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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 Has no formal training in writing USA
 
General Wants to know basics of tech writing USA
 
Skills Needed Looking for job in El Paso USA
 
eLearning Books for Instructional Designers USA
 
Skills Needed Programmer wants to be writer USA
 
General Wants to get started in India India
 
eLearning Wants job in Tampa USA
 
Salaries Wages in Tennessee USA
 
Managing Projects Quality Manual USA
 
Skills Needed Instructional Design India
 

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First 10 letters


Has no formal training in writing

Topic: General

Question

March 12, 2004

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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Wants to know basics of tech writing

Topic: General

Question

January 13, 2004

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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Looking for job in El Paso

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

December 21, 2003

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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Books for Instructional Designers

Topic: eLearning

Question

December 11, 2003

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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Programmer wants to be writer

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

November 25, 2003

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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Wants to get started in India

Topic: General

Question

November 23, 2003

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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Wants job in Tampa

Topic: eLearning

Question

November 4, 2003

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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Wages in Tennessee

Topic: Salaries

Question

October 21, 2003

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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Quality Manual

Topic: Managing Projects

Question

October 9, 2003

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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Instructional Design

Topic: Skills Needed

Question

September 10, 2003

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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Summary

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