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SEng Seminar Series: Guest, Stephen Wilbers

Date of Event: 
Saturday, October 22, 2016 - 12:15pm to 3:30pm
Location: 
Keller Hall room 3-210
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All Software Engineering Industrial Seminars are open to public

Title: Techniques for Excellent Writing

Speaker: Stephen Wilbers

Presented by the University of Minnesota Software Engineering Center

Abstract: As Mathes and Stevenson point out in Designing Technical Reports, your role as a technical writer consists largely of communicating information. Your contribution, or “your output to the system,” takes the form of various types of reports and proposals.

But you are faced with a predicament. Although your education is preparing you to perform numerous mental and technical acts, “these acts acquire meaning in an organization only when they are transformed into information for the organization.” Mathes and Stevenson explain: “The system itself responds only to this output. This output is what causes machinery to be tooled, ground to be excavated, boxcars to be loaded, sales to increase, and people to live better.”

In other words, your value to the organization is measured not only by your technical skill and expertise, but also by your ability to present your information in writing that is perceived by your audience to be useful, relevant, reliable, and persuasive.

Stephen Wilbers’ seminar will provide a fast-paced, lively, and entertaining review of the principles of effective technical writing. You will learn to:
  • Plan, organize, and review your writing according to five elements of composition
  • Write clear, concise sentences
  • Use five editing techniques to write with greater clarity and emphasis
  • Eliminate wordiness and worn-out business jargon
  • Avoid the three most common technical writing errors
  • Proofread effectively
  • Apply three concepts of good communication to write with more confidence

Bio: Stephen Wilbers is a writing consultant, columnist, and award-winning author. He has offered training seminars in effective writing to more than 10,000 creative, business, technical, legal, and academic writers.

His clients include Mayo Clinic, Medtronic, 3M, Xcel, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, the Metropolitan Council, U.S. Bank, AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Cargill, Mortenson, Ryan Companies, Thomson Reuters, the Wilder Foundation, the Bush Foundation, Fredrikson & Byron, Dorsey & Whitney, the Minnesota State Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, and the Oregon State Bar Association.

He has written more than 950 columns on effective writing. His column, which appears every other Monday in the business section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has been syndicated across the country.

As a Senior Fellow in the University of Minnesota's Technological Leadership Institute, he teaches both written and oral presentation skills in the Management of Technology program. He has also taught in the Carlson School of Management’s M.B.A. Program, the Program in American Studies, and the Program in Creative and Professional Writing. In 1995 he won an Outstanding Faculty Award in Hamline University’s Graduate Public Administration Program.

His most recent book, Mastering the Craft of Writing: How to Write with Clarity, Emphasis, and Style, is a compilation of 52 techniques of style drawn from his free monthly writing tips. His earlier book on stylistic technique, Keys to Great Writing: Mastering the Elements of Composition and Revision, has been described as "a writing class in a book" that "breaks down general advice on what to do into practical steps on how to do it." An expanded edition of Keys with new writing exercises will be published in 2016.

His doctoral dissertation, a history of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, was published by the University of Iowa Press in 1980. In addition, he has published two collections of his columns, Writing for Business (winner of a 1994 Minnesota Book Award) and Writing by Wilbers, as well as a chapbook of poems and two books on wilderness canoeing. He is working on A Grammatical Affair, a wildly romantic love story that offers writing instruction in the form of a novel.

Dr. Wilbers earned his B.A. at Vanderbilt University and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. He spent his junior year abroad in Aix-en-Provence and he was a Visiting Fulbright Fellow at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. Before starting his business as a writing consultant, he was hired to establish and direct the University of Iowa’s first campus-wide advising program. At the University of Minnesota he directed student academic support services in the College of Liberal Arts and was instrumental in the College’s recognition of American Sign Language as “a complete and natural language.”

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he is an avid reader, canoeist, cyclist, Nordic ski racer, opera lover, and two-time skydiver. He and his wife Debbie have two children and two grandchildren. They live in Minneapolis, where he served on the Loft Literary Center’s board of directors from 2003 to 2009 and as board chair from 2007 to 2009.

For sample columns, writing exercises, and links to hundreds of writing resources, visit his website at www.wilbers.com.
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