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Technical Writing Feedback

by Ron Kurtus

Readers have sent in a total of 105 comments and questions on Technical Writing issues. They are listed according to date.

You can read them to further your understanding of the subject.



List of next 15 letters

Title

Topic

Country

Looking for a job as a technical writer General USA
 
Excellent article Skills Needed Italy
 
Is RoboHelp like the Oracle User Productivity Kit? Skills Needed USA
 
Is a technical marketing brochure a technical document? Type of Docs Needed Philippines
 
What are the average salaries for writers in Illinois? Salaries USA
 
Suggest ways to improve my writing skills 5 Ways into Writing India
 
Wants to learn more RoboHelp options Steps in WebHelp India
 
Inserting back links with RoboHelp Skills Needed USA
 
Wages for job in African country Salaries USA
 
What is the job market around San Fransisco? Salaries USA
 
What tools are needed by a writer? Skills Needed India
 
Want more information on skills needed Skills Needed India
 
Difference between User manual and Training Manual Type of Docs Needed USA
 
Why is technical report writing important? Excellence Pakistan
 
Using writing skills without a degree in writing 5 Ways into Writing USA
 

Next 15 letters

 




First 15 letters


General

Looking for a job as a technical writer

August 23, 2009

Question

I am a TW with an engineering background. I have a mechanical engineering degree and experience. For the last 11 years, I have been a TW. Most of this time was overseas.

I am currently looking for the next position and would like to know if there is a survey on typical salaries for TWs categorized by industry. This would show which industries typically pay more. I would, of course, like to focus my search more on those industries.

My background is varied, including the electrical, electronic, and mechanical aspects of machines and airplanes. I also have experience documenting software systems. So, I should be attractive to more than one industry.

Thanks,

William - USA (18186)

Answer

See our list of wages for technical writers in the U.S. at:
http://www.school-for-champions.com/techwriting/salary.htm

This list is about three years old, so many of the wages have dropped, especially in California.

If you're not a member all of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), it is worthwhile joining in order to make contacts and find out what is happening in your area. Check http://www.stc.org/membership/chapterSearch01.asp to find a chapter in your area.

Best wishes in your job search.

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Skills Needed

Excellent article

July 5, 2009

Question

Excellent article.

Paolo - Italy (17981)

Answer

Thanks for the feedback.

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Skills Needed

Is RoboHelp like the Oracle User Productivity Kit?

January 29, 2009

Question

Is RoboHelp like the Oracle User Productivity Kit?

Minnie - USA (17179)

Answer

RoboHelp is a program that uses Microsoft Word to build online help programs. A similar product is Doc-to-Help. They also can make HTML Help applications.

Oracle User Productivity Kit is an overall documentation and training system, primarily for companies using the Oracle database and other applications. There is a special class of companies that use Oracle products.

In general, the technical writer not only must write the documentation but must also learn to use the Help and other documentation tools that her company uses.

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Type of Docs Needed

Is a technical marketing brochure a technical document?

January 23, 2009

Question

A one pager ad in a newspaper or a magazine featuring an equipment, highlighting some of its key technical descriptions (no details). Can this document be already considered a "technical document" or simply a marketing tool? How about a brochure, can it be considered a "technical document" already?

- Philippines (17149)

Answer

There can be an overlap of marketing and technical documentation, especially with product specifications and features. Usually, the purpose of a marketing document is to help sell the product, while a technical document concerns how to use the product, repair it, or explain how it works.

Many technical marketing documents are written by technical writers, teaming up with marketing writers.

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Salaries

What are the average salaries for writers in Illinois?

January 17, 2009

Question

How much are the wages or average salaries in Illinois for technical writers? How is the job market in Illinois?

Thank you,

Aaron - USA (17107)

Answer

The average wage for a technical writer in Illinois is about $67,000 per year, probably around the Chicago area. Beginners or those in small companies average about $42,000 per year.

The job market is slow everywhere right now. The best bet to find out about job opportunities is to check with STC in Chicago at http://www.stc-chicago.org. You might be able to get on their job announcement list or find out about openings. There are two other chapters in Illinois, if you are not in the Chicago area.

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5 Ways into Writing

Suggest ways to improve my writing skills

September 23, 2008

Question

Hii

I am a technical writer.i have got 6 months working experienced, please suggest me how to improve my writing skills and also tell me how i can join a technical writers forum? Please help me

Deepannita - India (16534)

Answer

Check the India chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) at http://www.stc-india.org/.

It is worthwhile joining STC, even if you do not live in the Bangalore area, because of the resources and forums they have. It is a good source for furthering your career.

Also note that, being a writer, you should never send out documents with incorrect grammar and punctuation. Never substitute "i" for "I", even in email.

Best wishes in a successful career.

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Steps in WebHelp

Wants to learn more RoboHelp options

June 27, 2008

Question

It's very nice and easy to learn but it would be still more better if all of the options in Robohelp is explained.For example BugHunter, Context-Sensitive help, Baggage Files, Conditional Build tag.

Thanks & Wishes,

Ulagu - India (16142)

Answer

Thanks for the feedback. There are good tutorials on using RoboHelp through Adobe. Conditional Build Tags is explained at http://www.adobe.com/devnet/robohelp/articles/buildtag.html

We really don't want to go into detailed tutorials.

