Before’ you begin to practice technical writing, you must understand several basic concepts. These concepts are communication, medium, document, and generate. Communication is the act of transmitting an idea from one person to another. Communication always requires at least two people – the sender and the receiver of the message. In this book, the sender is the writer, and the receiver is the reader or audience. Communication succeeds when the audience, or reader, understands the mes~age exactly (or almost exactly) .
as the receiver intended. If I want you to pick up your hand, or attend a meeting, or know the reasons why I want to attend a convention, I need to transmit that idea to you. When you pick up your hand, or attend the meeting, or agree or disagree with my reasons, you indicate that you have received my.transmission, or that I have communicated with you. A medium, literally “a thing in the middle,” is the means by which I convey ideas from me to you (see Figure 1.2). Since you cannot read my mind, I send you a message through a medium. I record or “encode” my message in the medium and then transmit it to you. You complete the transmission by interacting with the medium to understand or “decode” the message. If I say, “Be careful, that’s hot!” I transmit the message by the medium of sound waves, which you interact with and decode. If I merely think, “Be careful, that’s hot!” but do not use a medium, you will not- receive the message. In addition to sound waves, other media include writing, visual representations ranging from photographs to abstract art, and even dance and body position. While this book focuses on writing, it also explains how to use visual art and speech to communicate. You will learn how to control these media in order to express your ideas clearly.
Document is the generic term for a written object Other terms, such as essay or paper or work, do not clearly reflect the many types of technical writing. For instance, calling a set of instructions an essay or a paper is not really accurate, and calling them a work sounds too artistic. Throughout this book, the term document will designate any individual piece of technical writing. Generate means to perform all the activities that result in a final document. Since these activities often include choosing or creating visual aids and designing pages for visual effect, write is not always an accurate term, vet create sounds more appropriate for poetry. Generate can mean just writing, and the term will sometimes be used that way in this book, but it often means a process that includes more than decisions about language.