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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

Has no formal training in writing General USA
 
Wants to know basics of tech writing General USA
 
Looking for job in El Paso Skills Needed USA
 
Books for Instructional Designers eLearning USA
 
Programmer wants to be writer Skills Needed USA
 
Wants to get started in India General India
 
Wants job in Tampa eLearning USA
 
Wages in Tennessee Salaries USA
 
Quality Manual Managing Projects USA
 
Instructional Design Skills Needed India
 
Why use RoboHelp? Steps in WebHelp India
 
How to be valuable to company? Value USA
 
Writer in Philippeans FM to RoboHelp Philippines
 
Topics are good for my profession General Philippines
 
Tools for writing Knowledge India
 

Next 15 letters

 




First 15 letters


General

Has no formal training in writing

March 12, 2004

Question

Hello School for Champions,

Although I have no formal training (other than a few basic writing courses in junior college), I'm very interested in becoming a Technical Writer. I've worked in the IT industry for over eleven years, and have been told on many occasions that I have knack for writing (I enjoy the process). As an individual who has a large amount of technical experience (some of that experience as a Desktop Publisher), is it possible to be taken serious without a degree? Also, would it help my cause to take an affordable Technical Writing Course On-line?

Thank you.

Bryan - USA (2689)

Answer

Many companies accept technical experience and an ability to write over formal training. If you look at the ads for technical writers, they often emphasize familiarity with certain writing applications like FrameMaker.

Taking a course in Technical Writing wouldn't hurt, but it would not necessarily get you a job.

A good place to start is with the Society for Technical Communications. Find a chapter in your area and attend a meeting as a guest. You can then learn about the business and market for writers in your location. See http://www.stc.org/chapter_search.asp.

Best wishes in your career.

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General

Wants to know basics of tech writing

January 13, 2004

Question

I am seeking a description of the basic elements with which one must begin to become a technical writer. I can use Microsoft Word and have minimal Web skills--I am a writer in the old sense--a producer of prose fiction, frequently published. I need the most basic kine of orientation about where to start in learning technical writing. Can you help me?
Many Thanks,

Michael - USA (1922)

Answer

Technical writing is very consise, logical and to the point. On the other hand marketing writing (marcomm) requires good description and emotional appeal. As a fiction writer, the marketing area may be a better fit.

One thing on tech writing is that employers usually want the writer to know the tools. Although some do work in Word, many large manuals are done in FrameMaker.

You can get some good information on tech writing from www.stc.org. You might check into a meeting in your locale to talk to writers and to see what the market is. Also check a site like www.monster.com to look at requirements for technical or marketing writers.

Best wishes in your efforts.

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Skills Needed

Looking for job in El Paso

December 21, 2003

Question

I live in El Paso, Tx. and we have a NASA center here. Are there any technical writing careers available there, and in any other companies that are not soft-wear companies? Thank you for your helpful website.

- USA (1656)

Answer

NASA does considerable documentation. They should have a Federal job listing, which would include technical writing, if some are presently available. Also, companies that support NASA would hire writers.

You might also check a chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC). There is no chapter in El Paso, but you can see http://www.stc.org/chapter/chapter_search.asp to find one near you. Some writers may be able to give you leads for jobs in El Paso.

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eLearning

Books for Instructional Designers

December 11, 2003

Question

Kindly suggest good books on writing skills for Instructional designers.

Alka - USA (1554)

Answer

Just as writing online help is different than writing a user manual, so too is writing for a CBT or WBT different. Most of the books on Instructional Design go into the preferred type of writing styles.

One interesting book on that subject is "Telling Ain't Training" by Stolovitch. The best bet is to do a search of instructional design on Amazon.com or bn.com to get an idea of what is in the various books.

Best wishes in findg the books you want.

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Skills Needed

Programmer wants to be writer

November 25, 2003

Question

Hi
Can I become a technical writer. I do not have a degree in English or Computer Science. I have several years experience in the IT sector (both admin and project management). I have a diploma in programming but have never used it. I do not think I would have difficulty learning Framemaker and some of the other tools used in Technical Writing.

