Book Review: Spring Into Technical Writing
Book Review: Spring Into Technical Writing for Engineers and Scientists
Author: Barry J. Rosenberg
Total Pages: 318
As Web design professionals, we often need to do some form of writing. It may be a business proposal, a Web site maintenance manual, online documentation, a FAQ, or numerous other documents. Since we design and code for a living, many of us aren't sure where to begin. While there are many books and articles that teach writing and grammar, who has time for it all? What we need is a direct approach that can be accessed quickly and succinctly, so we can get back to work.
Well, Barry J. Rosenberg has done just that. His new book, Spring Into Technical Writing for Engineers and Scientists, covers everything you need to know about how to write effective documentation without much suffering. Barry knows what he's talking about, having authored over 30 programming manuals.
Don't be scared off by the title. This book is not a course in creative writing, nor is it about hard-core grammar. It covers those topics that apply to people who write technical material, and it does it effectively.
The "Spring Into ..." series by Addison-Wesley is, to quote from their Web site, "a series of short, concise, fast-paced tutorials written explicitly for professionals who need to quickly master new technologies.... Written by professional and seasoned writers, these books are designed to take a sophisticated reader from zero to functional literacy quickly, and in no more than 350 pages." The formula used in writing the books seems to be very effective. It's similar to the way USAToday reports stories — short and to the point.
The material presented in the book is concise, yet informative. (Where was Barry when I was in high school?) Each topic is delivered in a short segment, one to two pages in length. Unlike many technical writing manuals, this book was actually a pleasure to read. I've seen many other books that attempt to present complicated material in a short, concise manner and, for the most part, it usually doesn't work. Barry, however, has managed to present the material in an easy-to-digest manner without sacrificing the actual meat.
The book is divided into four sections. The first section, "Planning to Write," takes an in-depth look at the target audience and the best methods for presenting the material to that audience. The section also takes a look at document writing specifications. These are outlines of the material to be presented and to whom it is to be delivered.
The next section, "Writing: General Principles," covers the grammar and layout aspects of technical writing. Here, Barry presents the material in a style that's easy to understand. The chapter headings in this section include Words, Sentences, and Paragraphs and Sections. Barry also takes a look at the proper use of lists, tables, and graphics. The section is rounded off with a chapter called, "Professional Secrets."
Section 3, "Writing: Specific Kinds of Documents," provides a thorough coverage of the different types of technical documents, such as manuals, proposals, PowerPoint presentations, even Web sites and e-mail.
In the last section, "Editing and Producing Documents," Barry delves into the actual publishing of the document. He covers the editing process, fonts and typography, and a quick section (only eight pages) on punctuation.
All in all, the book is informative without being labor intensive. Each topic is to the point and doesn't leave out important information. If you need to do technical writing, check out this book. It will add polish to your documents.
Created: July 18, 2005