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Technical Writing for Professionals

The Challenge

Creating compelling technical writing, be it a two-page proposal bidding on a project or a fifty-page report on work completed, is a challenging task – and one of the most important duties required of professional engineers, scientists, and technicians. Writing clearly and engagingly is essential to developing competitive proposals, creating persuasive arguments, and providing complex information to clients or colleagues in a credible and trust-building manner.

Practitioners: Need to take your technical writing skills to the next level? 

The challenge for the wordsmith is that technical writing, as traditionally taught and used, is mundane; it is tedious to write and laborious to read. It does a poor job of persuading the reader of that which the writer wishes. The discipline has become dogmatic on rules and brevity – at the cost of effective persuasion. While operating within the conventions of technical writing, we must return the focus to its purpose: to convey information and persuade the reader. And, as importantly, bring the fun, joy, and satisfaction of good writing back to the wordsmith.

The Solution

Into this arena of static writing, Natural Resources Training Group (NRTG) offers a dynamic two-day course to improve the quality of technical writing by engineers, scientists and technicians. Technical Writing for Professionals equips students with hands-on tools to create technical writing which is more engaging, compelling, and persuasive.

The approach we at NRTG take with Technical Writing for Professionals is one of trying to address questions for which few, if any, other courses or books explicitly provide direction. Things like “how do I determine what to write? How do I determine my audience? How do I write more persuasively? How do I engage my audience more?” From there we can then move into mechanics of language (grammar, word conventions, etc.). Only half of this course is the mechanics and standard writing instruction; the other and, in our opinion, more important half is determining what you want to say and crafting it persuasively and engagingly.

NRTG focuses very much on principles, and these principles are applicable to any technical writing, from instructions on setting up your phone to writing a thousand-page Environmental Impact Assessment. Obviously, applications vary among different professions and disciplines, but the core needs of writing engagingly, clearly, and persuasively, from a position of credibility and trust are constant across all fields.

Employers: Writing is the face of your company.

NRTG is pleased to customize this course for a group or specific audience of ten or more students. Customization consists of altering examples and exercises to be specific to the audience or, in the case of all students from a given company, to use company specific reports to make the exercises and examples as relevant as possible to the students. Customizing for specific audience enhances the learning but the underlying content and premises – the principles of effective writing- remain the same.

With two weeks notice, and at no additional cost, we can customize the course for:

  • Specific writing concerns or interests (e.g., proposals, EMPs, EAs, etc.)
  • Specific industries (e.g., mining, forestry, linear developments, urban development, etc.)
  • Regions of the country (e.g., BC, prairies, northern Canada, central Canada, Maritimes)

For further information, please contact us!

Each NRTG course includes free, lifetime admission. Enrol once – come back anytime.

Testimonials 

I really enjoyed the technical writing class that you delivered to our team this July. It had been over 10 years since I was in an English class, and your course provided a great refresher in the basics of grammar, sentence structure, and paragraph flow. In addition to dusting off these skills, it inspired me to view my every day writing as an opportunity to communicate more effectively. I now see my daily emails, reports, and memos as practice for crafting something that is enjoyable to read. The course was hands-on and involved, I liked how we wrote and edited throughout. I found the timing and pace of the course to be appropriate and efficient. I recommend taking this course if you are interested in enhancing your writing skills in a technical workplace.

Emma Posluns – Biologist, Halifax NS

Really enjoyed, appreciated and benefited from a lot of what this course offered. Strongly recommend this instructor and course.

— Warren Littlejohn, Environmental Professional, Victoria BC

Valued the number of group and individual Technical Writing exercises, and the discussion on how to approach a new writing assignment.

— Stephanie Moloughney, Ecologist

Sean is a skilled presenter. One Technical Writing course exercise was terribly frustrating to start, but was a valuable experience in perseverance and value.

— Ryan Turner, Biologist, Prince George, BC

Really appreciated the emphasis on important principles and new updates and approaches to writing, as well as tips, tricks to better writing.

— Freda Shabrang, Community Planner, Campbell River BC

What I liked about this course was Sean’s ability to bring technical writing back to the basics – to remind us of the intent or purpose of writing, and to remind us on a basic level how to construct a sentence, a paragraph, and a narrative. Beyond the basics, he provided us with strategies for improving our writing through every stage of the writing process. My biggest takeaway from the course is a reminder that even technical, scientific writing can (and should!) be compelling, interesting, creative and persuasive.

Melanie MacDonald, Biologist Halifax NS

Great course, more hands-on that I was expecting and surprisingly, it was not dry material. Sean had lots of stories, quotes, exercises and tips and by the end of the two days, I had confidence that I wasn’t the horrible writer I had made myself out to be. Writing just takes work and practice like everything else. I’d love to take this course annually to re-inspire and refresh my writing skills.

— Jessica Hobden, Biologist, Kelowna BC

Strongly recommend this course and instructor!

— Kirk Miller, Wildlife Ecologist, Prince George BC

I learned a great deal in the Technical Writing course. Writing is a lot of work, and this course gave me a good base to keep growing from.

