to the accompaniment of multiple groans), “let’s turn these wires into sentences. If we simply splice them together with a comma, the equivalent of a piece of tape, we create a weak connection, or a comma splice error. What then would be the grammatical equivalent of the electrical connector? Think conjunction – and, but, or. Or try a semicolon. All of these show relationships between sentences in a way that the comma, a device for taping clauses together in a slapdash manner, does not.”
“I’ve been teaching writing for many years,” Cherry says. “And I now realize the more able we are to relate the concepts of writing to ‘real world’ experience, the more successful we will be.”
CHERRY, SUZANNE. “Keeping the Comma Splice Queen Happy,” The Voice (9) 1.
27. Think like a football coach.
In addition to his work as a high school teacher of writing, Dan Holt, a co-director with the Third Coast Writing Project (Michigan), spent 20 years coaching football. While doing the latter, he learned quite a bit about doing the former. Here is some of what he found out:
The writing teacher can’t stay on the sidelines. “When I modeled for my players, they knew what I wanted them to do.” The same involvement, he says, is required to successfully teach writing.
Like the coach, the writing teacher should praise strong performance rather than focus on the negative. Statements such as “Wow, that was a killer block,” or “That paragraph was tight” will turn “butterball” ninth-grade boys into varsity linemen and insecure adolescents into aspiring poets.
The writing teacher should apply the KISS theory: Keep it simple stupid. Holt explains for a freshman quarterback, audibles (on-field commands) are best used with care until a player has reached a higher skill level. In writing class, a student who has never written a poem needs to start with small verse forms such as a chinquapin or haiku.
Practice and routine are important both for football players and for writing students, but football players and writers also need the “adrenaline rush” of the big game and the final draft.
HOLT, DAN. 1999. “What Coaching Football Taught Me about Teaching Writing.” The Voice (4) 3.
28. Allow classroom writing to take a page from yearbook writing.
High school teacher Jon Appleby noticed that when yearbooks fell into students’ hands “my curriculum got dropped in a heartbeat for spirited words scribbled over photos.” Appleby wondered, “How can I make my classroom as fascinating and consuming as the yearbook?”
Here are some ideas that yearbook writing inspired:
Take pictures, put them on the bulletin boards, and have students write captions for them. Then design small descriptive writing assignments using the photographs of events such as the prom and homecoming. Afterwards, ask students to choose quotes from things they have read that represent what they feel and think and put them on the walls.
Check in about students’ lives. Recognize achievements and individuals the way that yearbook writers direct attention to each other. Ask students to write down memories and simply, joyfully share them. As yearbook writing usually does, insist on a sense of tomorrow.
APPLEBY, JON. 2001. “The School Yearbook: A Guide to Writing and Teaching.” The Voice (6) 3.
29. Use home language on the road to Standard English.
Eileen Kennedy, special education teacher at Medger Evers College, works with native speakers of Caribbean Creole who are preparing to teach in New York City. Sometimes she encourages these students to draft writing in their native Creole. The additional challenge becomes to re-draft this writing, rendered in patois, into Standard English.
She finds that narratives involving immigrant Caribbean natives in unfamiliar situations — buying a refrigerator, for instance — lead to inspired writing. In addition, some students expressed their thoughts more proficiently in Standard English after drafting in their vernaculars.
KENNEDY, EILEEN. 2003. “Writing in Home Dialects: Choosing a Written Discourse in a Teacher Education Class.” The Quarterly (25) 2.
30. Introduce multi-genre writing in the context of community service.
Jim Wilcox, teacher-consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project, requires his college students to volunteer at a local facility that serves the community, any place from the Special Olympics to a burn unit. Over the course of their tenure with the organization, students write in a number of genres: an objective report that describes the appearance and activity of the facility, a personal interview/profile, an evaluation essay that requires students to set up criteria by which to assess this kind of organization, an investigative report that includes information from a second source, and a letter to the editor of a campus newspaper or other publication.
Wilcox says, “Besides improving their researching skills, students learn that their community is indeed full of problems and frustrations. They also learn that their own talents and time are valuable assets in solving some of the world’s problems — one life at a time.”
WILCOX, JIM. 2003. “The Spirit of Volunteerism in English Composition.” The Quarterly (25) 2.
Also recommended, using metaphor to explore writing processes, thank you for sharing: developing students' social skills to improve peer writing conferences, the gasquet to orleans road controversy.
Technical Writing Examples for Students - Learn How to Write Technically & Clearly
Technically, That’s not Technical
- Extract the metallic pin in the like manner Odysseus extracted the Wooden Horse plan from his mind.
- Think of the fire as a tree that you really need to chop down and the extinguisher as your ax. Aim accordingly.
- Much like a tender chicken must be roasted slowly, so must the fire extinguisher lever be pressed.
- Sweep the extinguisher from side to side much in the same way Emily Dickinson uses her many-colored broom .
Thanks for teaching me all these literary devices. I hope you find them as useful as I have. As I ran out of the burning building, I realized I should have focused a little more on technical writing.
Technically, This Is Technical (Writing)
Technical writing is a type of writing that helps someone solve a problem or acquire necessary information about a specific subject. Examples of technical writing include instruction manuals, recipes, how-to guides, text books, multimedia presentations, and operating instructions. Every occupation and field of study has its own language that’s incorporated into specialized reports and other written work. This, too, is considered technical writing. The following is an example on how to write technically:
- Know your audience - This is true for all types of writing. You must know to whom you are writing. If you’re writing, for example, an instruction manual on how to program a cell phone for the general public, you’re going to use words that most people will understand. If you’re writing the same manual for a group of software designers for Verizon Wireless, you’re going to use more technical terms and more complex functions.
