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What is PTW?


Key Program Components

The Professional and Technical Writing (PTW) program at SVSU emphasizes four key components in its curriculum.

Adaptability: the program prepares students to enter a variety of contexts, assess the situation, and move toward whatever goal they seek to achieve. That adaptability grows from our emphasis on professional knowledge over technical skills .

Technical skills: allows students to complete tasks, but knowledge allows professionals to adapt their skills and experiences from one problem or context to another.

Blending theory and practice: theory offers thinking strategies that help professionals consider why a particular communication practice works or does not work in a given context.

Professionalism and responsibility: we want PTW students to develop into effective professionals, as well as respectful and responsible members of the communities they join throughout their lifetimes.

Four Areas of Professional Knowledge

Students are never surprised when they learn they will have to complete significant writing projects in the PTW program. However, they are sometimes surprised when we also ask them to think about design, to use communication tools and technologies, and to engage in discussion of relevant theoretical perspectives and models.


The writing students do in PTW courses represents a range that emphasizes audience-appropriate, purpose-driven, and context-aware projects of both professional and scholarly nature. Students enrolled in recent courses have completed writing projects such as these:

  • a proposal to fund renovations for a new women's shelter,
  • an instructional guide for new journalists working at the campus newspaper,
  • a document plan detailing revisions for a campus website,
  • analyses of various workplace documents, and
  • seasonal displays for the Bay City State Recreation Area.


The term design is used in many professions. In PTW, we combine elements of several definitions of design. Professional and technical writers think about the appearance and appeal of pages or screens. They also design information so that the organization is visible, so the content is accessible to readers, and so the document itself can function effectively in the context for which it is intended.

Design means thinking about how to solve problems such as these here.

  • Can you design a cookbook so it does not get damaged when it is used in a kitchen?
  • Can you design a welcome guide so readers from many cultures can learn about your city?
  • Can you design a screen so a reader with a visual challenge can still view the content?

Communication Tools and Technologies

Professional and technical writers use a variety of tools to accomplish their work. Print and web design software includes Adobe InDesign , Photoshop , Dreamweaver , Illustrator , and Acrobat Pro , and Microsoft Word . Presentation software includes Microsoft PowerPoint , Prezi Prezi , and Apple Keynote . TechSmith's Jing and Snagit are often used for capturing and recording screens. TechSmith's Camtasia and Adobe Captivate are used for building multimedia tutorials and other interactive documents. Apple iMovie and Windows Moviemaker are also common tools used to create projects such as YouTube videos and documentaries.

Theoretical perspectives

Theory is a strong component of the PTW program. Thinking theoretically requires students to not only know how to do something, such as write and design a document, but also to consider why they make the choices they must make to write and design an effective document. Theory allows professional and technical writers to examine communication elements such as audience, purpose, and context, to explore the role culture and social forces play in the work they do, and to properly and appropriately analyze and anticipate the impact their work might have on others.

Technical writers draw their theoretical underpinnings from rhetoric, cultural studies, philosophy, psychology, design, management, and sociology, as well as technical communication.