Any advice would be most appreciated

Thx a lot

Clare - USA (1373)

Answer

Much of the documentation concerns software, so your skills in programming could be useful. If you have a job in IT, you might check around the company for who--if anyone--is doing their technical writing. Then perhaps volunteer to do take on some writing assignments and slowly shift into that area of work.

Knowing FrameWork and RoboHelp is an advantage in getting jobs, but note that not all companies use those products. Many smaller companies use Word to do their documentation.

You might check with a chapter of the Society for Technical Communications in your area at: http://www.stc.org/chapter/chapter_search.asp. Attending a chapter meeting as a guest could allow you to get some leads and find out the market in technical writing in your area.

If you have writing skill and know a technology, you shoudl be able to find an entry position as a writer.

Best wishes in your efforts, and let mw know how things turn out.

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General

Wants to get started in India

November 23, 2003

Question

Hi,
My name is Sahba and Im a 24yr old girl living in India. Now im finishing university with a degree in M.C.A (masters in computer applications). All my classmates want to become software engineers but I don't. I was looking around for options when I stumbled upon your website and now I have a dream.
I love writing. I used to write a lot as I was growing up...luckily I have taken a course in creative writing with a professor from Austin University, Texas.
Im also an assistant editor of a well -known students' journal (mainly a political magazine) that is published by the largest student union of India.
This is the only experience that I can offer to you along with some small projects Ive done at my university like designing the placement brochure for the department of Computer Sciences, making advertisements for cultural programs and theatre groups and writing all kinds of stuff from press notes, banners, and posters to speeches for election campaigns in my State.
I'd be glad if you could guide me to a career in technical writing and suggest the best way to start it.
Thanks.

sahba - India (1355)

Answer

Someone has to write the manuals for the software applications the engineers design, as well as the online help for those applications. That is where a technical writer comes in. But also, there are many companies that need manuals, instructions and marketing material written for their products.

A good place to start is through the Society for Technical Communications. There is a chapter in India at:

Location: Mumbai/Bangalore, India
President: Tharun K. Unni
Phone: 91802124875
E-mail: tharun@stc-india.org
Web: www.stc-india.org

You might contact them to find out the market in India, as well as to get pointers on how to get started in your country.

Best wishes in your career, and let me know how things turn out.

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eLearning

Wants job in Tampa

November 4, 2003

Question

How can I get a job as a technical writer in Tampa, FL. any ideas?

Deborah - USA (1080)

Answer

Check some job sites such as www.monster.com or www.dice.com for writing jobs in that area. Also check www.stc.org for job information for technical writers.

Best wishes in your job search.

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Salaries

Wages in Tennessee

October 21, 2003

Question

I am presently an English - Technical Writing major at the University of Memphis in Memphis, TN. I am interested in an estimate of the salaries of technical writers in this area (This city includes Fed Ex - home headquarters). Please e-mail me an estimate as soon as possible. Thank You,

Kelly - USA (920)

Answer

For 2003, the average pay for technical writers in Tennessee was between $43,000 and $40,000. That is at the very low end for the U.S. It could be due to the ecomony in the area or the lack of industries using such writers.

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Managing Projects

Quality Manual

October 9, 2003

Question

I am engaged in writing a quality manual for my company, and would like some information on what courses to take, and where I might take them. Any information would be appreciated.

Billy - USA (784)

Answer

Take a look at a sample Quality Manual at:
http://www.school-for-champions.com/iso9000/manual/rtoc.htm

In fact, the whole section on ISO 9000 might help you:
http://www.school-for-champions.com/iso9000/

Best wishes in your writing.

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Skills Needed

Instructional Design

September 10, 2003

Question

I am working as a graphic designer working for an e-learning company. I am constantly in contact with the team of Technical Writers and Instructional Designers (ID). Can you guide me in terms of the skillsets required to be an ID?

