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> From: Susan Loudermilk[SMTP:slouderm -at- falcon -dot- tamucc -dot- edu]
> Reply To: Susan Loudermilk
> Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2000 6:13 AM
> To: TECHWR-L
> Subject: New Hires
> We are looking at making some changes to the tech writing degree here at
> Texas A&M Corpus Christi. This is directed toward those of you who hire
> tech writers right out of college. What types of
> classes/activities/skills/portfolio work do you look for in an
> undergraduate experience?
> Susan Loudermilk
I'll throw a couple of cents in on this topic.
First, I'll assume that you will continue to teach students how to write
clearly and concisely. Technical Writers do have writing styles; focus your
students on simple, clear styles that do not get in the way of the
information they are imparting through their writing.
Second, teach them how to think. My experience in this field indicates that
a Technical Writer must be prepared to learn new things and learn them well
enough to pass along what they have learned to their audience. All of that
means that student writers need to think about who their audience is. It
would be helpful if they could write to several different audiences over
their course of study. They need to learn to think about what they are
doing and how it will affect their audience and how their writing will
affect the success of that which they are documenting. Don't teach them how
to rewrite someone else's work; they'll get enough of that, anyway.
Third, teach them that Technical Writer is two words. Technical Writers
should not be afraid of learning new technologies. I've had to learn to
work in three of the major computer environments of the day: UNIX,
Windows-based DOS, and Macintosh OS. I've had to learn to use a variety of
word processing, desktop publishing, and web publishing software packages.
I've had to be this versatile because in this business you rarely work in
the same environment for a long time. Either you change jobs (or the old
one goes away) or your employer/client changes environments. A Technical
Writer will have favorites--both in tools and environments--but the
Technical Writer should not let personal preference interfere with doing a
quality job for the audience and customer. That means the Technical Writer
should be open to learning everything technical.
Personally, I don't put a lot of stock in portfolios; they're too easy to
fake, or plagiarize. However, I do look at them to see what kinds of
audiences and technologies are involved.
I know some of the other responses have been more rigorous, and I don't know
how these suggestions work with your specific curriculum or goals, but I
hope you will consider them for future coursework.