The Ultimate Xmas Tech Comm Book Guide

funny-pictures-kitten-is-on-a-stack-of-booksIf all you want for Christmas is a good book, then how about one that helps you get on in your career? In this digital age, most people don’t think of books but, let’s face it, they’re much easier to unwrap at Christmas than a Kindle e-book.

So, as today is Cyber Monday, when shoppers around the world hit the online sites for Christmas shopping bargains, we suggest a few gift book options for our readers in technical communication.

There are the classics for the generation that started tech comms before the web, some new contenders for the tech author who has everything, tech comms guides of all kinds, books on related hot topics and new digital thinking, plus a few of our personal favourites added into the mix.

Happy Cyber Monday!

Five new books for 2011

Keep ahead of the game with these new books: from the rise of help via mobile apps to an interesting consumer-oriented history of the human struggle with new technology.

  1. Developing User Assistance For Mobile Apps by Joe Welinske
  2. The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane (also available in French)
  3. DITA Best Practices: A Roadmap for Writing, Editing and Architecting in DITA by Laura Bellamy, Michelle Carey, Jenifer Schlotfeld
  4. Communicating the User Experience: A Practical Guide for Creating Useful UX Documentation by Richard Caddick, Steve Cable
  5. User Unfriendly: Consumer Struggles with Personal Technologies, from Clocks and Sewing Machines to Cars and Computers by Joseph J Corn

Sadly, just out of time for Christmas but available for pre-order is an update of one of the original tech comms classics: Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy (Voices That Matter) by Ann Rockley and Charles Cooper. It is now so rare that new copies are going for more than a hundred euros on Amazon. So if you can wait, this book has been updated and will be released on 16 February 2012 for under 30 euros.

New trends in tech comm

Learn more about the new trends in storytelling, plain language, visual communication, content strategy, single sourcing and more…

  1. Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design by Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks (storytelling)
  2. Plain Language in Plain English by Cheryl Stephens (plain language)
  3. Writing at Work – How to write clearly, effectively and professionally by Neil James (plain language)
  4. Lifting the Fog of Legalese by Joseph Kimble (plain language)
  5. Oxford Guide to Plain English by Martin Cutts (plain language)
  6. Content strategy starter kit – we’ll be adding to this book list in the new year (content strategy)
  7. Search Patterns: Design for Discovery by Peter Morville and Jeffrey Callender (search interfaces)
  8. Information Development: Managing Your Documentation Projects, Portfolio, and People by Joann Hackos (agile information development)
  9. Information is Beautiful by David McCandless (visual communication)
  10. Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation by Anne Gentle (social media)
  11. DITA 101 by Ann Rockley, Charles Cooper, Steve Manning (single sourcing)
  12. Practical DITA by Julio Vazquez (single sourcing)
  13. Clout by Colleen Jones (influential writing, especially for digital)

Style guides

Many of these are classics but we’ve also added the excellent Yahoo guide, which has been recommended for web communicators.

  1. Words into Type
  2. The Chicago Manual of Style
  3. Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications
  4. The Associated Press Stylebook & Briefing on Media Law
  5. Read Me First!: A Style Guide for the Computer Industry
  6. The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market by John R Kohl
  7. The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing and Creating Content for the Web
  8. Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age

Technical writing guides

The standard works are here, plus some that are fresh off the shelf.

  1. Technical Communication by Mike Markel (new edition due in April 2012)
  2. Technical Writing 101: A Real-World Guide to Planning and Writing Technical Content by Alan S Pringle and Sarah S O’Keefe
  3. Handbook of Technical Writing, by Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw and Walter E. Oliu
  4. The User Manual Manual: How to Research, Write, Test, Edit and Produce a Software Manual by Michael Bremer
  5. Managing Your Documentation Projects by JoAnn T Hackos
  6. Technical Writing: A Resource for Technical Writers at All Levels by Carrie Hannigan, Carrie Wells, Carolyn Stevenson, Tanya Peterson, Diane Martinez
  7. Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors by Gretchen Hargis, Michelle Carey, Ann Kilty Hernandez, Polly Hughes, Deirdre Longo, Shannon Rouiller, Elizabeth Wilde
  8. How to Communicate Technical Information: A Handbook of Software and Hardware Documentation by Jonathan Price
  9. Technical Writing That Works by Edward J Altmann
  10. Managing Writers: A Real World Guide To Managing Technical Documentation by Richard Hamilton

Technical editing guides

For when technical writers become technical editors.

  1. Technical Editing by Carolyn D Rude
  2. Technical Editing: The Practical Guide for Editors and Writers by Judith A Tarutz
  3. New Perspectives on Technical Editing by Avon J Murphy, Charles H Sides

Tech comm topics

Want to skill up in new areas? Try these lovely books on for size.

  1. DITA Best Practices: A Roadmap for Writing, Editing, and Architecting in DITA by Laura Bellamy, Michelle Carey, Jenifer Schlotfeldt (single sourcing)
  2. The Art of Indexing by Larry S Bonura (technical indexing)
  3. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld (IA)
  4. The Non Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams (layout and design)
  5. Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte (presentation design)
  6. 6. Guide to E-Learning by Michael Allen (instructional design and training)
  7. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug (UX and user testing)
  8. Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger (metadata)
  9. Envisioning Information for Edward Tufte (information design)
  10. Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability (Interactive Technologies) by Steve Krug, Caroline Jarrett, Gerry Gaffney (form design)

Related writing guides

How to make your technical writing clear, accurate, engaging and readable…

  1. Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Ginny Reddish
  2. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and EB White
  3. Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty
  4. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace by Joseph M Williams
  5. What Not to Write: An A-to-Z of the Dos and Don’ts of Good English by Kay Sayce


It can be hard to find good books on presentation but these ones come recommended.

  1. Speak Like a CEO: Secrets for Commanding Attention and Getting Results by Suzanne Bates
  2. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds
  3. Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte (all about slide design – as mentioned above)
  4. The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within by Edward Tufte
  5. Actually – anything by Edward Tufte!

Other suggestions from our tech comms community

We welcome more suggestions for good tech comm reads so if you have other great book recommendations, we’ll add them into this section – just drop us a line in the comments below.

  1. Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Texts for Readers by Karen Schriver
  2. Designing instructional text by James Hartley
  3. Black’s Law Dictionary by Bryan Garner
  4. Audience, Relevance, and Search: Targeting Web Audiences with Relevant Content by James Mathewson, Frank Donatone, Cynthia Fishel

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2 Responses to The Ultimate Xmas Tech Comm Book Guide

  1. Thanks for putting together this list, and especially, thanks very much for mentioning the two XML Press books: my book (Managing Writers) and Anne Gentle’s book (Conversation and Community).

    One small correction, DITA 101 was not written by Anne Gentle, it’s from the Rockley Group and authored by Ann Rockley, Steve Manning, and Charles Cooper.