- Write an introduction - Keep the introduction short. Let the reader know who needs to read it and why they need to read it. If the reader belongs to the “who” group and your “why” solves his problem, then you have just grabbed his attention. (See the introduction to this how-to-example.)
- Be direct - Readers of technical writing are not looking for a life-changing literary experience. They have a problem. They want you to solve it. If it’s an instruction or how-to manual, use the imperative voice. If it’s a technical analysis or a report for the boss, leave out any unnecessary words .
- Use space - If this example was one long paragraph instead of a numbered list, you would have clicked off it immediately. Brains like order and space. Small paragraphs are good. Numbered or bulleted lists are great. If a specific order is required, use numbers; otherwise, use bullets.
- Try it before you submit it . It’s a good idea to test your technical writing, especially if it involves instructions. You can also have a friend try it. The directions must be clear enough for someone else to follow. Your tester/guinea pig/editor may point out ambiguous instructions or unclear explanations that you may not have discovered.
Technically, These Are Great Examples
Here are some technical writing examples for students to get started practicing.
Write two instruction manuals on how to use Facebook, Twitter, or any of those other social media things high school kids are so good at. Write the first manual for people like your Uncle Ned who goes to his mailbox to check his e-mail. Write the second manual for your peers.
Take a multi-step assignment from one of your classes and rewrite the instructions. Make the instructions step-by-step. Show the newly written instructions to your teacher and make sure you captured the essence of the assignment. He or she may want a copy of them. Ask for money in return.
Write a contract regarding chores around your house. Be sure to define all terms. Be specific in what you will do and what is required of the head of household. If you can get your parents to sign the contract, watch out. They probably found a loophole.
Using your class schedule, write a course catalog. Another option is to write a survival guide for a class you are taking. Use humor, if you’ve got it.
Rewrite a school policy.
Write an annual report on your accomplishments during the current school year. Be sure to provide data.
Write specific instructions on how to complete an ordinary task.
Write a recipe. This is harder than it seems. The directions must be specific enough for someone to make the food properly.
These are just a few technical writing examples for students that would make for a great assignment. I hoped they have helped you think of other possibilities as well.
- Jerz, Dennis G. “ Instructions: How to Write for Busy, Grouchy People .” Setonhill.edu. 10 November 2002. Accessed 25 May 2011.
- Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay
This post is part of the series: Writing Made Easy
Writing isn’t as hard as you think.
- How to Make an Outline: Components of the Writing Process
- How to Write in the Active Voice & When to Write in Passive Voice
- Getting Technical With Technical Writing
- Analyze This: Write a Chapter Analysis that Will Amaze Your Teacher
Open Technical Writing: An Open-Access Text for Instruction in Technical and Professional Writing
Adam Rex Pope, University of Arkansas
Copyright Year: 2018
Publisher: University of Arkansas
Conditions of use.
Learn more about reviews.
Reviewed by Joyce Bower, Part-Time Professor, Linn-Benton Community College on 8/4/20
Adam Rex Pope does a good job of covering the basics and giving cooking metaphors to help readers understand the concepts. Unfortunately, there is no glossary or index to help students with finding and defining concepts. Technical writing... read more
Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less
Adam Rex Pope does a good job of covering the basics and giving cooking metaphors to help readers understand the concepts. Unfortunately, there is no glossary or index to help students with finding and defining concepts. Technical writing documents also were not thoroughly explained and demonstrated. Pope provides brief explanations of some documents, but analytical reports were not explained. These are things that an instructor can supplement, however, so if an instructor wants a good overview of what technical writing is, this book would be a good choice.
Content Accuracy rating: 3
The content is fine, and in general, it is accurate, but sometimes Pope can be confusing: "In our examples below, we’re always conveying 'the facts,' in our messages or our boxes. And, in those examples, it would seem that no matter what we’re still conveying 'just the facts' once we cut out all the extra cruft. The essential facts never change in those examples, but when we do technical writing they very well can!" (p. 23). That doesn't make sense. Punctuation (commas) are needed for a better understanding, and what does he mean that when we do technical writing, the essential facts can change? This is not good writing or technical writing. Pope also does not reference other sources throughout. (He does cite two sources at the very end, but there are no in-text citations.)
Relevance/Longevity rating: 4
The content is a general explanation of technical writing, so it will not be obsolete quickly; however, it is almost too general to be used alone.
Clarity rating: 4
Pope explains concepts with cooking metaphors, something that many people can relate to. The tone is very casual, using terms like "folks." It may make it more accessible for some.
Consistency rating: 5
Following his own advice, Pope's terminology and framework for the text is very consistent and easy to follow.
Modularity rating: 5
The table of contents and section headings make it easy to assign readings and help readers find what they need easily.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5
Pope organizes the topics well, moving from general topics of technical writing through more specific topics such as genres and research. (Unfortunately, the genre and research sections are not very thorough or helpful.)
Interface rating: 4
The text is available to download and is easy to navigate (other than a few blank pages here and there between pages/sections, which can be distracting).
