Technical communication, historical writing, positivism, plain language, humanism
Today's technical communicators enjoy an increasingly broader role and influence in the workplace, and are often given latitude to use engaging rhetoric and personal touches in many kinds of communications. Historical documents, particularly those that are substantially removed from our own era, can offer fresh approaches and insight into the enduring elements of successful communication. This study explores the technical writings of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and considers their usefulness to professionals today. Although the political writing of Franklin and Jefferson is more familiar, both men frequently wrote about scientific and technical subjects and were well-known in their day for these documents. Franklin created a captivating persona and arguments which carried emotional and logical appeal. Jefferson was a student of ancient rhetoric and applied classical principles of arrangement to guide readers. His fondness for statistical records led to a skill in presenting numerical data and other types of information in creative, efficient ways. By using tone, language, and description, both Franklin and Jefferson created technical narratives that are equally informative and aesthetically pleasing. The contemporary era of technical communication has been shaped by positivism, the plain language movement, and humanism, among other significant trends. Franklin's and Jefferson's approaches to technical communication both support and challenge the guiding philosophies of these movements. Their styles are reviewed in this study against the context of modern approaches. Opportunities for further historical study are also offered, including additional writings of our Founding Fathers and technical writing from the turn of the twentieth century.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
English; Technical Communications Track
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities
Fecko, Kristin, "The Relevance of Benjamin Franklin's and Thomas Jefferson's Technical Writing for Modern Communicators" (2014). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4741.