Technical communication: a two-sided coin?

Koussai HOUSSINE, Laetitia NALY, Axel PETIT
Paris Diderot University, July 2017


Technical communicators like to perceive themselves as go-betweens who use language to bring tech objects closer to the general public. Still, is technical communication (abbr. TC throughout the article) really a two-sided coin that bridges the gap between the humanities and science, the “two cultures” in Charles Percy Snow’s terms?
The aim of this paper is twofold: testing the assumption that makes technical communicators middlemen between the two cultures, and to do so, defining the features of the language of TC by general linguistic standards. A sharp analysis of the language of technical communication provides many interesting clues to define its identity.
First, a short history of technical communication since World War II helps us understand how the language of technical communication changed with economic, social and political contexts. Second, we sketch a definition of human language in order to set an accurate theoretical frame and to define the features of the language of technical communication. Third, the discussion of a series of tests completes the qualitative analyses of the first two parts. It provides evidence to support the conclusion of this paper.

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Compelling documentation: a way to improve the user experience?

Laure Bach-Barast – Laetitia Bossu – Justine Gaucherand- Sarah Lasaracina
Paris Diderot University, 2017, July 31


Most people do not read user guides on their own initiative. When they do, it is often because they have no choice, or when they encounter a problem and need a solution. According to the general public composed of a representative sample of 105 people surveyed for our research purpose, guides are deemed plain, unattractive and people usually feel compelled to read them. Indeed, reading user manuals require a certain effort that people are not always ready or willing to make. Hence, they already have a somewhat biased view of the guide even before opening it. Thus, it might be interesting to wonder if a compelling documentation can improve user experience. User Experience implies not only the use of the product, but also the quality of documentation, if it answers questions and solves potential problems in the best, quickest, and most fluent way. User Experience is a cause-and-effect relationship between documentation and the product: the better the information, the better the use will be. However, is it possible to make documentation more compelling in the first place? How can technical writers alleviate the global reluctance to user guides? This paper provides possible solutions in order to make user manuals more compelling to users.

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