Grammatical Errors rating: 2
Not only is the tone casual, but the editing is also casual. Several misspellings and grammatical errors distract from the content and can confuse the message. Also, when I teach technical writing, I teach correctness to ensure readability and conciseness. The author does not show this in his writing, which would undermine what I am teaching.
Cultural Relevance rating: 3
Pope does a good job of discussing audience/users in general but does not address cultures much.
Reviewed by Forrest Johnson, Part-Time English Faculty, Linn-Benton Community College on 1/14/20
The text does a fine job of covering the breadth of technical writing concepts, but there is no index or glossary. Still, the table of contents is detailed enough to make the content fairly discoverable. read more
Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less
The text does a fine job of covering the breadth of technical writing concepts, but there is no index or glossary. Still, the table of contents is detailed enough to make the content fairly discoverable.
Content Accuracy rating: 4
Pope does a good job of making it clear that he is writing from his own perspective and set of biases, but the text could be tightened up to be a better demonstration of good technical writing.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 5
Pope clearly worked hard to make a text that speaks to students currently in technical writing courses, but that also has staying power. There are references to technologies that will likely be out of date in 5 years, but the concepts and principals taught will remain relevant.
The conversational tone of the text makes it feel more accessible, but it also makes the text feel a bit bloated and, in some cases, may lead to confusion. I suspect that there are some students who struggle with traditional textbooks who will find the tone of the text helpful, while students used to formal writing may be frustrated that the tone is not more authoritative.
The text does a fine job of defining terms and using them consistently.
Modularity rating: 4
As Pope mentions in the "Note to Instructors", the chapters are long and packed with subsections. I think the content could be divided and reordered with out much confusion. However, the subsections are not always designated as clearly as they might be.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4
The major concepts flow logically. Because it is written in a conversational tone, some of the examples of the concepts take a while to develop and connect.
Interface rating: 5
The text is just a PDF, but the table of contents is interactive and looks to be reasonably accessible to a screen reader and to other accommodation needs.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
There are some areas where the conversational tone leads to grammatical choices that could be disputed, but it is well written overall.
Cultural Relevance rating: 5
While Pope certainly writes with a culturally situated voice, he does a good job of using examples that are inclusive and engaging.
I think this would be a particularly good text to use in an online course because of its conversational and personal tone. Pope's writing feels more like a guided discussion than a dry lecture. The text does an excellent job of giving technical writing life and a human context. There instances where the conversational tone results in modeling habits like over using adjectives that I would probably edit if/when I use the text in my own course, but the content is good enough to make this a minor issue.
Reviewed by Kelly Zepp, Assistant Professor, Community College of Denver on 11/4/19
The author of the text spends so much time on lesser important elements like X-height and too little time on more important issues like the various technical writing genres. Also, the title of the book explicitly states that it will over... read more
Comprehensiveness rating: 2 see less
The author of the text spends so much time on lesser important elements like X-height and too little time on more important issues like the various technical writing genres. Also, the title of the book explicitly states that it will over professional writing as well as technical writing. Given this, I would expect that emails, memos, letters, and resumes would be included in the genre section; however, the book doesn't discuss these at all. I also would expect a book with this title to discuss style/readability; however, this is not included.
Content Accuracy rating: 5
I did not find any inaccurate information; however, there are topics that I would prefer to be handled differently; for example, I would never reference taxonomy in the same way that Pope was. I would refer to it as chunking information and developing hierarchy.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 3
With the exception of acid wash jeans, it doesn't seem like the material will become dated quickly. The author makes use of some design tools. Overall, it doesn't seem like it would be easy to update because it is a PDF file.
Clarity rating: 3
Some people will like the author's fun, chatty style. Unfortunately, I thought it was distracting and took my focus from the material and put it on the author. The author discloses that this was an intentional choice, and I can imagine that his students might enjoy having a text that sounds like their professor. It seems, however, that this choice makes it hard for other professors to adopt this text. Also, all his asides lead to writing that is less concise than it should be, which is esp. unfortunate in a technical writing text.
Author is consistent with his references like "signposts" and "genre."
Modularity rating: 3
Here is what Pope has to say on the modularity of his book, "When it comes to daily teaching, you may notice I don’t have that many chapters. Each chapter is fairly lengthy, and they are not intended to be covered in a single day. Instead, each chapter has major chunks that can be assigned with suggested activities at the end of each major chunk. These activities are provided to give you some direction in classroom exercises to help students internalize and make use of the concepts covered in each section. You don’t have to stop each class when a chunk of text terminates with activities, but I’ve provided these spots to break up the chapters in ways that make sense in my own mind."
For me, what makes sense in Pope's mind, does not always make sense to me. This text does not seem like it lend itself well to someone who wanted to approach the content in a different way.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3
Some of Pope's organizational choices do not make sense to me. For example, I would not expect to find a detailed description of the writing process in a chapter called "The User." Likewise, I would not expect to see signposting and taxonomy in the "What is Technical Writing" chapter.
Interface rating: 3
A book on technical writing ought to make good use of design; while this text is not awful, there are some elements that I wish the author addressed. For example, all headings, the info in the green boxes, and all info in the TOC is in ALL CAPS. This makes these sections more difficult to use. Also, most of the book uses large chunks of text that span the entire page. Some variety of design elements like indenting or bolding information or using small caps or title caps would have helped me navigate the text more easily. There are also a number of widows and orphans throughout the text. Lastly, the images could be integrated more effectively. For example, the image on page 149 is too far down and makes the page feel bottom heavy. This would be frustrating in any text, but it's even more so in a text that needs to teach students about effective document design. I also was disappointed that there are very few images in the visual communication section.