Sumedh - India (464)

Answer

Many come from education or training areas. They need to determine how to best teach or train a person, especially in eLearning. Designing a good user interface is one area that requires graphic design skills.

See "Developing eLearning" at: www.school-for-champions/elearning/ for more information.

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Steps in WebHelp

Why use RoboHelp?

September 4, 2003

Question

Hi!

What is the technical vibrancy I should possess to start using Robohelp. Is it neccessary that I should know java-language or HTML. I am quite comfortable handling the computer and have an open-eye about learning things. But my technical know-how always pulls me one-step behind. My query is as simple. Will I able to get sufficient command on Robohelp and relative kind of web-authoring tool. Kindly suggest.

Yogendra - India (414)

Answer

RoboHelp is based on and interfaces with Microsoft Word. The program comes with good tutorials, and it is relatively easy to create basic Windows Help, as well as JavaHelp and HTML Help. You really don't need to know HTML or other languages.

Since RoboHelp is fairly expensive, some companies use cheaper Help tools. But even learning the basics of RoboHelp is valuable in gaining employment. The price of the program does not make it practical for an individual to purchase unless he or she is in an independent writing business.

Although RoboHelp is not intended to use as a web authoring tool, it can be effective in creating web pages that are linked together.

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Value

How to be valuable to company?

August 20, 2003

Question

As a technical writer what are the jobs that i can volunteer myself to that can be useful to the company.

Mahua - USA (269)

Answer

You have to keep your eyes open for opportunities to volunteer. The most obvious is when there is a writing deadline to meet, where you can offer to help out or give an extra effort.

Another place to be more valuable is to become an expert in a needed skill. For example, if no one knows how to create a template in FrameMaker, you can be the one everyone comes to. But certianly, the boos should know you are that expert.

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FM to RoboHelp

Writer in Philippeans

August 1, 2003

Question

Hi! I'm a Technical Writer based in the Philippines. I make manuals using Word then convert them to Adobe PDF for delivery. This is my first time to create on-line help. Do I really have to make the manual in Framemaker then convert it to Word? I'm already using Word as my foundation. So can I skip the Framemaker part and just proceed with RoboHelp in creating my online help.

Is there any difference between using Framemaker first and converting it to Word?

Thanks.

Sheila - Philippines (59)

Answer

This lesson was written because many large manuals are made in FrameMaker, and it has been very difficult to convert such documents to RoboHelp.

Robohelp uses Word as its basis, so you should have no problems. Remember that online Help pages are typically short. Usually, a manual must be condensed to be converted to Help.

Also, RoboHelp has many features. The best bet is to try to keep things simple, so you don't get overwhelmed with the features.

Best wishes in your project.

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General

Topics are good for my profession

August 1, 2003

Question

Hi! I find your topics useful for my profession. I'm a technical writer based in the Philippines. I used to be a programmer/analyst before I concentrated on this job. I've been into technical writing for 2 years now and I would say that I found a career in it. It's a pity there is no educational institution that offers Certification in Technical Writing here in our country. I plan to enroll in the Institute of Technical Writing in a few months via on-line training.

For the meantime, I printed all your topics and use it as my personal Technical Writing Manual. I already added your website into my Favorites list.
Thank you very much and more power!

Sheila - Philippines (60)

Answer

Although some colleges in the United States offer degrees in Technical Communication, a large number of writers here are not certified. Most have come from other technical fields and are skilled in writing.

Of course, any certification and extra training you can get can enhance your career. But it would be good to check with your employer whether they view certification as a plus. They may seek added skills in a different area, so it is always good to check.

Best wishes in your career.

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Knowledge

Tools for writing

August 1, 2003

Question

What are the tools required for technical writing?

- India (62)

Answer

It is good to have knowledge about the products and industry where you are doing your writing. You also need to be able to write in a concise, clear manner.

Most companies use Microsoft Word for writing many documents. For writing large manuals, some use Adobe FrameMaker, but that will vary, depending on the company. The best way to know what is used in your area is to look at the requirements companies post in their advertisements for writers.

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