The Technical Writing Skills of Josiah Flynt and Ida Tarbell

Date of Graduation

Summer 2000


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Kristene Sutliff


Although Josiah Flynt and Ida Tarbell were buried long ago, their accomplishments should be reviewed out of respect for the history of the writing profession and for practical benefits. A study of their lives can give us ideas to improve our own work. Flynt and Tarbell were two very different personalities, but they both made valuable contributions to the occupation of investigative reporting. Before examining their lives and works, this thesis briefly considers how investigative reporting and technical writing are similar. Flynt and Tarbell successfully dispensed important information to Americans in the early 1900s. They were among the professionals of the Golden Age who recognized the importance of clarity in communicating technical and scientific subjects to the citizens who needed to assimilate information quickly. Then as now, scientific, technological, and social changes were happening at a rapid rate. Even though we now have the help of powerful technological tools, those tools cannot substitute for the basic skills we must acquire to write effectively. Flynt and Tarbell possessed those basic skills, and examining their careers can help us to identify good writing principles, consider how they apply to the technical writing profession, and decide to emulate them.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Diann Elizabeth Olvis Brown