Grammatical Errors rating: 3
Overall, it was fairly well proofed; however, it is not error-free. For example, the following heading on page 153 made me laugh, "A table to be used to asses Objectives and time allotment" I am pretty sure the author meant "assess."
The following is a SV agreement error on the "A Note to Instructors" page, "Because of this approach, the text try to dictate exact moves that much, especially when it comes to particular genres like white papers and the like."
Cultural Relevance rating: 4
Overall, there don't seem to be many cultural references, and they generally seem to be used well and inoffensively. It would be even stronger in this area without the many references to Halloween and the Jack O'Lantern in the visual design section to discuss how to stack design elements.
In his note to instructors, Pope writes the following: "In this text, I try to present technical writing as an approach to researching and carrying out writing that centers on technical subject matter. As part of this, each and every chapter is devoted to helping students understand that good technical writing is situationally-aware and context-driven. Technical writing doesn’t work off knowing the one true right way of doing things—there is no magic report template out there that will always work. Instead, I’ve focused on offering students a series of approaches they can use to map out their situations and do research accordingly. Because of this approach, the text try to dictate exact moves that much, especially when it comes to particular genres like white papers and the like. This is entirely by design. Nothing specific that I could write here would have any amount of a lifespan with a particular genre, so I’ve opted instead to provide a research framework and some specific tips and tricks with each genre. For researching and teaching a particular genre, I would recommend focusing on the method I suggest to research the genre and then to build your class time around finding example texts and building your own image of what the genre looks like. "
If you don't agree with his approach you probably, like me, will not find this text useful. I would need to supplement this text with so many other resources, etc. that it is not worth my time adopting it.
Also, this book is only available as a PDF, which makes it more difficult for one to pull modules into one's LMS. In its current version, I'm not sure its very accessible. For example, in 5 pages of very dense text, there are only two subheadings. This would be very difficult to navigate by someone with a screen reader.
Table of Contents
- What is Technical Writing?
- Visual Communication & Technical Writing
- Document Design in Technical Writing
- Writing in Genres
- Managing a Project
- Research Methods for Technical Writing
- Submit ancillary resource
About the Book
This book presents technical writing as an approach to researching and carrying out writing that centers on technical subject matter. Each and every chapter is devoted to helping students understand that good technical writing is situationally-aware and context-driven. Technical writing doesn’t work off knowing the one true right way of doing things—there is no magic report template out there that will always work. Instead, the focus is on offering students a series of approaches they can use to map out their situations and do research accordingly.
About the Contributors
Adam Rex Pope , University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
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How to Teach Technical Writing
Last Updated: October 8, 2020
wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, volunteer authors worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been viewed 27,289 times.
Technical writing is writing that describes or explains a product, service, or idea to the reader. While technical writing has some elements in common with essay writing and journalism, it is distinctive from both. Technical writing can be learned on the job but is more commonly taught in college classes and seminars. Teaching technical writing involves teaching students its importance, the types of documents produced, and the objectives technical writers strive for. The following steps cover these aspects.
Preparing to Teach Technical Writing
Technical Writing Content Objectives
- Look for online resources to assist you in teaching technical writing. One source is http://www.writing.engr.psu.edu/handbook/ which organizes resources by topic. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Consider joining an organization of teachers of technical writing to network with other technical writing teachers. One such group is the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW), which produces books on teaching technical writing, as well as a quarterly journal and a semiannual newsletter. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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10 Fresh Writing Prompts for High School English
They won’t be able to put their pens down.
By the time students walk in the door of our secondary ELA classrooms, they’re not exactly new to writing assignments. They’ve done autobiographies. Short stories. Love stories. Scary stories. They’ve journaled and summarized and analyzed. So how do we bring the spark back into writing for them? What can we secondary teachers offer in terms of fresh and exciting writing prompts and assignments? Here are 10 writing prompts for high school students to get them excited about writing in the new year.
1. The TED Talk
There are a lot of amazing TED Talks out there that students love. Launch a TED Talk unit by showing this one, from Tim Urban, called “ Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator .” Talk about what makes it powerful. Have students create TED Talks of their own, sharing a startling story, a piece of wisdom, or an idea from their own lives. Wrap it all up with a mock TED conference at your school, inviting parents, other classes, and administrators, if you wish.
2. Video Writing Prompts
If you’re looking for some unusual, short and sweet writing options, check out John Spencer’s Creative Writing Prompts for Students playlist. It features short videos meant to inspire students to think in creative ways. With clips like “What Are Five Things You Want Your Teacher to Know About You?” and “Invent a New Class,” these short pieces can also help you learn more about your writers.
3. Love Poems
What teenager doesn’t harbor some (not so) secret crush? Creating a unit around great love poems, both canonical and modern (e.g. spoken word poetry like this ), will help students get excited about writing their own love poems. Explore various forms, from haiku to sonnet to totally free expression, then create a class anthology of love poems, including both the greats and selections from your own writers.
4. Graduation Speeches
We’ve all sat in the audience of a graduation and wondered what we would talk about if we were on stage speaking. Give students the chance to find out. As the year comes to a close, invite them to write their own charge to the graduating class. What would they say to inspire the seniors? Something to make them laugh? Something to make them cry? Consider having your class vote on the top three pieces and printing them to give to the graduates.