— Cam Dexter, Biologist, Nanaimo, BC

My writing has improved tenfold since taking the course, as well as my confidence. My supervisor and I have both noticed it – whether it is an email, summary letter, or full report, the flow is better and everything reads easier.

— Rachel Cullen, Biologist, Cochrane Alberta

Outcomes

By the end of this course, course participants will have the tools and strategies to:

  • Write in engaging manner
  • Ensure internal logic and consistency
  • Select relevant material for inclusion and exclude the irrelevant
  • Select appropriate words to truly and accurately convey their intentions/meaning
  • Edit their own and other’s work
  • Appreciate the critical importance of edit/review/redraft.

Course format

This two-day, 16-hour course is a highly interactive, classroom-based review of technical writing and reporting. Course participants will complete a number of in-class assignments, exercises, group discussions and group teachings. This course equips students with hands-on tools to create technical writing which is more engaging, compelling, and persuasive. The course draws on tools of other writing genres to inspire, motivate, and empower better writers.

Potential Students

By focussing on principles and offering customization to groups, Technical Writing for Professionals is intended for a very wide array of students (working professionals, university students, government, First Nations… we have even had journalists and editors take the course). Anyone that writes (or reviews) technical material as part of their duties. Junior and Intermediate staff will receive that sound grounding in writing principles they have not receive to this point in their training, and more experienced writers will pick up tips and tricks to make the process more efficient and enjoyable.

The potential student is anyone that has to complete technical writing as part of their work… but wish to improve, become more effective at the communication, or long to have more fun doing it.

Pre-requisites

There are no formal prerequisites.  A standard college or university English course or previous experience writing reports is recommended.

Personal Equipment Requirements

 Participants are required to bring/supply their own laptop, writing pad, pen/pencils and refreshments (lunch is not provided).  For further information, please contact NRTG.  

Course Fees

Course fees will vary by course delivery location.  For further information, please refer to our Course Schedule.   

How do I Attend?

This course is available via our website schedule, or on contract to community groups. The Technical Writing for Natural Resource Professionals course is regularly scheduled for community-based deliveries throughout the year (providing suitable weather).  Interested groups or organizations can also arrange for an ‘in-house’ or contract delivery of this course.  In either scenario, contact NRTG for further information.

If you would like to have this course delivered to your group or community, please consider the following:

  1. Contact us well in advance of your preferred course start date
  2. If applicable, secure program funding
  3. Recruit course participants (most NRTG courses have minimum enrollments of 10 participants)
  4. Coordinate course participant equipment, classroom facility, and contractual agreement with NRTG.

Note: see Course Customization above for other options to bring this training to your organization and/or community. 

Instructor Profile

Sean Mitchell, PhD, R.P. Bio.

Sean has worked in and studied the field of biology and impact assessment since 1987 and in that time has gained experience in four Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland) working on a broad array of fish and wildlife, from periphyton to mammals. Sean’s experience has ranged widely from basic fieldwork to experimental biomechanics of crustaceans; from environmental impact analyses and fisheries issues through biogeography, philosophy, and sophisticated data analyses and modelling; from forests to the ocean. Sean has been, and strives to remain, a generalist in a world of hyper specialization and fascination with technology.

Sean’s chosen career has required continual writing during his professional life, including more than fifty contract reports, two academic theses, and twenty three professional, peer reviewed papers. However, in addition to a requirement for his work, writing is a passion for Sean. He has written articles and short pieces for non-technical audience and is currently working on three book projects (two non-fiction; one novel). Sean brings tools and strategies from other forms of writing to technical writing. He strongly believes, and propounds, that studying the processes which fiction and creative writers use can greatly help our technical writing abilities and efficiencies.

To teach a writing course requires some experience in teaching as well as writing. Sean has taught six biology courses at universities in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, ranging from first to third year, and from introductory biology to field school. He now bring the tools and strategies learned from these experiences to this writing course to create a valuable learning experience to the student.

Frequently Asked Questions

NRTG offers this course online approximately monthly in an online format year-round. It can also be requested to be delivered in-person within a community or company. Please refer to our Schedule page for course timing and locations. 

Technical Writing for Professionals is a two-day course comprised of lectures interspersed with exercises and examples. Several of the exercises use the student’s own writing so they can apply lessons directly to their own crafting of words, sentences, and paragraphs. Exercises range in length from five to forty five minutes. A short assignment (30-60 minute) is assigned in the days before the class and expected to be completed by each student.

Students are required to have some of their own writing available to them (2-3 pages; typically on computer) for some of the exercises. Apart from this, students will want a form of taking notes, whether they prefer pen-and-paper or computer is up to each individual.

Technical Writing for Professionals is intended to assist students improve their writing across a wide range of applications. It is, therefore, high level, and focussed on tools that are generalized across all technical writing. In contrast, NRTG’s remaining technical writing courses are focussed and specific to application. It is recommended that students take Technical Writing for Professionals, and then apply these skills and techniques to the other more focussed courses of their interest.

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