Re: Suggested Technical Writing Curriculum

Subject: Re: Suggested Technical Writing Curriculum
From: "David Berg" <dberg -at- dmpnet -dot- com>
To: "Andrew Plato" <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 17:06:03 -0500

> The Plato-Perfect Technical Writing Curriculum (Beta 2)

I've got to give this one a shot. :)

> --Part 1: Logan and Briscoe--

Well, since Part 1 was obviously tongue-in-cheek anyway, I can claim most of
this background from the "school-of-hard-knocks."

> --Part 2: Rhetoric --
> Advanced composition (modes of persuasion, constructing an argument, etc.)
> Rhetorical analysis
> Logic (Everybody should be forced at gun point to take a logic class

-Plenty of experience with composition from various angles, such as litcrit
classes, etc.
-Rhetorical analysis from various liberal arts courses, plus grad course in
-I admit, no formal college courses in logic, but a lively hobby studying
logical fallacies. Well, I guess that was a course in programming logic, if
that counts.

> --Part 3: Science and Technology--
> Physics
> Basic Electronics
> Basic Programming and Data Modeling
> Flow charting and process development
> Geometry and basic math

-Physics, basic college course.
-Electronics, nope. Got me there.
-The only programming I've had was 20 years ago, the first time I gave
college a shot. I did have a programming logic course more recently.
-Flow charting, part of the programming logic class.
-Geometry, math. Covered, but not enjoyed. :)

> --Part 4: Graphic Design--
> Design basics
> Layering and colors
> Diagramming
> Advanced flow charting
> Web design
> Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro

-Plenty of coursework in graphic design, digital art, web design, multimedia
(i.e. Director), desktop publishing to cover everything listed here.

> --Part 5: Get down to Business
> Basic Marketing and branding
> Basic Economics and finance
> Business management

-Here I start leaning back on life experience for most of the items listed.
Course in economics, accounting, finance, but life experience adds up to
more than those classes, by far.

> --Part 6: Tech Writing Basics--
> Layout basics
> Using Hierarchies
> Tools (Frame, Word, etc.)
> Usability
> Audience Analysis
> Grammar and editing

All covered, but then again, isn't this the easiest part of Andrew's list
for most TWs?

When I considered TW as a major, I looked at the courses and decided that I
wanted something a little more well-rounded than the stock curriculum, so I
set out to design an individualized major. Ultimately, I decided there were
too many headaches down that path, so when the TW director offered to freely
substitute required courses to turn the TW major into the degree I wanted I
accepted that offer and joined the TW program. I debated quite a bit about
what to call my individualized major...the leading contender was "Digital

I also took the position that the more writing experience a person has,
regardless of the type of writing, the better writer they will be. I
regretted not have a creative writing class as an undergrad, so my first
semester as a grad student, with the encouragement of my graduate advisor,
who had seen my writing in another course, I enrolled in a graduate
creative writing class. I'm working to turn my TW master's program into a
fairly "non-TW" degree by including courses such as Electronic Music (for
multimedia applications), along with the required TW classes, at least as
far as I can manage.

According to Andrew's "dream list," I have most of the academic background,
and I'm working on the practical experience. Now all I have to do is work on
earning more than the *bottom* of the TW entry-level pay scale (but fairly
normal for where I live). I'll think about moving after I've finished up my
degree...there's an interesting looking master's program in multimedia at a
school a few hours from here.


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