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Feedback Q&A on Technical Writing

by Ron Kurtus

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

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



List of next 10 letters

Topic

Title

Country

General Wants to be a technical writer INDIA
 
General Tech writing and literature India
 
Marketing as Independent Part time job for technical writing from my home India
 
FM to RoboHelp Can't convert a book to Word Pakistan
 
Skills Needed From Inida and seeking US job USA
 
General Wants to be a technical writer in India India
 
General Wants to sharpen skill in India India
 
Steps in WebHelp Creating help with RoboHelp India
 
Jobs Been out of work for months USA
 
Knowledge Wants to do part-time writing USA
 

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First 10 letters


Wants to be a technical writer

Topic: General

Question

April 15, 2005

I want to persue a career in Technical Writing. I am of Indian origin and do not have the means to pay for course material. I have been browsing the net for free material on Technical Writing.I seek information on "How to become a technical writer".

Clement - INDIA

6664

Answer

If you have an ability in writing, know the software used by companies and know the technical areas of the company, you may be able to get into technical writing. Look at advertisements of companies to see what requirements they have for writers.

There is a technical writing organization in India in Mumbai/Bangalore, India
President: Makarand M. Pandit
Phone: 912025443156
E-mail: mp@vsnl.com

India Chapter Web site: www.stc-india.org

They should be able to give you good information.

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Tech writing and literature

Topic: General

Question

April 2, 2005

Hello Champion,

Here is my appreciation for your non-profit worldwide service

Infact criticism is regarding your view point:
Engineers can be best techwriters rather than people graduated in the disciplines of English, Journalism and other pertaining to literature.

I strongly criticise, what category you have neglected or to an extent degraded can result THE BEST, as their study material is not only artistic literature but also a study petaining to the concept of logically precise branch. I would really like to remind you of the natural fact that geniosity is by birth.

Pranitha - India

6514

Answer

Thank you for your feedback. Technical writing is a special form of writing that requires knowledge of the product as well as consise explanations. People in technical fields are often better at presenting such material than are people in the literature fields, because of the way they present the material. Likewise, many engineers would not be very good at writing a news article or fiction story. People have talents in various areas ann often cannot do work in another field. Some are able to write both in literature and technical writing, but they are the exception.

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Part time job for technical writing from my home

Topic: Marketing as Independent

Question

February 17, 2005

i am intersted in for the part time job for technical writing from my home ,also i can make projects ,where should i contact for the same???

amit - India

5990

Answer

You can check companies in your area that include documentation with their products. Also, there are companies in India that provide documentation to U.S. companies.

Your best route is to look for small local companies that may need writing done but don't want to hire a full-time worker. It takes some effort to find thoise companies. It is bes tto start close to home for such jobs.

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Can't convert a book to Word

Topic: FM to RoboHelp

Question

February 4, 2005

Hi, I'm a Technical Writer too. The problem is, when I try to convert a book instead of a single document, Framemaker doesn't give the option of saving as a word file. And if I convert each document separately, how do I get the cross references to work in Word? This is a single book with multiple documents in it cross referencing one another.

- Pakistan

5858

Answer

You really have to convert section by section and not book. Also FrameMaker allows you to save as an RTF file, which is formatted in Word and can be used in Word.

The new version of FrameMaker has better tools available to convert files directly into RoboHelp.

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From Inida and seeking US job

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

February 3, 2005

Hi,
I am basically from India, presently in the US to accompany my husband. I am a post grad in English Linguistics, and a graduate with English honors. The only computer knowledge I have is MS Office.Am I legible to apply for the post of technical writer? Since I am here on an H4 visa, I am not permitted to work in the US. So I would require the company that hires me to sponsor an H1 visa for me. With my qualifications, will a company agree to sponsor the visa or should I entirely drop the idea?
I would appreciate any helpful suggestions / advice from your side.
Thanks,

jayeeta - USA

5846

Answer

You can do technical writing with only knowledge of Office products. You can also consider marketing writing, which requires good writing skills but less software knowledge.

Some companies are outsourcing their writing to India and may need someone to edit the work that comes in and perhaps communicate with those writers.

Check with the Society for Technical Communications at:
http://www.stc.org/chapter_search.asp to find a chapter of STC in your location. You may be able to find out more information about local companies from the group. Also note that there are chapters in India.

Best wishes in your career.

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Wants to be a technical writer in India

Topic: General

Question

January 21, 2005

Hi,
I want to be a technical writer. I was searching the net for some info about technical writing in hyd when I came across your site. Most ofd the online/correspondence courses are too expensive. I cannot afford them.
Looking for some affordable/free courses in technical writing.
Thank you.

nissy - India

5686

Answer

Often companies hiring technical writers are more concerned with good writing ability, knowledge of the writing software they use and knowledge of their product. Courses in technical writing can be helpful, but they may not be necessary to get a job unless a company specifically demands it.

Look at want ads for technical writers to see what is required in your area. Also try to find companies that use writers.

