August 12, 2012

Appropriate Books for Technical Writer

Books for Technical Writers

Recently I saw a very informative and interesting discussion "Appropriate Books for Technical Writer" on one of the Technical Writer Forum started by Quan li ,a student from China. 

This is one of the frequently asked questions on the different forum in different way, so thought to compile comments for myself and visitors of my blog for future references.

I have posted the comments as it is because i fear by simply listing the books name i may lose the essence which is created by complete discussion.


Hello, everyone. I am a technical writer and trying to know more about the career. I've collected some books for technical writers, but I don't know which one is better, could you give me some suggestions? 

The books are as follows:
1.BBC - New Writing Style Guide
2.English for Writing Research Papers
3.Grammatically Correct The writer's essential guide to punctuation spelling style usage and grammar 1997 1
4.Microsoft Press - Microsoft Manual Of Style For Technical Publications 3Rd Edition Microsoft 5.Technical Writing - Manual Of Style
6.The Chicago Manual of Style. The Essential Guide for Writers Editors and Publishers 15th ed 2006
7.The Online English Grammar
8.The Web Content Style Guide. An Essential Reference for Online Writers Editors and Managers
9.Writing In English A Practical Handbook for Scientific and Technical Writers

10 "How to Write a Computer Manual: A Handbook of Software Documentation" by Jonathan

John Sarra •Qian, I would suggest you do a search on for "Technical Writing". The books you list are mostly references. There are a number of books, such as "Technical Writing 101" that will also give you "how to" information. Read the reviews and see what others say. That will point you to books that may interest you.
Elizabeth Emerson •Definitely, if you have to select one, choose this one:

*Microsoft Press - Microsoft Manual Of Style For Technical Publications 3Rd Edition Microsoft

This is a standard style manual and a reference book that should be available in every technical writing department.

Now 4th edition is also available. 
Adria Quinones •I also like Sun's "Read Me First," as a contrast to Microsoft's Manual of Style.

Note that Microsoft published their 4th ed. earlier this year.
Robert Lauriston •Clear, concise, correct, and comprehensive.

Is there a book that will teach a new writer why you need a style manual?

I use Chicago, which is excellent, comprehensive, and available online. Since I'm in the software industry, I use the Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th ed., which you can get in a PDF, it's not in the same league as Chicago but it's the best and most comprehensive and up to date for software documentation (though useless for anything else). Neither will teach you anything about tech writing as a career.

Don't use a UK style manual (such as BBC) if you're writing American English and don't use a US style manual (such as Chicago) if you're writing British / International English.
Craig Cardimon •"The Insider's Guide to Technical Writing," by Krista Van Laan (XML Press, 2012), discusses tech writing as a career. I highly recommend it for describing the ups and downs of tech writing.
Zvi Eynan •I would recommend "Handbook of Technical Writing" by Alred/Brusaw/Olio
I little bit old fashioned but mostly useful
Go to amazon for more tittles
Delio Destro •As a general guideline I like "Developing Quality Technical Information"
ISBN 0131477498
and of course, the bases of the basics: "The Elements of Technical Writing" ISBN 0020130856
Ed Mikula •Once you are comfortable stringing words together, you might read "Dynamics in Document Design" and The Elements of Typographic Style.
James Barakaat •As a former Professor at Kaplan University, I recommend:

Kaplan Technical Writing: A Resource for Technical Writers at All Levels [Paperback]
Carrie Hannigan (Author), Carrie Wells (Author), Carolyn Stevenson (Author), Tanya Peterson (Author), Diane Martinez (Author).

Also, Technical Writing 101: A Real-World Guide to Planning and Writing Technical Documentation, Second Edition [Paperback] Alan S. Pringle

I studied Technical Writing and Technical Editing at Miami University with Paul V Anderson who wrote: Technical Communication by Paul V. Anderson, 7th Edition.

You can get them at
Naci Simsek •If you have an apple device, you can also check for technical writing courses from ITunes U or either you can check wikiversity for the same topic.
Dick Miller •For a focus on usability and the user experience (not often taught in tech writing classes), see STC Usability and User Experience Community's Usability Bookshelf at
Mark Baker •All the best books for technical communicators to read are not about technical communications. I recommend:

* Politics and the English Language, George Orwell
* Everything is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger
* Too Big to Know, David Weinberger
* Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath
* The Social Life of Information, Duguid and Brown
Saul Carliner •If you are looking for books to strengthen your skills, you'll need different books for different purposes.

(1) Start with a general book that provides an overview of the process. Paul Anderson's, Mary Lay's, or William S. Pfeiffer's books provide excellent introductions to the general field of technical writing, whether writing as a full-time professional writer or a technical professional like an an engineer or scientist who writes as part of his job.

(2) Expand into books that provide an overview of technical communication from a communicator's point of view. Although older, Barnum & Carliner's Techniques for Technical Communicators still has some value.

(3) Go deeper into writing, with books like Strunk & White's Elements of Style and Williams' and Columb's lesser-known, but equally useful, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grade, the IBM book mentioned earlier, as well as books that focus on specific writing in specific genres (such as the book mentioned earlier on how to write a user manual or Horton's or Carliner's books on designing e-learning programs) and media (such as the second edition of Janice, Redish's book on writing online content)

(4) Develop skills in editing--including skills in using a style guide. Rude & Eaton's book is the main book in this area, but by no means the only good one. Judy Tarutz's book is a classic, as is Ann Judd's book on copyediting. They'll tell you how to use a style guide--and you can choose which one is appropriate to your means. (See other comments on using style guides appropriate to America, British, or some other variant of English.)

(5) Learn to communicate visually. Robin Williams' Design for Non-Designers is a classic but written for general audiences. Pair that with Kostlenick & Robert's Designing Visual Language, specifically intended for technical communicators.

(6) Read about the production process--usually a throw-away thought in most formal training programs but a fundamental part of all jobs. Some possible choices: Kenley's 2004 book, Getting It Printed: How to Work With Printers and Graphic Imaging Services to Assure Quality, Stay on Schedule and Control Costs (Getting It Printed) 4th Edition and .Bann's, 2007 book, The All New Print Production Handbook.

(7) Having mastered the basics, move onto books on more advanced topics. Wait until you have completed your first few projects before starting these books.

Start by reading the trade publications to learn more about what's going on. STC's Intercom magazine is superb. But also check out and, both of which offer broader, more comprehensive views of designing complex information projects (primarily for presentation online).

Then, learn more about structuring complex information through books like Information Architecture (Rosenfeld & Morville's book on the subject is a classic). You might also do some reading on the subject of knowledge management.

(8) Read about the technology of publishing. Ann Rockley's content management book provides a great overview. Follow that with a book on DITA (she's also written a book on that, too!).

(9) Learn how to design usable content. Start with Donald Norman's classic The Design(Psychology) of Everyday Things, which sensitizes you to the subject, then proceed to a book that explains how to design usable content--like Barnum's 2010 book on usability.

(10) Then read about managing projects, technical communication staff, and the technical communication business. JoAnn Hackos' 2007 book on management provides a great overview, as does Richard Hamilton's 2009 book on management.

If you complete those readings--and have 5 years of work experience--consider applying for the Certified Technical Communication Professional credential, which externally recognizes knowledge and experience. for more information.

Eric ArmstrongSecond Saul's motion: Joseph Williams, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Absolutely brilliant. Style in the service of comprehension. Simple, easy to read, and elegant, like the principles espoused. And for software, as many others have mentioned, the MS Style Manual--the product of a lot of document usability research, if I'm not mistaken.

Few suggested Links on this topic:

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