Style and Human Action in Technical Communication
This chapter focuses on technical communication as the human face of technology manifests itself primarily in discussions of style. Like genre, style regulates the relationship between author and audience, for style is the primary means by which tone—the author’s attitude toward the subject matter—is revealed. In technical communication, theorists, textbook writers, and working editors writing in the trade journals have raised an all but unanimous call for a style that reflects a world of people in action rather than a world of things in motion. In the development of this action-oriented style, technical writers assert themselves as advocates of the user of technology, a user interested in translating the text into specific technological actions. The chapter reviews the primary characteristics of the action-oriented style, probes its historical development, suggests its limitations, and argues that it constitutes the master sign associated with the emerging field of technical communication.