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I've been techwr-ling since the mid-80's. Though I've had little formal tech
writing education, if I were to do this over again, or if I were in a
position to recommend someone for hire, I would choose the route from the
Plato Institute of Advanced Tech Writer Studies - over the school of hard
knocks - over the traditional university TWR track.
If I may make some suggestions for improvement, they would be:
--Part 7: Business Aspects of Tech Writing--
This section builds on Parts 1 thru 6, and focuses on real world challenges
for tech writers, from various points of view. (There may be some overlap
with other sections.)
- Project management techniques and tools - How to scope and estimate a
- Negotiating techniques - Learning when to say, "yes, sir", "Why don't we
be realistic about this?", and "I'll get back to you on that".
- Building alliances with other departments
--Part 8: Extra Credit--
- "This Old Manual" - When to repair tech writer trash; when to bulldoze
- Advanced Time Management - How to buffer your estimates so you can waste
time reading techwr-l topics.
- Understanding the Impossible - Why Marketing Department people think the
way they do.
From: Andrew Plato [mailto:intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2000 11:55 PM
Subject: Suggested Tech Comm Curriculum
Okay, some loudmouth challenged me in private email to impart my
vision for a tech comm curriculum. Just to show up the dingle-berry, I offer
the following haphazardly thrown together Technical Communications
The Plato approved Technical Communications Curriculum(tm) has 6 parts,
described as follows...
--Part 1: Logan and Briscoe--
Named after my favorite Law & Order detectives, this set of classes teaches
would be tech commie how to dig up information. The focus is on basic
and information gathering techniques. There should be one class where a guy
yells "PAY ATTENTION AND LISTEN" at you for 6 hours so you never forget that
little chunk of wisdom.
Strategies for FORCING people to give you information.
How to Build a Concept Matrix
Basic Scientific Method (Brainstorm, Theorize, Test, Document, Collect
--Part 2: Rhetoric --
This section focuses on teaching basic rhetorical techniques and strategies
help writers describe complex ideas. A huge emphasis is placed on crafting
balanced arguments and descriptions.
Advanced composition (modes of persuasion, constructing an argument, etc.)
Logic (Everybody should be forced at gun point to take a logic class once.)
--Part 3: Science and Technology--
This section introduces basic scientific and technological concepts to help
would be tech commie understand complex designs and systems.
Basic Programming and Data Modeling
Flow charting and process development
Geometry and basic math
--Part 4: Graphic Design--
This section teaches the wannabe tech commie basic principles of graphic
design. Particularly, how to draw diagrams, descriptive charts, and stylized
flow charts or process diagrams.
Layering and colors
Advanced flow charting
Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro
--Part 5: Get down to Business
In this phase, our hapless victim is exposed to basic business and economic
principles. This helps our potential tech commie comprehend the decisions
business world makes as well as how products are taken to market.
Basic finance and accounting
Branding and franchising
--Part 6: Tech Writing Basics--
This is what most tech comm programs are today. This section focuses on
layout, organization, and usability. Special attention is directed toward
building documentation designs that are simple, effective, and unobtrusive.
Tools (Frame, Word, etc.)
Grammar and editing