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Memorandum - Evaluating Submissions for the Technical-Communication Competition

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This memorandum is a response to our conversation on evaluating submissions for the technical-communication competition presented through the English Department of Bonita Vista High School. I offered to craft a basic guide to scoring the submissions we agreed to judge. This memorandum will presents that basic guide with reasons why I think this approach is effective and fair.

It seems to me that our judgment requires an objective method of evaluating and analyzing responses. In my opinion, our evaluations should occur without passion or prejudice. I gleaned the following insights from a course I took at American Military University called "Technical Writing". The basis for this structure comes--almost entirely--through the work Technical Communication by Mike Markel (pp. 10-5). I think it is important to mention Markel as a source at this stage.

Moving on to the method, it seems to me that we could judge the submissions based on the following criteria: honesty, clarity, accuracy, comprehensiveness, accessibility, conciseness, professional appearance, and correctness. Markel defines the foregoing eight criteria as offering methods to measure excellent technical communication. I have no reason to disagree with Markel and I find his elements of measurement useful for our purposes. I will, briefly, outline the eight elements as presented by Markel.

Honesty seems straightforward to me. Is the author honest or is the author engaging in deception? I believe that dishonest authors should receive recognition and negative sanction for dishonesty. This criterion makes it possible to impose negative sanction on dishonest communicators. Dishonesty erodes the credibility of the technical communicator. Without credibility, observers may opt to ignore the technical communicator.

Clarity also seems straightforward to me. Does the piece present an easily understood meaning? An unintelligible submission would, likely, provide little utility. A lack of utility seems to undermine the purposes of technical communication.

Accuracy is about presenting facts. If one cannot prove or verify something then it is not a fact. Presenting facts incorrectly--at best--can make the communicator look incompetent. At worst, it can offer a chance for observers to accuse the communicator of sponsoring disinformation. Technical communication requires facts. Without accurate facts, the author would undermine the purposes of technical communication. Cheryl made this point regarding document 1.1 when she mentioned how the student understands chunking.

Comprehensiveness relates to a document providing all necessary information to readers. If a communicator leaves something out, accusations of deception or incompetence are possible. Also, a failure to achieve comprehensiveness can defeat the purposes of technical communication.

Accessibility relates to format. Most scholarly works have an index. The index exists so scholars can look up keywords and main ideas within the context of the book. Because readers--generally--do not engage in technical communication for fun or entertainment, it is necessary for submissions to have a format that allows readers to go directly to desired sections and get the information they need. While we do not need to require items like an index, we would do well--in my opinion--to require a sensible format of the communicator's choice.

Conciseness goes back to the earlier point that technical communicators--generally--do not make attempts

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