Technical Communication for Engineers

Presented by Hillary Hart and Leah Guren


The ability to communicate technical information effectively is important for all engineers. However, most engineering programs do not cover writing skills from the perspective of a technical communicator.

Technical communication is one of today’s fastest-growing technology-based professions. It involves all aspects of helping people use technical products and services, from analyzing user needs to creating product documentation. Engineers in many companies must work effectively with technical communicators to improve the user experience of a product or process. Cross-functional teams build interface designs, develop documentation, create effective user assistance, and conduct usability testing. As a designer, the engineer should be involved in all these steps.

Technical communication is valuable to engineers for two reasons:

  • Engineers need to be able to explain and document their work, yet these skills are seldom covered in enough depth in engineering programs.
  • There is a shortage of technical communicators with a strong engineering background; that makes this a lucrative and attractive career for some engineers.

This course offers a fast and effective entry into the theory and application of technical communication. It is designed specifically for engineers of all ages and backgrounds. The material is presented at the level of a graduate seminar by two experts with extensive experience.

The online course combines the best of live lectures (with interactive Q&A) with the convenience of online training. Participants have access to a virtual classroom for handouts, homework submission, and opportunities for collaboration with fellow students.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand important role of the engineer as a technical communicator and the necessity of technical communication within engineering.
  • Identify how effective TC writing differs from other kinds of writing.
  • Correct common mistakes in writing.
  • Master the correct writing style for different kinds of documents.
  • Identify and target your audience.
  • Recognize and treat hazards (warnings and cautions) in technical information.
  • Write effective definitions and technical descriptions.
  • Write clear, usable procedures (instruction sets).
  • Integrate clear visuals and effective explanations in your documents.
  • Communicate more effectively in email.
  • Improve your oral communication skills.
  • Develop and format proposals and reports.

Sessions and Work Requirements

  • 10 weekly 75-minute online lectures
  • Weekly homework assignments
  • Final exam

Intended Audience

  • Engineers who have not had formal training in writing technical information
  • Engineers who want to improve the usability and acceptance of their documents
  • Students (graduate or undergraduate) who have not had training in writing technical information

Session Descriptions

Session 1

Understand role of technical communication in your career. Review of punctuation.

Session 2

Identify and analyse document’s target audience.Filter and organize information appropriately for audience. Plan document: gather and manage information and data.

Session 3

Master correct writing style for technical communication.

Session 4

Learn key elements of technical communication theory.

Session 5

Use effective and unambiguous graphics in your documents. Develop and design appropriate slides for a presentation. Write technical definitions, technical descriptions, and powerful explanations for complex concepts.

Session 6

Write effective procedures.

Session 7

Understanding and applying visual structure (layout and design) to create meaning.

Session 8

Develop proposals and reports and format them appropriately.

Session 9

Improve your oral communications skills for better success in business. Learn best practices for better emails.

Session 10

Develop strategies for responding appropriately to ethical dilemmas. Work efficiently with technical writers, editors, tech support, and other colleagues.

Presenter Biography

Dr. Hillary Hart is a Fellow of STC and a distinguished senior lecturer in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She served as President of the STC Board of Directors in 2011–12, and her STC awards include a Distinguished Technical Communication Award from the journal Technical Communication in 2007 and the President’s Award in 2008. Hillary has published one book (sole author) and over 25 technical articles on environmental risk communication, engineering ethics, engineering communication, and defining technical communication. She is a regular speaker at academic and professional conferences, including the American Society of Engineering Education. Hillary also conducts short courses and workshops for a diverse selection of clients, including public agencies (the Texas Water Development Board, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) and corporations such as BP-Amoco, Gestalt, and Alcoa.

Leah Guren entered the field of technical communication in 1980. Her experience as a writer, editor, tech pubs manager, and consultant allowed her to develop a variety of technical communication training programs. Leah trains new writers for this field, as well as conducting seminars and in-house training for technical communicators of all levels, engineers, and managers. Her clients include many of the top high-tech and bio-tech companies internationally, including Intel, Cisco, HP, Microsoft, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and DSP. Leah is the author of many articles in technical communication journals and is a contributing author in a technical communication book. However, she is best known for her ability to bring dry theory to life, illustrating rules with real-life examples and providing clear, practical guidelines. An Associate Fellow with STC, Leah is a regular speaker at STC and other international technical communication conferences, and has served on STC's Board of Directors.