5. Choice Blogging
Students always perk up for an authentic audience and a connection to the real world. Introduce them to one of the many free blogging platforms and let them blog about a topic that truly interests them. Choice blogging makes a great genius-hour option. You can devote one day a week (or every other week) to letting students write about their passions on their own blogs, simply by assigning a different topic each week. Start with list posts, review posts, news posts, video posts, and top-ten posts. Eventually, you can let them choose their own format, as long as they produce a post each week. You can find a full walk-through for setting up this type of project in my own blog post, “ A Beginner’s Guide to Student Blogging .”
6. Fold and Pass
When you try the fold and pass, you’re guaranteed to end up with some very surprising stories. Ask each student to begin a story on a blank piece of paper, introducing a main character. After a while, have them stop and fold their paper then trade with another student. You want the next person to only be able to see the last couple of lines of the beginning. In this next round, everyone will write the middle of the story, taking the character into some kind of conflict before moving the story toward resolution. Finally, have those students fold their papers so only a few lines are visible and trade with another student. When the next writers begin, let them know that they should bring the stories to an end. Then they should return the story to the original writer. The results will no doubt make everyone laugh. This is a great activity for when students need a bit of a break but you still want to keep them writing and building community in your classroom.
This writing assignment is not for the faint of heart! The NANOWRIMO challenge invites anyone interested in writing a novel to do so in one month (November). If you’re interested in exploring this ambitious mission with your students, their site is full of helpful information. You could also do a spin-off, asking students to write a novella in a month or perhaps a short story a day for seven days. Take the idea of a big and exciting challenge and make it work for your classroom.
8. “This I Believe” Essays
If you’ve never heard NPR’s old radio series “This I Believe,” it’s a great listen. People from around the country sent in short essays expressing a core belief, which could be as funny and simple as: I believe in the pizza delivery guy. Along with sharing a belief, writers gave specific, vibrant examples of why they held that belief and how they came to have it. It’s an easy format that helps students develop their ability to support claims and write with specific and powerful descriptions. NPR has already created a complete curriculum that is ready and waiting for you to use.
9. Letters to Students Far, Far Away
Several years ago, I taught in Bulgaria, and I loved connecting my students there to students in the United States. We did several projects involving writing back and forth about our views and ourselves.
Finding a collaborative classroom partner gives your students a real reason to write, new friends, and the chance to break down some boundaries. Try connecting your classroom to one in another country or even just in another part of the US. Join a Facebook group for teachers (like one of these ) and make a post to find a partner.
Seriously. I’m not kidding. During their lives, your students will probably write a gazillion emails. Why not teach them how to write a good one? Take back electronic communication from the clutches of sentence fragments, emoticons, and confusing demands. I love this post from teachwriting.org, which features ideas for how to get started with an email etiquette unit.
What are your favorite writing prompts for high school? Share them in the comments below!
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Dispelling the Myth of ‘Bad’ Writers
Teachers can create safe learning environments where students develop confidence in their writing abilities and feel more comfortable sharing their work.
“I’m a bad writer.” “I need more time.” “I’m just warning you, this is terrible.”
Welcome to what I call “The Disclaimer.” Teachers of writing are familiar with what most students do before they share their work with anyone. For years, I watched even the most confident writers fall prey to The Disclaimer. It made an appearance no matter the situation—whether students were being asked to share their pieces, whether they volunteered unasked, whether they felt good about what they’d created or not.
When I think about The Disclaimer, a scene from earlier in my teaching career comes to mind. It is October 31st, and my students have been working on a writing challenge for the past month as they read snippets of Mary Shelley, Octavia Butler, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King: Write something scary. The prospect of trying to terrify their peers is intimidating, and some students have fallen back on humor, writing so-called “scary” stories about common teenage afflictions like breaking out in acne or applying to college. Those who have taken the task in earnest are understandably more nervous as the day arrives to share their writing. What if their work fails to elicit the ideal response?
I try to be reassuring as the anticipatory buzz intensifies. “Frightening another person is incredibly difficult to do,” I say. “When we write, we aim to elicit some kind of emotional response, and we also want readers to turn the page. If we accomplish that, we’ve already made a lot of progress. Now, do we have some volunteers who are ready to share?”
The response is predictable. The same four students who always ask to go first and who are already at the edge of their seats with excitement shoot their hands straight into the air. Other students sit back, relieved. While the expectation is that most of the class will read their work aloud or pass their papers around to read silently, those who feel more hesitant have been granted a temporary reprieve. Not surprisingly, the students who volunteer first are popular, well-liked, vocal, and frequent class contributors. Three are male. Also not surprisingly, these four students do not necessarily consider themselves to be future writers, nor are they the hardest working individuals in the class. Some of the more skillful writers, the ones who produce the response I identified as ideal, will never willingly put their writing into the hands of others in the class until specifically forced to do so. When that happens and their work is well-received and appreciated, their confidence increases. When it is met with a less overtly approving response, they remain shut into themselves.
For the next hour, students share their scary stories. After the first eager beavers have duly gone and received verbal praise or feedback, it is harder to convince more reticent students to come to the front of the room and read aloud. Often, I accidentally tune out during the less engaging presenters or less skillful content, but now and then, I perk up when I hear something more exciting. The class mirrors my behavior, reacting verbally to what they perceive as excellent and even shrieking when frightened, or by applauding a little more loudly at the conclusion of the presentation. When students get this enthusiastic response, they glow. When they do not, they smile at the polite applause and return to their seats, privately disappointed. The torturous thoughts are written across their faces: I was right. I’m a bad writer .
