Technical Communications

 At its most basic, communication is the transmission of information in the form of words, images, and sounds. We string words, images, and sounds together to make meaning and to share that meaning with others. How we form the “strings” depends on audience and context. For instance, how we talk, text, or email our friends and personal acquaintances is usually different than how we communicate with our bosses or coworkers.

   You might be asking yourself how a technical communications class is different from other academic writing classes. In a traditional academic setting, the writing classroom tends to be about the demonstration of knowledge—expanding on ideas or documenting an understanding of traditional types of papers or essays (explanatory, argumentative, reflective) with the audience being the instructor. In a technical communication classroom, many of the principles are similar—organizing paragraphs effectively, following the writing process—but with an increased focus on the professional context for communicating information and, therefore, even more emphasis on concision, clarity, and accessibility.

   Ultimately, the goal of technical communication is to transmit important information as effectively and efficiently as possible—information that allows you and the people around you to do your jobs well.
   The other way that technical communications might differ from your concept of a traditional writing class is that it is not limited only to “writing.” Part of transmitting information effectively is recognizing that we have many options for how we can communicate with our audiences. There are, of course, important written forms, such as reports, emails, proposals, and instructions, but you will also need to use visual and oral modes, such as presentations, videos, infographics, or diagrams. Further, web and social media offer professionals even more opportunities to communicate in a wide variety of formats. An effective communicator knows when and how to strategically deploy (or blend) these modes depending on audience and desired response.

   The most important “strategy” emphasized in this textbook is that all communication must be designed with audience and purpose in mind. There are almost endless types of documents and forms of communication that will be at your disposal as a professional. In addition to knowing what you are communicating (the information, your expertise), you, the communicator, must thoughtfully consider who you are communicating to (your audience) and why you are communicating (the purpose).