Check the technical writers society in India and contact them for good information. India Chapter Web site: www.stc-india.org

Best wishes in your career.

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Wants to sharpen skill in India

Topic: General

Question

January 4, 2005

Dear Sir/Ma'm

Myself Rajiv,( working as a member in the content team with one of the fastest growing company, providing information(related to legal matter) thru its site)would like to pursue a career in "Instructional Designing" or "Technical Writer".

In this regard, I would like to know that what are the chances of getting an opportunity in Dubai(let me clarify that I have no prior experience in this field and my age is around 28 years)

How to sharpen my skill to get into this field

Thanks

- India

5483

Answer

Since you have been writing content, you probably have writing skills. Gather samples of writing you have done. Often it is required that a technical writer have some experience in a given field. Like legal experience for writing in legal field, mechanical for a mechanical company etc.

Instructional design is a specific area of writing where experience in writing training manuals is often required. Many times a person with a techncial writing job can move into instructional design.

You can get information on those jobs in India from http://www.stc-india.org/. They should be able to help you with possible opportunities.

Best wishes in your career.

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Creating help with RoboHelp

Topic: Steps in WebHelp

Question

December 17, 2004

Can u help me creating help through Robohelp. and aslo the download of the Robohelp.

chaithanya - India

5366

Answer

You can download a trial version of RoboHelp from:
http://www.macromedia.com/software/robohelp/

Unfortunately, it is a very expensive program. Macromedia has some good tutorials that come with the program and from their site.

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Been out of work for months

Topic: Jobs

Question

December 10, 2004

Hi,

Many thanks for providing valuable information on your site for the tech writers. I have 6 years of tech writing experience and more years of general writing experience. I know all the required tools and more and I was doing fine until Silicon Valley collapsed. After being unemployed for 2 years, I got a job for 6 months in Las Vegas and that's been gone four months ago. What I am finding difficult is grabbing one of the open positions. I get calls from recruiters, but nothing generates. While needing an income and being broke for so long, I can't afford money or time to learn too many things that various jobs are asking. I know HTML, learning XHTML, taken a course in Java programming, reading upon TCP/IP and the works.

When I get calls about Java writer positions, it seems like they are looking for actual Java programmers who can write from code. If I had that much experience and was programming-oriented, why would I be sitting home unemployed as a tech writer and not be gainfully employed as a Java programmer? They want 2/3 years of Java programming experience and/or documenting Java. So even if I could learn enough Java and be confident about it, I still not get a job because I can't show that I have written Java documents? My question is, how much Java does a writer need to know in order to document Java API, etc.? How can one get experience without having to write the topic? And how can one convince the employer that he/she can do the job?

Same thing about RoboHelp. I have never used it before, but I have books and tutorials. Without ever touching FrameMaker software, I was able to use it to create books and now know enough to use it again. For someone like me who knows how to design web pages, RoboHelp is nothing. The problem is when they want to see a sample, I can't produce one. What can you advise?

Thanks so much.

Best regards.

Fawzia - USA

5302

Answer

The problem with getting into programming is that you are competing with people who specialize in the field. You are better off selling yourself as a writer who can do programming.

Don't get into the trap of studying new tools instead of hustling for a job. It is very tempting to rationalize that you need more knowledge, because it is very difficult to look for work.

Looking through the ads for technical writers and web developers in monster.com, dice.com and some of the other job sites is worthwhile. But also, checking into the STC chapter in your area is very worthwhile. You can find out the companies that use technical writers, as well as get possible leads. See:
http://www.stc.org/chapter_search.asp.

Most good jobs are not gotten from ads or from recruiters. You get them from personal contacts. Getting to know some people in STC or other professional organizations is worthwhile.

As far as not having samples of work with such things as RoboHelp goes, you can make your own sample to show. Often companies will not allow former workers to show proprietary work, so you'd have to make your own sample.

The longer you are out of work, the harder it is to get a job. If you have been missing out on jobs, you might look at how you are presenting yourself on the phone and in interviews. You not only need to show you are skilled, but you also must get them to like you.

I hope these ideas help. Best wishes in getting back in the workforce. It is no fun being without money.

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Wants to do part-time writing

Topic: Knowledge

Question

December 5, 2004

I am a fulltime mechanical engineer. I write a lot of specifications and have written a few O & M manuals. Is there a place for partime or moonlight work, approx. 20 hours per work? If yes how do I get started?

Doug - USA

5246

Answer

You can check with temporary employment agencies in your area. They may have occasional part-time jobs. Also check www.monster.com and www.dice.com under technical writers in your location. Some companies looking for workers, may also use part time help on projects.

Check http://www.stc.org/chapter_search.asp to find a chapter of STC in your location. They may be able to give you info on companies needing help. They may also be able to give you leads on local freelancers who can help you get started.

Best wishes in your efforts.

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Summary

Hopefully, this reader feedback has helped provide information about Technical Writing issues.


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