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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

5 Ways into Writing Suggest ways to improve my writing skills India
 
Steps in WebHelp Wants to learn more RoboHelp options India
 
Skills Needed Inserting back links with RoboHelp USA
 
Salaries Wages for job in African country USA
 
Salaries What is the job market around San Fransisco? USA
 
Skills Needed What tools are needed by a writer? India
 
Skills Needed Want more information on skills needed India
 
Type of Docs Needed Difference between User manual and Training Manual USA
 
Excellence Why is technical report writing important? Pakistan
 
5 Ways into Writing Using writing skills without a degree in writing USA
 

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First 10 letters


Suggest ways to improve my writing skills

Topic: 5 Ways into Writing

Question

September 23, 2008

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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Wants to learn more RoboHelp options

Topic: Steps in WebHelp

Question

June 27, 2008

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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Inserting back links with RoboHelp

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

April 1, 2008

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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Wages for job in African country

Topic: Salaries

Question

March 29, 2008

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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What is the job market around San Fransisco?

Topic: Salaries

Question

February 6, 2008

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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What tools are needed by a writer?

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

January 17, 2008

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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Want more information on skills needed

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

January 8, 2008

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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Difference between User manual and Training Manual

Topic: Type of Docs Needed

Question

December 5, 2007

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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Why is technical report writing important?

Topic: Excellence

Question

October 25, 2007

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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Using writing skills without a degree in writing

Topic: 5 Ways into Writing

Question

October 22, 2007

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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Summary

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


Write well


Resources and references

The following are some resources on this topic.

Websites

Technical Writing Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Technical Writing


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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Feedback Q&A on Technical Writing




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Using tools

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