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Professional/Technical Writing: The Basics. Duane Theobald “Professional” Writing? “Technical” Writing?. What do you know about professional/technical writing? What do these words mean to you?

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professional technical writing the basics

Professional/Technical Writing: The Basics

Duane Theobald

professional writing technical writing
“Professional” Writing? “Technical” Writing?
  • What do you know about professional/technical writing? What do these words mean to you?
  • What makes “professional/technical” writing different from any other writing I do for a class?
  • What are some different forms of professional/technical writing? Have you ever dealt with them?
  • 3 Main Topics to cover today:
    • E-mails
    • Letters
    • Résumés
before we dive in
Before We Dive In…

1 e mails what not to do
1. E-Mails: What Not To Do…

Take a look at the following e-mail. Notice anything problematic/wrong with it?


Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2010, 11:42 a.m.


Subject: hey

hey Mrs. Smith this is John doe, sorry i missed class today . . . i had a little too much fun last nite had a rough time waking up;) can you tell me what i missed and email me your teaching notes ASAP? thx.

1 e mails
1. E-Mails

Effective e-mails are a valuable educational tool; they allow you to ask questions and receive instant feedback, whether you are e-mailing a professor or speaking to a co-worker about an upcoming project.

Unfortunately, many people need to make sure that their communications are professional and appropriate.

1 e mails1
1. E-Mails
  • Aspects of e-mail etiquette to consider include:
    • Formality
      • Always make sure that your e-mail opens with a salutation (“Dear Professor...”/To Whom It May Concern) and close with a proper signature (“Sincerely…”/ “Thanks in advance”)
      • Write a clear subject line that is relevant to its content (otherwise, someone might reject your message as spam).
      • Remember to consider ALL rules of grammar, spelling, capitalization that you have previously learned!!
    • Tone
      • It is important to analyze your audience—there are some things you can say to your friend that you would NEVER say to your professor/employer.
      • Before you hit “Send,” review your draft with an eye for context-appropriate content/language.
      • Do not make demands over an e-mail and do not be hasty when sending nasty protests.
1 e mails what to do
1. E-Mails: What to Do…


Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2010, 11:42 a.m.


Subject: Today’s Class (ENGL 1101)

Good Morning Professor Smith,

This is John Doe. I am in your ENGL 1101 class. I am sorry I missed class today. I was not feeling very well this morning. I looked at the syllabus and saw that we were given important notes in today’s class. Would it be possible to get these from you via e-mail?

Thank you for assistance. I look forward to hearing from you.


John Doe

2 letters
2. Letters
  • Prior to beginning any letter (for our purposes, business letters), make sure to do the following:
    • Reread the description of your task (i.e. advertisement for a job opening, assignment for a class, etc.)
    • Think about your purpose and what requirements are mentioned or implied in the description
    • Identify qualifications, attributes, objectives, or answers that match the requirements you listed
    • Strive to be exact and avoid vagueness, ambiguity, and platitudes
2 letters1
2. Letters
  • Cover Letter (Application Letter)
    • Is there a difference?
      • No, just in terminology
  • A cover letter allows you to market your skills, abilities, and knowledge to a potential employer.
    • What should I consider when writing this kind of letter? Make sure that…
      • It catches the reader’s attention favorably.
      • It explains which particular job interests you and why.
      • It convinces the reader that you are qualified for the job by drawing their attention to particular elements in your résumé.
      • It request an interview.
2 letters2
2. Letters

Example of a Cover Letter (OWL at Purdue):

3 r sum
3. Résumé

A résumé is a general and concise introduction of your experiences and skills as they relate to a particular position or career.

Résumés are often altered for each position that you are applying for so as to emphasize those skills and experiences most relevant to the work.

3 r sum1
3. Résumé
  • A typical résumé includes the following:
    • Name and Contact Information: your residential address (especially important if you do not want your current employer to know you are looking for a job elsewhere)
    • Education: a listing of your degrees/certifications and educational institutions/programs
    • Work Experience: names of the companies or organizations that you have worked for, the location of each company, the dates worked, your job title, and duties performed
3 r sum2
3. Résumé
  • Some specifics to consider:
    • Use common sense when formatting: there are no universal guidelines for formatting a résumé; if you are concerned about your résumé being to busy or misaligned, click on “Print Preview” and evaluate the consistency of your space
    • Fonts and font sizes: it is typically a good idea to stick with fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial; using other fonts can distract the reader from the content and cause them to focus on the “prettiness” of the document—keep the reader focused on your accomplishments!
    • Seek and evaluate examples: many professors and professionals post their résumés online via web pages and employee profile pages on corporate websites; take the time to look at them and see what they did and what you might want to mimic
3 r sum3
3. Résumé

Example of a Résumé (OWL at Purdue):

to recap
To Recap…
  • When writing an e-mail…
    • Consider your audience and make sure your tone (how you express yourself) is appropriate
  • When writing a letter, specifically a cover/application letter…
    • Catch the reader’s attention
    • Explain which particular job interest you and why
    • Convince the reader that you are qualified for the job by drawing their attention to particular elements in your résumé
    • Request an interview
  • When writing a résumé…
    • Include name, contact information, education, and work experience
    • Keep formatting consistent

Above all, make sure to seek out examples if you are in doubt or need guidance!

need help
Need help??
  • Utilize your resources!!
    • Check out the following books that might be useful:
      • Technical Communication (10th ed.)-Mike Markel
      • The Essentials of Technical Communication (2nd ed.)-Elizabeth Tebeaux and Sam Dragga
      • The Business Writer’s Handbook (10th ed.)-Gerald B. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu
      • The Technical Writer’s Companion (3rded.)-Gerald B. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu
  • OWL at Purdue (
  • Visit tutoring centers on campus (EXCEL Center & the UWC!)
  • 678-839-6513
  • TLC 1201 (First floor, past the snacks)
  • Like us on Facebook:
    • University Writing Center (UWG)
  • Duane Theobald (Manager of the UWC)
  • 678-839-5312