Growing up, my son never wanted to start at the beginning. I guess it’s human nature. I mean who doesn’t want to start with dessert? My son’s desire wasn’t an issue until he wanted to participate in some new activity that required skill (think karate, piano, golf, etc.), and he still wanted to skip the beginning. With those kind of activities, the beginning is usually full of unfun stuff. And doing that stuff makes you a beginner.

When it comes to writing (or any other mode for communicating), the beginning is always the context, nicely represented as a rhetorical triangle. The video tutorial I’m working on for tomorrow focuses on one corner of the triangle, the writer’s purpose. I know most people will want to skip it to get to the “meatier” topics and avoid being a beginner. But the only way to predict a document’s success is by referring to the context. So I just HAVE to do this one. (And I can already promise you there will be one on audience, too.)

For those of you who don’t plan to skip the beginning, here’s a copy of the Email Job Update referred to in tomorrow’s tutorial. It was created by me based on an actual student’s response to an assignment from a 1999 textbook titled, Scenarios for Technical Communication, by Stone & Kynell. I’ve adapted it specifically to help amateurs think about purpose in workplace documents. A few details about the context of the document:

  • Writer: a project manager for a construction company
  • Readers: the company’s owner
  • Bottom line message: one project is over budget and behind schedule

Coming soon . . . I’ve decided I should add a page to collect all of the sample documents I mention. That will appear a later tonight.

Hope all of you fathers got to skip right to dessert today. (But if you want to become a more professional writer, don’t skip tomorrow’s tutorial!)