Re: Good tech writing schools?

Subject: Re: Good tech writing schools?
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 11:07:53 -0700

re: forget schools that "teach" RoboHelp or Word or FrameMaker. More
important is concentration on users...learning how they learn, how they
communicate, etc. Look for schools that concentrate on communication theory,
information design, etc.

Jane Bergen brings good points to this discussion, and to me suggests that
putting together a technical writing program--or managing your own
career--is a building block process, with lots of blocks.

Learning theory
Yes, bring in learning theory. And, if your institution has a business
school, include one or more marketing classes for yet another approach to
satisfying users. How about international marketing? Learn that the picture
of the baby on the Gerbers doesn't mean the same thing everywhere (some
places, "for babies," others, "is babies").

I think learning actual publishing techniques cannot be forgotten--could
learning a particular software be combined with learning theory? Keying on
this list's frequent discussions, the particular software's help systems
could be simultaneously evaluated to create a 2-for-1 learning exercise.

To go on, I'm convinced that "technical communication" in the 21st century
means knowing principles of the internet and all its associated
technology--html, JavaScript, etc., and differences in displays on desktop
computers, palms (is this a word yet?), eBook hardware, and cell phones.
Maybe even an introductory programming course--if/then logic, etc.

And users in the new century will expect more graphics, and any "technical
communication" program that's worth it will cover graphical presentation
thoroughly, including, again, introduction to the software.

Oh yes, "writing" ought to be there too. Technical communicators should
certainly be able to convey their message--when it's not all
pictures--following the generally accepted rules of the language they use.
Knowing the rules is likely the starting point for knowing how to bend them
creatively and effectively.

FIRST STEP is to change thinking to replace "technical writing" with
"technical communication." Someone else has coined this phrase, but here
goes anyway: "technical writing" is so "last century."

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