No matter how each student feels at the end of reading aloud, however, nearly all begin the same way. Before they dive in, they say something along the lines of, “Sorry, guys. This isn’t that good. I wrote it really fast, and I couldn’t figure out the ending. Anyway, yeah. Sorry.”
As much as I might reassure students and try to stop them from sharing The Disclaimer, they will never be able to feel comfortable unless the fundamental issue—writing insecurity—is dealt with more effectively for all members of the classroom community. Even if I am caring and encouraging and believe in my students, I will remain truly frustrated that more students are not volunteering to share their stories. I am excited at the quality of the work students produce and their enthusiasm for the class, but want everyone to feel that same sense of productive anticipation. How can I keep what works, but fix what is clearly broken?
In earlier grades, students exhibit more faith in their own writing skills, but there is a sharp drop-off in their self-perception and engagement after the elementary years. As a 2015 Gallup Poll reveals, students move from about 75% engagement in fifth grade to 34% in the twelfth, bottoming out at a low 32% their junior year of high school (Brenneman, 2016). Around the same time that children begin to grow more reticent about their own skills, accountability measures ramp up as they enter the secondary grades. Suddenly, everything “counts” toward the evernearer destinations of college and career. Teachers are more prone to using phrases like “in the real world,” or “in college, professors expect” in reference to the work students produce, often when it fails to meet a desired standard. Assessments also become more high stakes, as tests like the SAT and Advanced Placement exams pave the way for college admissions and credit. The more students hear about what they need to do to be successful adults, the more intimidated many become.
Depending on endless combinations of factors that range anywhere from individual personality traits to the support parents are equipped to provide at home, the way students respond to this sort of extrinsic motivation often runs counter to what adults expect. Rather than accomplish the objective of ensuring that students understand the gravity of their education and buckle down, threatening them with what might happen if they are unsuccessful can stymie growth.
With writing, this problem is magnified because of the personal risk that is associated with sharing what we create. Writing is an expression of the self, which connects directly to how we expose our inner realities to the outside world, no matter how old or successful we become. I am a middle-aged professional writer with years of experience and documented success in my field of expertise.
However, whenever my work is rejected (a frequent experience for almost every writer on the planet), my first reaction is nearly always: I’m not good enough . If I respond that way, imagine how students feel when they take the significant risk of putting their work out into the classroom for all to see. Then, intensify that feeling to account not just for youth, emotional response, and inexperience, but also for a marginalized sense of self. Is it any wonder that kids whose voices may have been stifled elsewhere do not feel comfortable sharing their writing with others? Too many learning environments are simply not safe enough, nor are they set up to become so.
The only way to shift an outdated status quo is to recognize that the problem of inaccessible writing instruction is real, develop new structures and processes that redesign current norms, and continue course-correcting whatever needs to be tweaked. To begin engaging students in writing instruction that includes a more affirming and accessible teaching lens, teachers must first actively interrupt the myth students hold that they are “bad” writers.
Reprinted from Writing Their Future Selves: Instructional Strategies to Affirm Student Identity by Miriam Plotinsky. Copyright © 2023 by Miriam Plotinsky. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Home › Writing › What is Technical Writing? › 8 Technical Writing Examples to Inspire You
8 Technical Writing Examples to Inspire You
Become a Certified Technical Writer
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As a technical writer, you may end up being confused about your job description because each industry and organization can have varying duties for you. At times, they may ask for something you’ve never written before. In that case, you can consider checking out some technical writing examples to get you started.
If you’re beginning your technical writing career, it’s advisable to go over several technical writing examples to make sure you get the hang of it. You don’t necessarily have to take a gander over at industry-specific examples; you can get the general idea in any case.
This article will go over what technical writing is and some of the common technical writing examples to get you started. If you’re looking to see some examples via video, watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.
If you’re looking to learn via video, watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.
Let’s start by covering what technical writing is .
What Exactly is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is all about easily digestible content regarding a specialized product or service for the public. Technical writers have to translate complex technical information into useful and easy-to-understand language.
There are many examples of technical writing, such as preparing instruction manuals and writing complete guides. In some cases, technical writing includes preparing research journals, writing support documents, and other technical documentation.
The idea is to help the final user understand any technical aspects of the product or service.
In other cases, technical writing means that the writer needs to know something. For example, pharmaceutical companies may hire medical writers to write their content since they have the required knowledge.
If you’re interested in learning more about these technical writing skills, then check out our Technical Writing Certification Course.
8 Technical Writing Examples to Get You Started
As a technical writer, you may have to learn new things continually, increase your knowledge, and work with new forms of content. While you may not have experience with all forms of technical writing, it’s crucial to understand how to do it.
If you learn all the intricacies of technical writing and technical documents, you can practically work with any form of content, given that you know the format.
Therefore, the following examples of technical writing should be sufficient for you to get an idea. The different types of technical writing have unique characteristics that you can easily learn and master effectively.
1. User Manuals
User manuals or instruction manuals come with various products, such as consumer electronics like televisions, consoles, cellphones, kitchen appliances, and more. The user manual serves as a complete guide on how to use the product, maintain it, clean it, and more. All technical manuals, including user manuals, have to be highly user-friendly. The technical writer has to write a manual to even someone with zero experience can use the product. Therefore, the target audience of user manuals is complete novices, amateurs, and people using the product/s for the first time.
