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by Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu
(NOTE: This review is based on the 7th edition of this work which, at this time of writing, is in its 9th edition.)
Handbook of Technical Writing, Ninth Edition
is (together with Microsoft’s Manual of Style for Technical Publications) definitely one of the top two reference books that all technical communicators should have in their library. I forgot the number of times I’ve consulted this small-sized but dense (and heavy) 646-page reference book.
Organized alphabetically, the “Handbook” addresses almost every topic and concept one can think of in technical communications, and then some…
Not only the material is presented in chapters each devoted to one letter of the alphabet (A to Z), but there are also three different Indexes which make navigation through this dictionary a breeze.
There is of course the regular alphabetical Index at the end of the book. But in the front, there are also a “Checklist of the Writing Process” and the “Topical Key to the Alphabetical Entries” which are both very useful.
One distinguishing characteristic of this great handbook, in addition to the explanation of individual concepts, is the concern for the training of the users. This is not a simple dictionary just aiming to “explain” things and leave it at that. The authors Alred, Burslaw and Oliu also genuinely want to help the readers become better and successful technical writers in every possible way.
Sidebars and special topics, for example, are a reflection of that broader concern.
Examples: the comprehensive entry on Resumes, Pronouns, English as a Second Language, many Checklists on a variety of topics, Instructions (on procedural writing), components of a document, graphics and illustrations, etc.
I also love the special WEB LINK inserts which refer the reader to selected online sources.
Here are some of my most favorite Checklists provided by the Handbook:
- Observing Workplace Netiquette
- Newsletter Articles
- Revising Your Draft
- Using Headings
- Creating and Using Drawings
- Creating Sales or Informational Brochures
… and dozens more!
Handbook of Technical Writing, Ninth Edition is one of the books that (yes) I take with me when I go out on vacation in case I need to check something, or just to crack it open to a random page and read it for my own personal pleasure. Highly recommended.
(Do you have a book that needs review? Please send a note through the Comment box.)