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The Elements of Technical Writing (Elements of Series) [Paperback]

Gary Blake , Robert W. Bly
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

19 Dec 2000 Elements of Series
  The essential guide to writing clear, concise proposals, reports, manuals, letters, memos, and other documents in every technical field.   Includes a section with examples and text that address the specialized writing problems of systems analysts and software engineers.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Longman; 1 edition (19 Dec 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0020130856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0020130857
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 580,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent tech writing intro and reference... 11 May 1999
By A Customer
I found this to be a helpful, and quick, read...but was amused to find grammatical errors in the book. How tacky.
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9 of 18 people found the following review helpful
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide 4 Feb 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I found this book to be extremely useful. It was easy to read and clearly pointed out the major elements in technical writing. I recommend it to anyone who needs a boost in their writing, but not for someone looking for a thick reference guide. The only reason it gets 4 instead of 5 stars is it didn't have as many examples as I would have liked or any practice problems. Overall, it helped me organize my papers properly, avoid common writing flaws, and get my main points across.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some value for the price 30 Nov 2005
By Acolin - Published on Amazon.com
In order of size, but not importance, the four books Technical Writers need within easy rolling distance are:

1. Strunk and White's powerful Elements of Style

2. Michael Bremer's interesting and motivating Untechnical Writing - How to Write About Technical Subjects and Products So Anyone Can Understand (Untechnical Press Books for Writers Series)

3. Blake and Bly's Elements of Technical Writing (MacMillan)

4. Microsoft's Manual of Style for Technical Publications

I found a number of items are useful for SDK online Help documentation. Blake and Bly state a number of golden rules for Technical Writers, a few of which are useful:

#3) Numbers should appear in the same form they are familiar to readers

#4) Hyphenate numbers and unit of measure, such as 32-bytes

#5) Use singular when 1: .8-bit

#9) Write out approximations: half a glass of water

#11) Spell out numbers beginning a sentence

Center equations (2+2=4) on the page

#25) Hyphenate words compounded to form an adjective modifier. State-of-the-art technology, for example; the phrase state-of-the-art modifies the meaning of word, technology, following the phrase.

Hyphenate two adjacent nouns if they express a single idea: air-craft.

#29) Avoid dangling participles: verbs ending with "ing," when attached to the wrong subject.

Wrong: Turning over our papers, the exam began.

Correct: Turning over our papers, we began the exam.

Omit internal punctuation in acronyms and abbreviations: R.S.V.P

Acronyms for measurements are in lower case: cm for centimeter.

Avoid symbols for words: " for inch.

"that evaluates to" is a common enough phrase in program code documentation, but it is passive (not past tense).

Use imperative voice: begin sentence with a verb.
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not necessarily for long term use 26 Jan 2001
By Douglas A. Nickerson - Published on Amazon.com
This book is general in its coverage and doesn't attempt to teach writing. It does teach some mechanics and offer some adivce on how to structure reports and articles.
I found that I read this book once but now don't find it a useful reference. It does contain a number of style guidelines e.g., "representing numbers and math," but many examples are from chemistry and hard sciences; which I found less relevant to me. One chapter discusses what the authors call systems: computers and software.
Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" provided, in a small space, rules that you might recall for a lifetime. This book is more like a grammar guidebook with a focus on technical material mixed in.
For more examples, you'll need a bigger book on technical writing; and if you want a style guide, you might do well to remember that the basic conventions of English apply to technical writing too. Bly is great writer; unfortunately this is not one of his best books.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the mini bible for Technical communications 28 Jan 2001
By Kurt Baxter - Published on Amazon.com
As a technical writer I have found this book an excellent resource. Most examples are short and concise. The rules and examples are probably the most up-to-date in the Technical Communications industry.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This reference should be on EVERY writer's desk -- not just technical writers. 25 Dec 2009
By Coder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book manages to pack a lot of material in quite a small bundle!

Chapters 1-4 outline 50 umbrella rules to good (technical and other) writing. This address issues as wide-ranging as avoiding jargon, using proper hyphenation, and formatting complex mathematical formulas within your writing. It's not just a list -- it spans 4 chapters and includes both explanation and examples! The remaining 5 chapters are dedicated to specific topics such as writing manuals and proposals.

Throughout, Blake and Bly manage to be both concise and incredibly useful. They provide examples for everything: writing numbers and symbols, revising wordy sentences, and the overuse of "-ize" (with lists of false words, though I disagree with several which have become standard in the language, business, or industry). Showing good writing vs. poor speeds effective learning!

There are 2 appendices: A) "Writing in the Systems Environment", a short 2-page guide about how systems departments work and how this affects writing, and B) "A Brief Guide to Software for Writers." I found the appendices less useful than the text.

Personally, I think "The Elements of Technical Writing" is top-notch. However, someone who needs in-depth tutoring in English grammar would not be served well by this book. Some people need a slower intoduction to everything. This book is *not* wordy, but it covers a lot of ground quickly.

This warning should not be necessary for a college class, but unfortunately, people graduate from high school unable to write as even an eighth-grader should! Professors may consider using this book as a supplement to another -- not because it's inadequate, but because too many students have such low skills. Let the slower book baby them along, and match chapters from this book as reference material.

For the rest of us, this book reminds us of grammar rules that have gotten fuzzy over time. This is staying on my shelf!
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