Technical Writing Courses and Classes Overview
Technical writers not only need strong written communication skills but also need to possess specialized knowledge in a technical field. Courses in technical writing are available alone or as part of a full degree program.
While some colleges and universities offer non-credit courses in the subject, technical writing courses are most often part of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. These programs usually lead to an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree in technical writing, professional communications or technical communications. Some schools provide an option to specialize in the medical, scientific, computer or engineering field.
Most of these programs include an introductory technical writing course that focuses on the creation of the print and electronic documents that are used in numerous industries. Students get prepared to make brochures, reports, software documentation and other items. A document design course is usually also included early in the program and covers document formatting and layout. More specialized courses taken may focus on the details of writing technical manuals, formal reports, newsletters and online documentation. Students pursuing a specialization usually focus on the documents most commonly used in their chosen field.
Technical writing programs also include an editing and proofreading course that prepares students to work with style guides and correct spelling, punctuation, grammar and style. Students might also take a technical writing management course to learn strategies for supervising teams of writers. It is common for curricula to include an internship or final technical writing project.
List of Technical Writing Courses
Below are some descriptions of courses found within a technical writing program.
Introduction to Technical Writing
This undergraduate course addresses the creation of a variety of print and electronic documents, including brochures, reports, websites, software documents and scientific reports. Students learn how to organize and express facts and ideas through the written word. Coursework focuses on the production of technical documents that may be used in industry, government, business and academia.
Technical Manual Writing
Designed for people working in a variety of fields, this course teaches the basics of creating and revising end-user manuals. Curriculum covers both print and online formats. Topics include product learning, drafting, document design and task analysis. Students use online tools and desktop publishing software to create technical manuals that they can use for their portfolios.
Formal Report Writing
Students learn the protocol for proper technical and scientific report writing. Subjects include punctuation, grammar and research techniques, as well as the creation of title pages, tables of contents, format pages, glossaries and appendices. Courses emphasize style, tone and the importance of writing in plain, comprehensible English.
Technical editing is a part of technical writing, though it is often treated as a stand-alone job in practice. In this graduate-level course, students learn how to edit professional and technical documents for grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, format and style. Courses typically address the job duties of the business and scientific technical editor. Topics include establishing positive working relationships with both writers and upper-level management, in addition to the use of copyediting marks and style guides.
This graduate-level course focuses on the design elements of technical and professional documents. Typography, color and page layout are addressed as students use software programs to design documents. Projects encompass both print and electronic media design, including manuals and online help sites. Professional development is emphasized.
Technical Writing Management
Those who start out as technical writers may find themselves managing other writers. This course addresses the organization of technical writing departments, with examples ranging from small, independent businesses to the communications divisions of large organizations. Students go into the field to observe practicing managers in order to learn about techniques and strategies in this field.
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