Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reading :: Writing for the Government

Writing for the Government
By Libby Allison and Miriam F. Williams

Writing for the Government comes out of the Allyn & Bacon Series in Technical Communication, a series familiar to the readers of this blog. This series has some good work, and this book looks like a good addition to it, although I see a lot of overlap with other books in the series.

In Writing for the Government, Allison and Williams provide an overview for those who aspire to write for or to the government. That's a pretty broad topic, but no more so than textbooks on how to "write arguments" or "write for business." Like most textbooks in this vein, Writing for the Government primarily covers common genres divided into broad purposes. So, for instance, Part II is "Writing to Make Policy" and covers rules and regulations; policy handbooks, manuals, and guides; and policy memorandums. Part III is "Writing to Communicate Policy Issues to Agencies and the Public" and covers public policy reports; government grants and proposals; and government websites. In contrast, Part I is "Government Writing: Theory, Principles and Ethics" and covers the basics of rhetorical theory, discourse conventions, and ethics. Much of this ground has been covered elsewhere in the series: Rude's textbook on report-writing, Johnson-Sheehan's Writing Proposals, and Mikelonis et al.'s Grant-Seeking in an Electronic Age cover most of the genres in Part III, while most of these books cover the same theoretical ground in Part I. But then again, the book is meant to be a stand-alone treatment of general government writing, so it seems as if it really does have to include all of these genres (if it is to represent a genre-oriented approach, anyway).

One real advantage to Writing for the Government, though, is the case studies. The book contains three thick case studies that incorporate a range of genres, and chapters refer extensively to these case studies, giving the book a level of coherence it would not have otherwise achieved. The case studies consist of actual documents from actual cases (including Hurricane Katrina).

In sum, Writing for the Government provides a good genre-oriented overview of government writing in context, and the case studies help the chapters to work together coherently and make the lessons more concrete than they would be otherwise.

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