Traditionally, user manuals have had text and diagrams to help users understand. However, user manuals have photographs, numbered diagrams, disclaimers, flow charts, sequenced instructions, warranty information, troubleshooting guides, and contact information in recent times.
Technical writers have to work with engineers, programmers, and product designers to ensure they don’t miss anything. The writer also anticipates potential issues ordinary users may have by first using the product. That helps them develop a first-hand experience and, ultimately, develop better user manuals.
The point of the user manual isn’t to predict every possible issue or problem. Most issues are unpredictable and are better handled by the customer support or help desk. User manuals are there to address direct and common issues at most.
You can check out some user manual examples and templates here . You can download them in PDF and edit them to develop an idea about how you can write a custom user manual for your product.
2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
Standard operating procedures are complete processes for each organization’s various tasks to ensure smoother operations. SOPs help make each process more efficient, time-saving, and less costly.
An SOP document can include:
- Everything from the method of processing payroll.
- Hiring employees.
- Calculating vacation time to manufacturing guidelines.
In any case, SOPs ensure that each person in an organization works in unison and uniformly to maintain quality.
SOPs help eliminate irregularities, favoritism, and other human errors if used correctly. Lastly, SOPs make sure employees can take the responsibilities of an absent employee, so there’s no lag in work.
Therefore, developing SOPs requires a complete study of how an organization works and its processes.
Here are some examples of standard operating procedures you can study. You can edit the samples directly or develop your own while taking inspiration from them.
3. Case Studies & White Papers
Case studies and white papers are a way of demonstrating one’s expertise in an area. Case studies delve into a specific instance or project and have takeaways proving or disproving something. White papers delve into addressing any industry-specific challenge, issue, or problem.
Both case studies and white papers are used to get more business and leads by organizations.
Technical writers who write white papers and case studies need to be experts in the industry and the project itself. It’s best if the technical writer has prior experience in writing such white papers.
The writing style of white papers and case studies is unique, along with the formatting. Both documents are written for a specific target audience and require technical writing skills. Case studies are written in a passive voice, while white papers are written in an active voice. In any case, it’s crucial to maintain a certain level of knowledge to be able to pull it off.
You can check out multiple white paper examples here , along with various templates and guides. You can check out some examples here for case studies, along with complete templates.
4. API Documentation
API documentation includes instructions on effectively using and integrating with any API, such as web-API, software API, and SCPIs. API documentation contains details about classes, functions, arguments, and other information required to work with the API. It also includes examples and tutorials to help make integration easier.
In any case, API documentation helps clients understand how it works and how they can effectively implement API. In short, it helps businesses and people interact with the code more easily.
You can find a great example of proper API documentation in how Dropbox’s API documentation works. You can learn more about it here .
5. Press Releases
Press releases are formal documents issued by an organization or agency to share news or to make an announcement. The idea is to set a precedent for releasing any key piece of information in a follow-up press conference, news release, or on a social media channel.
The press release emphasizes why the information is important to the general public and customers. It’s a fact-based document and includes multiple direct quotes from major company stakeholders, such as the CEO.
Usually, press releases have a very specific writing process. Depending on the feasibility, they may have an executive summary or follow the universal press release format.
You can find several examples of press releases from major companies like Microsoft and Nestle here , along with some writing tips.
6. Company Documents
Company documents can include various internal documents and orientation manuals for new employees. These documents can contain different information depending on their use.
For example, orientation manuals include:
- The company’s history.
- Organizational chart.
- List of services and products.
- Map of the facility.
- Dress codes.
It may also include employee rights, responsibilities, operation hours, rules, regulations, disciplinary processes, job descriptions, internal policies, safety procedures, educational opportunities, common forms, and more.
Writing company documents requires good technical writing skills and organizational knowledge. Such help files assist new employees in settling into the company and integrating more efficiently.
Here are some great examples of orientation manuals you can check out.
7. Annual Reports
Annual reports are yearly updates on a company’s performance and other financial information. Annual reports directly correspond with company stakeholders and serve as a transparency tool.
The annual reports can also be technical reports in some cases. However, mostly they include stock performance, financial information, new product information, and key developments.
Technical writers who develop annual reports must compile all the necessary information and present it in an attractive form. It’s crucial to use creative writing and excellent communication skills to ensure that the maximum amount of information appears clearly and completely.
If the company is technical, such as a robotics company, the technical writer needs to develop a technical communication method that’s easy to digest.
You can check out some annual report examples and templates here .
8. Business Plans
Every company starts with a complete business plan to develop a vision and secure funding. If a company is launching a new branch, it still needs to start with a business plan.
In any case, the business plan has a few predetermined sections. To develop the ideal business plan, include the following sections in it.
- Executive Summary – includes the business concept, product, or service, along with the target market. It may also include information on key personnel, legal entity, founding date, location, and brief financial information.
- Product or Service Description – includes what the offering is, what value it provides, and what stage of development it is in currently.
- Team Members – includes all the information on the management team.
- Competitor and Market Analysis – includes a detailed analysis of the target market and potential competitors.
- Organizational System – includes information on how the organizational structure would work.
- Schedules – include start dates, hiring dates, planning dates, and milestones.
- Risks and Opportunities – include profit and loss predictions and projections.
- Financial Planning – includes planned income statements, liquidity measures, projected balance sheet, and more.
- Appendix – includes the organizational chart, resumes, patents, and more.
