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Free Online Technical Writing Textbook

7th December 2010 Posted in Blog, Books, Technical Writers 6 Comments
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Editor’s Note: Since this post was published, the link to the free online textbook has been removed. You can see chapter excerpts at: The textbook is also available for sale at Amazon here.

Everyone’s trying to save money these days, so finding free resources can be ideal for any company’s technical writing, documentation or information design department.

While guidelines change and strategies adjust to fit company needs, the online free technical writing textbook, entitled Power Tools for Technical Communication, by David A. McMurrey can be a good starting point for a new technical writer – or for anyone who’s interested in finding out if this is the career track for them.

This online technical writing textbook is used for assigning credit to those at Austin Community College (ACC) in Austin, Texas or through the online continuing education Technical Writing Certificate Program at Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York.

What the Technical Writing Book Includes

Via links on the website, readers will learn about various technical writing topics, organized into five sections:

  1. Introduction: Technical Writing and This Course
    • About technical writing
    • About technical-writing courses
    • About the instructor/author
  2. Examples, Cases & Models: Index
  3. Applications of Technical Writing
    • Business correspondence and resumes
    • Technical reports: structure and process
    • Types of technical reports: an overview
    • Business plans
    • Proposals
    • Progress reports
    • Instructions
    • User guides
    • Organizational policies and procedures
    • Recommendation and feasibility reports
    • Abstracts, introductions, and conclusions
    • Oral presentations
  4. Document Design
    • Book design overview
    • Page design overview
    • Headings
    • Lists
    • Special notices
    • Graphics and tables
    • Report format and final packaging
    • Highlighting and emphasis
    • Indexing
  5. Processes and Guidelines in Technical Writing
    • Writing process: from audience to rough draft
    • Audience analysis
    • Task analysis
    • Power-revision techniques
    • Libraries, documentation, cross-referencing
    • Basic patterns and elements of the sentence
    • Common grammar, usage, punctuation problems
    • Common spelling problems
    • Strategies for peer-reviewing and team-writing
    • Information structures

A Book Review

The text is thorough, well-organized, and seemingly still relevant to most technical writers today. While up to date information is always recommended, learning more about the technical writing field from this site will be helpful.

With free technical writing resources, human resources/training/documentation departments have a good place to send would-be and already hired technical writers for a refresher course on how to be most effective in their work. It can also a good starting point for interns and those considering a career change.

Related topic:

Online Learning in Professional Technical Writing

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  1. By Larry Saunderson 18th, July 2011 at 11:14 am

    It appears that this link is no longer available.

  2. By editoron 18th, July 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks for bringing that to our attention. I was unable to find a link where you can still get the entire textbook for free, so I updated the post with an Editor’s note and links to chapter excerpts and to Amazon where the book is available for sale.

  3. By Keith Arnetton 25th, August 2011 at 3:18 pm

    The content is available at both of these locations, although the second one seems to have more than the first (examples and index):

  4. By editoron 26th, August 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks, Keith.

  5. By helperon 11th, June 2012 at 4:18 am

    Google offers free technical writing ebooks if you search their site and click on “free google ebook” it will have whole books viewable for free.

  6. By editoron 11th, June 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks for the tip, helper.

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