O'Reilly logo

Technical Writing by Phillip A. Laplante

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

191
9
Writing for E-Media
9.1 Introduction
As the costs of printing and maintaining inventory increase, content pro-
ducers are looking for new models to create and distribute technical mate-
rial. In technical materials I include books, technical papers, marketing and
advertising content for technical products, user manuals, newsletters, safety
reports, and so on. The producers of these materials include traditional pub-
lishing houses, companies, government agencies, and every other kind of
entity. To lower costs, the producers of this written technical content rely
increasingly on direct publication via the Web or through electronic media.
In addition, because of the efciency of electronically storing information
and the advantages of archiving and searching, there is strong motivation to
rely more heavily on distribution via e-media. E-media includes CD-ROMs,
small portable memory storage devices (e.g., memory sticks), electronic read-
ers (e-readers), and Web-based hosting of content.
Web-based publication venues may bypass print publication entirely. These
mechanisms include electronic-only magazines (e-zines), corporate websites,
social networking groups devoted to some technical topic, pundit blogs, and
Twitter accounts. Writing for e-media is a unique form of writing that has
certain advantages and some disadvantages. The advantages include
Lower overall cost
Potential wider exposure to ideas
Ease of distribution to rural and remote areas
Ease in correcting errors discovered post publication
Capability to publish much more quickly than with print media
Capability to link related content and direct readers to other mate-
rial of interest
Discoverability (on the Web by crawlers) and classication (if appro-
priate tagging is done)
192 Technical Writing: A Practical Guide for Engineers and Scientists
Lower cost to include color content and high-delity graphics
Capability to embed dynamic content
Environmentally friendly
There are disadvantages to publishing content on e-media too. These include
Increased vulnerability to theft of intellectual property (e.g., plagia-
rism, unauthorized copying and distribution of published material)
Unwanted wide-scale exposure of proprietary or secret information
via hacking
Wide-scale exposure to potentially embarrassing mistakes
Low barrier to entry for competition (i.e., anyone can publish to
a website)
But despite these potentially game-stopping disadvantages, use of the Web
has exploded due to the dramatic increase in content coming from publish-
ers, companies, and individuals.
In this chapter I want to focus on writing for electronic publications as a
special form of writing and also share my experiences in writing for various
forms of e-media, including e-mail.
9.2 E-Mail Can Be Dangerous
An electronic mail (e-mail) message is a very desirable form of business
and technical communication. E-mails can have the same informality as
an in-person or telephone conversation, or the formality of a legal con-
tract. Unlike a conversation or phone call, however, e-mails are persistent;
they can be saved and produced as evidence that you said something
that you claim you did not say. Therefore, you must write e-mails care-
fully, and it is a very good idea to “incubate” them before sending them
in haste.
Do not use e-mails as a substitute for in-person communications, however.
Firing or breaking a relationship with someone via e-mail (unless time and
distance necessitate) will be perceived as somewhat cowardly. If a written
conrmation of some interaction is required, but in-person communication
is preferred, I suggest you use both. That is, have the face-to-face conversa-
tion and then follow up with a written conrmation of the meeting, either
via e-mail or in a formal paper document.
Some e-mail software does not support equations, and therefore e-mail is
not always the preferred mechanism for technical communications.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required