The technical writer needs to work closely with the company stakeholders to develop a complete business plan.
According to your industry, you can check out hundreds of business plan samples and examples here .
Becoming an Expert Technical Writer
Becoming an expert technical writer is all about focusing on your strengths. For example, you should try to focus on one to two industries or a specific form of technical writing. You can do various writing assignments and check out technical writing samples to understand what you’re good with.
You can also check out user guides and get online help in determining your industry. Once you’ve nailed down an industry and technical writing type, you can start to focus on becoming an expert in it.
In any case, it always helps to check out technical writing examples before starting any project. Try to check out examples of the same industry and from a similar company. Start your writing process once you have a complete idea of what you need to do.
Since technical writing involves dealing with complex information, the writer needs to have a solid base on the topic. That may require past experience, direct technical knowledge, or an ability to understand multiple pieces of information quickly and effectively.
In becoming a technical writer, you may have to work with various other people, such as software developers, software engineers, human resources professionals, product designers, and other subject matter experts.
While most organizations tend to hire writers with a history in their fields, others opt for individuals with great writing skills and team them up with their employees.
Technical writers may also work with customer service experts, product liability specialists, and user experience professionals to improve the end-user experience. In any case, they work closely with people to develop digestible content for the end customers.
Today, you can also find several technical writers online. There is an increasing demand for technical writing because of the insurgence of SaaS companies, e-commerce stores, and more.
In the end, technical writers need to have a strong grasp of proper grammar, terminology, the product, and images, graphics, sounds, or videos to explain documentation.
If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break-in, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course , where you will learn the fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and how to stand out as a technical writing candidate.
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Examples of Technical Writing for Students
As a college instructor and communication expert with extensive nonfiction and educational writing experience, Mary shares tips and advice related to a wide variety of topics.
Learn about our Editorial Policy .
Are you looking for examples of technical writing for students? Whether you are a teacher searching for samples to share with your pupils or are a student looking for existing documents that can provide guidance as you are working on a class assignment, reviewing technical writing examples can be very beneficial.
What Is Technical Writing?
Technical writing is a very specialized type of writing. It serves the purpose of communicating specific information to a defined audience for a particular purpose. Technical writing is instructional in nature, seeking to convey information to the reader in a manner that he or she can understand and apply. With this type of writing, clarity and specificity are essential, as is communicating using terminology that will be easy for members of the target audience to comprehend.
- Examples of Successful Grant Proposals to Help You Secure Funding
The following three examples demonstrate technical writing.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
An SOP clearly defines processes for organizations:
After a staff member returns from an absence, the employee must complete the Classified Employee Absence Report located on the S drive:
- Click on "My Computer"
- Double-click the network titled "S Drive"
A legal disclaimer provides notice of a legal framework related to the content being read:
These communications are protected by the Electronic Privacy Act (24 USCA 2674). Any unlawful interceptions or disclosures of the information contained in this transmission is strictly prohibited under 24 USCA 2675.
Help files are written at a basic reading level without jargon and contain only a few steps of instruction. The goal is to help employees or customers solve issues on their own:
Help Topic: Customization
On the Dashboard, you can select the picture that will be displayed on your home screen. The computer comes with ten pictures or you can upload your own. To do this, complete the following steps...
Where to Find Examples of Technical Writing for Students Online
There are a number of online resources for examples of technical writing for students. A few places you may want to look to find samples of this type of writing include:
- Eduscapes - The Eduscapes website is a resource for teachers and librarians who are looking for materials that can be used to create or enhance lessons. Along with many other instructional materials, this site includes several technical writing examples as well as tips for teaching these types of skills effectively.
- HelpScribe.com - The HelpScribe.com website provides several technical writing examples that you can review. There are a samples of technical manuals, system requirement documentation, help documents, instructions, and other types of documents.
- Technical writing providers - Companies and individuals that provide technical writing services often publish examples of their work on their websites as a marketing resource. A few sites that you may want to review when searching for sample documents are: JPC Media, LLC ; Paul MacMartin, Technical Writer ; and Warthman Associates .
Additional Resources for Technical Writing Samples
While the Internet is a great place to locate examples of technical writing, it is certainly not the only place you can find documents that meet your needs. There's a good chance that there are several examples of technical writing in your home or office. If you have an owner's manual for any of the electronic devices or appliances that you own, you have an example of technical documentation.
In addition to owner's manuals, other publications you may have access to at home or work include:
- Employee handbook - Companies provide their employees with a handbook that details the organization's policies and procedures. If you aren't currently working, ask your friends or relatives who have jobs to show you copies of the manuals from their companies.
- Instruction manuals - The copy or fax machine in your office likely came with an instruction manual.
- Software documentation - Any time you purchase a license for software application, documentation regarding how to install and begin using the program is included.
- Student handbook - If you are a student, your school likely provided you with a handbook that spells out various policies and procedures.
Use Discretion When Selecting Examples
Remember that every technical writing sample that you come across may not represent a good example. In some cases, you may find documents that are better used as illustrations of what not to do rather than guidelines for what you or your students should do. If you've ever purchased an item that required assembly only to find that the instructions were insufficient or difficult to follow, you have experienced poor technical writing first hand. Review any example document that you are thinking about using to be sure that the quality of information and writing style are appropriate to serve the intended purpose.
Middle School Stuff
Get Your Message Across
Something great is coming soon..
Something great is coming soon!