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Skills Needed

Inserting back links with RoboHelp

April 1, 2008

Question

I've started my professional career as a technical writer. i'm using robohelp to compile an online help(html). I need to know how can I insert Next(>) and Back(<) links in htnl pages of the Document in Robohelp.
Please guide me. I'll b very thankful.

Rising - USA (15640)

Answer

I don't have the answer offhand. Perhaps check: http://www.uah.edu/editing/Robohelp/robohelp_tutorial.htm or http://www.adobe.com/support/documentation/en/robohelp/

I hope that helps out.

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Salaries

Wages for job in African country

March 29, 2008

Question

I am a retired chemical engineer and chemical engineering professor. I have had enquiries about a short term technical writing position in an African nation. The field of writing would be petroleum process technology which I know. I have two questions:

[1] What salary should I ask for?

Although I am highly educated, talented, etc. and have written a number of technical publications and documents, I have never been employed as a "technical writer", per se. As in any profession, there are undoubtedly a number of "tricks", "maxims", or other things that everyone in the profession knows but which I would not know. This lack of knowledge could sabatoge my best efforts in the early part of this new endeavor.

[2] Could you point me to a web site or publication which would help me overcome this lack of knowledge?

Jerald - USA (15631)

Answer

The salary depends on whether you will be working in that country or writing from home. I think one big issue is making sure that you get paid, if the company is not an international firm. An independent contractor often has problems getting paid from companies in the U.S., let alone from a foreign company. If this is your first job, it is often better to go through an international consulting firm that can handle the payroll issues. You get less money but more security.

A big problem in negotiating salary is that you want to ask a number high enough to imply you are valuable but not to high to kill the deal. With your technical background, you could ask $30-$60/hour in the U.S. With that in mind, ask them what their budget is, so you can negotiate from there.

Technical writing is not the type of writing done in academic papers. IT is similar to what you did as a chemical engineer, except that you need to consider the audience. It is very important to know who is expected to read the documents and what their education level is. The language used in a technical document is different from a user manual and from a marketing document.

Being able to create or obtain graphical illustrations is very useful.

Technical writer often need to know specialized software applications, like FrameMaker, XML, etc. You probably would create your document in Word, so that may not be an issue.

Emphasize your technical understanding and show that you have written technical documents, and you should do fine.

Best wishes on your project.

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Salaries

What is the job market around San Fransisco?

February 6, 2008

Question

I do have a question I was wondering if you could answer. You mention the salaries for this field which to be honest is more than I had expected. I was curious, though, what the employment rate would be, especially in northern california. Considering the price these companies are willing to pay, what is the competition like?

Eric - USA (15293)

Answer

One thing concerning salaries for technical writers is that they have been dropping in the past few years due to the fact that many companies are outsourcing their writing to India.

The reason for the high wages in Northern California is because of the large number of software companies needing writers and the high cost of living in the area. Check out an employment site like monster.com to see the number of available jobs in No. Cal. to get an idea of the market there.

In a 50 mile radius, I saw a listing of 55 jobs in the SF area, as opposed to 41 jobs around Seattle. Since the population around SF is greater than Seattle, that means the job market is not as strong as Seattle. But both have plenty of jobs available.

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Skills Needed

What tools are needed by a writer?

January 17, 2008

Question

Hi,
I want to know about various tools that are required to be used by a technical writer. Please also tell me how important is Glossary.

Amitabh Kishore

Amitabh - India (15157)

Answer

Many companies require FrameMaker for large documents, but others use Word. The best way to find what tools are required is to look at the newspaper or online want ads, where jobs for technical writers are listed. They usually tell what tools the writer needs to know. But note that it varies with companies.

Some technical manuals have a glossary of terms to clarify terms in the document. It can be important if there are many terms that people may not know.

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Skills Needed

Want more information on skills needed

January 8, 2008

Question

I want to know more about the technical writing skills ? In what way the questionaire solved earlier will be of great help to me?

RAHUL - India (15062)

Answer

You need good writing, spelling and grammar skills in the language and field that you are doing your writing. You should have skills in the software applications that the company uses for their documentation. Companies will tell you what software you need to know.

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Type of Docs Needed

Difference between User manual and Training Manual

December 5, 2007

Question

I wanted to see if you could explain the difference between a User manual and a Training Manual?

Christine - USA (14908)

Answer

When you buy a product--especially software--there is often an instruction manual or booklet on how to use the product. The is the user manual.

On the other hand, if you were a person who sold, made or repaired the product, you might be sent to a training class to learn some specific tasks. The instructor, and perhaps the students, would use a training manual in the class.

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Excellence

Why is technical report writing important?

October 25, 2007

Question

why technical report writing is important in our lives

kamran - Pakistan (14633)

Answer

Technical reports are important to companies, because it helps them in the sales of their products. They can be important to customers to help them learn about products. They also provide a livelihood for the writers.

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5 Ways into Writing

Using writing skills without a degree in writing

October 22, 2007

Question

Where can I obtain more information about using my writing skills without having acquired a degree in writing?

Sherri - USA (14613)

Answer

Many technical writing and marketing writing jobs do not require a degree in writing, although you need skill in writing. Having knowledge about a company's product line is often more valuable to them than a writing degree.

For example, if you are familiar with the medical industry and their terminology and you are able to write well, medical device companies would be interested in you as a technical or marketing writer.

Check into the Society for Technical Communication at www.stc.org to find a chapter in your area and then attend a meeting to talk to people in the writing field.

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Next 15 letters


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