I have a tech background but a friend and coworker of mine was an English major (and former English teacher) and was hired on as a document editor/proofreader working with a team of tech writers. However, he's quickly finding his responsibilities shifting to working directly under two project managers and he's now quite overwhelmed with mentions of CMMI, Scrum, Agile, etc. I have a book or two myself from college that's now probably slightly outdated, but it's very much geared towards software developers and probably wouldn't be a good fit

Is there a nice book (or even better, a nice free website) detailing and explaining a wide variety of software development processes and terminology from a layman's perspective? This would need to assume little or no experience in software development, programming, or even general corporate business, as my friend is freshly removed from the very different world of liberal arts Academia.

  • This post may be somewhat helpful martinfowler.com/articles/itsNotJustStandingUp.html
    – alex
    Oct 14, 2011 at 21:52
  • Hi UtopiaLtd, our site, PMSE, is the place to ask questions about those topics. If your friend has project management questions, please encourage him or her to ask them here. However, questions asking for lists of things, like books or other websites, is not really what our site is about. You can do a search on PMSE for books and look through those questions. Good luck! :)
    – jmort253
    Aug 30, 2012 at 3:33
  • Wikipedia has reasonable articles on all of these, and is free. Just Google, pick the first Wikipedia link.
    – Lunivore
    Aug 30, 2012 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


I recommend Making Things Happen by Scott Berkun. Although the central theme of the book is Project Management, it can very well serve the purpose of introduction to s/w development processes and terminology without bogging down somebody with details. Unlike textbook coverage of software engineering, this book is heavily situation - and narrative - focused. Apart from design procesess, and software engineering this book combines business theory, psychology, and management tactics, in whatever way necessary to offer advice on the outlined topics. I am sure your friend will find it interesting and useful read.


I started as a technical writer and editor with the exact same background--English major and English teacher. The book I found most useful in explaining the basics of software development was actually The User Manual Manual : How to Research, Write, Test, Edit & Produce a Software Manual (Untechnical Press Books for Writers) by Michael Bremer. It's from 1999, so it predates Agile, but it gives a good overview of the general concepts: iterative design, waterfall, etc. It doesn't assume any software knowledge at all, and it's a quick, fun read.

What I found particularly useful was the way it explained how the writer fits into all of these methods and what particular advantages and challenges each one creates when it comes to documentation. Depending on the docs your friend is editing, this may or may not be useful to them.

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