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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

Salaries Comparing wages in Utah for technical writers USA
 
Skills Needed Medical proofreader interested in technical writing India
 
RoboHelp and WBT What is the benefit of RoboHelp? USA
 
General I am an engineer and want to be a technical writer India
 
Salaries Do agencies provide workman's comp insurance? USA
 
Skills Needed Want to make my career in technical writing India
 
Process Being precise in what you write USA
 
Process Writing a technical manual for a website USA
 
FM to RoboHelp Using Robohelp for Framemaker USA
 
Process Need to mention engineering drawings USA
 

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First 10 letters


Comparing wages in Utah for technical writers

Topic: Salaries

Question

September 17, 2007

You report that the median income for technical writers in Utah has dropped, and conclude that this indicates a downturn in the economy. The median, as opposed to the mean, simply indicates that half the writers earn more, and half earn less. Isn't this just as likely (or more likely when other economic indicators are factored in) to indicate that more entry-level tech writers have been hired at starting salaries, pulling the median down? Last I heard, Utah's economy was doing significantly better than the national average.

What's the actual average salary for Utah? That would probably be more helpful.

Benjamin - USA

14407

Answer

What is really hurting the wages of technical writers is the fact that many companies are outsourcing the writing to India, where the wages are much lower. Also, companies do not seem to put as much value on well-written documentation as they did in the past.

The statistics for technical writer income is based on feedback from writers to several organizations. It gives an idea of what people are earing, but it can also be skewed if not many had responded.

Yes, it would be interesting to compare writer's wages with that for the whole state. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten into that at this time.

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Medical proofreader interested in technical writing

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

August 17, 2007

I am a BCOM graduate with good knowledge of English and have been working as an executive proofreader in the field of medical transcription. I have not had a flair for writing but am interested to know if I can be a technical writer.

Thanks.

Sudha - India

14210

Answer

Medical and drug companies that create documentation for using their products, as well as documentation for physicians and medical personnel, are often looking for technical writers with a knowledge of medical terminology. See if there is a Medical Writers Association or something similar in India.

An interesting article on the subject is at:
http://www.chillibreeze.com/articles/Outsourcingmedicalwritingservices.asp

With your background, you should be able to get a position in medical technical writing.

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What is the benefit of RoboHelp?

Topic: RoboHelp and WBT

Question

February 14, 2007

what is the cost-how much technical help is necessary-what is benefit to use robohelp

L - USA

13156

Answer

RoboHelp and similar online help tools are fairly expensive. They are used in technical writing that is in coordination with a software application that a company is developing. Online help can be used in web based training, but there are many new tools that are more effective. If your company has RoboHelp, it can be used to develop WBT.

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I am an engineer and want to be a technical writer

Topic: General

Question

February 8, 2007

I am an engineer. How much effective career growth i can get in the field of technical writing. Please clear my doubts.

vikash - India

13088

Answer

The pay is usually much better in engineering than in technical writing. But if you like to write and are good at it, you can use your engineering skill to your advantage in technical writing. This is because many engineers are not very good writers, so there is a demand for people who can understand engineering and who can write.

Look within your own company and volunteer for assignments where writing is necessary. This will give you a start in the field. Also seek out managers that have technical writers working for them within your company and within other companies to tell them of your interests.

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Do agencies provide workman's comp insurance?

Topic: Salaries

Question

January 26, 2007

according to your website:
Other independents work through consulting agencies that "hire" them on a per-job basis. They often get health insurance and have their taxes deducted, but they usually get less money per hour of work.

are independents who work through consulting agencies generally covered by workers' compensation insurance?

Edward - USA

12980

Answer

Workmen's Compensation is not much of an issue with technical writers, and most agencies would not cover the workers. There are exceptions, because some of the larger agencies take in writers almost as full-time employees.

There is a very wide range of coverages from temporary and consulting agencies. Since the coverages are so weak, usually the writer must handle his or her insurance to supplement what the agency provides.

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Want to make my career in technical writing

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

January 24, 2007

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am new to this Tech Writing field. I want to make my career in it. Guide in this regard like to how to improve / update skills related to this field.

Awaiting for your reply.

Ashwini - India

12954

Answer

You can read through our lessons to get some tips about improving your career and technical writing.

Also visit the website: http://www.stc-india.org/ for information on technical writing in India.

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Being precise in what you write

Topic: Process

Question

October 31, 2006

What I once asked was part of a little assignment. I'm taking a Technical Writing class (Online) at a college, so I thought I could use a little help and advice before I might submit the wrong information to my instructor. I thank you for your help!

Steve - USA

12521

Answer

Teachers are often vague in their assignment questions. But also, technical writers may have problems with vague or ambiguous tasks and requirements from their boss or customers.

An important part of technical writing is to be precise in what you write, so that there are no misunderstandings. Also, the material must be concise. A fiction writer that describes things in extreme detail will not make a good technical writer.

Best wishes in your class.

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Writing a technical manual for a website

Topic: Process

Question

October 28, 2006

What specific challenges would I face when I want to write a technical manual for a certain website?

steve - USA

12260

Answer

Clarity of purpose is the most important challenge. Is this technical manual for a product that will be delivered or displayed on a website? Or is the manual a guide for people using the website? Is it delivered on the website or as hardcopy? These are things that must be defined.

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Using Robohelp for Framemaker

Topic: FM to RoboHelp

Question

October 12, 2006

I am using a product that is no longer supported, Robohelp for framemaker, and I have a technical question. Would you happen to know of a website or forum that will answer questions about this product?

I must say though, it is possible that my question is not product related, but simply online help related, so I am thinking I should just ask you the question I have and then you will be better equipped to point me in the right direction, or even better, answer it.

I generated a Webhelp file that has the statndard book folders and topic pages. I want to have the ability to copy the url of a page and send the page to someone else. This I can do for the sub-topic html pages (right click to get properties, and the address url), but with the book pages, I get "javascript:Void(0)" as the URL address. My webhelp file is in an intranet network with my company, and so no html page urls appear, which is why I have to right click a topic in the menu to get the url.

Any help you may provide is greatly appreciated.

Bill - USA

12148

Answer

RoboHelp is not exactly dead yet. The main forum on using it isat:
http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/webforums/forum/index.cfm?forumid=65
Also check: http://www.adobe.com/support/robohelpframemaker/

I don't have a solution for your problem, so hopefully one of the resources could help.

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Need to mention engineering drawings

Topic: Process

Question

October 11, 2006

I was an aviation technical writer/editor for many years, and offer these comments:
Your document is probably good for writing a technical manual for a very simple item. Your instruction for developing illustrations is a gross over-simplification. Most illustrations are dervied from egineering drawings, not photographs. The large scale sofware programs and CAD systems used by large manufacturers should be mentioned. It might be helpful to some of your readers to know that there are very detailed military specifications which provide excellent guidance for writing a technical manual. A desription (definition) of validation and verification would be helpful.

Joe - USA

12135

Answer

Thanks for the feedback. Although intended to be a brief overview, I certainly did neglect the areas of writing for engineering and technical hardware companies. I added a paragraph on including engineering drawings and those from CAD software. We plan to have a more detailed lesson on some of the issues you addressed.

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Summary

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


Write well


Resources and references

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Books

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Questions and comments

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