summary: SQL for writers

Subject: summary: SQL for writers
From: "Carol Chung" <cychung55 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001 15:11:31 -0800

This is a summary of responses to a message requesting experiences of writing applying knowledge of SQL (structured query langugage) in their work. Thanks for all the responses. -Carol

---

Carol,
I have been writing about SQL for about a year now, having started from
nothing. I would suggest doing a basic SQL course and learn how to query a
database and how a relational database hangs together, what primary keys are
etc. it is definitely worth knowing and will make you more 'technical'.
I also write about VB, which I know only sketchily but I know enough to
satisfy our developers! Since I added these to my CV, my standing has gone
up and I can now pitch for better jobs. However the downside is that people
often send me information on jobs that are way beyond my abilities,
sometimes even about things that are clearly not on my CV and that I've
never heard of. Still it's better than getting no offers!
Regards, Mick

---

Carol Chung asked:

[...] Are
there technical writers who have benefited from learning SQL (structured
query language, as opposed to SQL Server)? and how have they applied
knowledge of SQL in their work?

SQL has definitely come in handy for me, but then I manage
a content database for a dot.com. My current work is a bit
of a tangent from technical writing, strictly speaking,
but it was my technical writing background that got me in
the door.

I would suggest learning SQL if you think you might have
to document a database application someday, and especially
if you might be providing API documentation for it. But I
would also recommend learning it just for the heck of it,
since you say you're interested in databases, because it's
pretty darned easy and it'll look great on your resume. :-)

Good luck,

- Kate O'Neill

---

Well, SQL can be useful background for understanding what is happening in
any software that accesses a database, and a lot of software does. A lot of
web applications access databases. So, while you might not document the SQL
itself, understanding SQL might help you understand an application that
interfaces with a database. Also, some software does require the user to
form SQL statements of their own that the software executes. In that case,
you would need to document SQL itself. Also, learning SQL helps to
understand the structure of databases and how to design databases. This is
good background for someone interested in databases. And, SQL is pretty easy
to learn.

Janet

Janet Valade
Technical Writer
Systech Corporation, San Diego, CA
mailto:janetv -at- systech -dot- com

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Carol:

SQL can be an excellent tool if you work on software that interacts with
a database. My previous company's product was a visual query tool (not a
database itself) that could query multiple databases. In determining
what the tool was actually doing (given the lack of development
documentation and being prohibited from talking to the developers), I
could query using our tool, then query the database directly using SQL
and see what happened.

In my current job, the product manages purchase orders. The orders are
stored in a database, and knowing how to query that database again helps
when figuring out and QAing the software.

Note that SQL has subtle variations from DB to DB. That is, Oracle SQL,
Sybase SQL, and Microsoft SQL will have some "grammatical" differences,
although they are structurally the same.

Knowing database technology (which you need to properly use SQL) puts
you in higher standing with the developers since they don't have to
explain the basics to you.


Good luck,

Denise Dennett
SupplyWorks

---

I work at a software company that designs database applications that run on
Access, SQL, and Oracle. I do know some basic rules about writing SQL
queries, and I do write them from time to time, but not too often. I'm the
only writer here who knows any SQL at all (I think).

The way I use my knowledge most of the time is to understand design
documents. I work at a large company, and the developers follow a strict
design process that includes writing a document describing a form before
they code it. They do occasionally include scripts that describe stored
procedures, filters, etc., and it's nice to be able understand them. I think
most of the other writers can muddle through most of them, though, because
SQL isn't hard to read.

I do write scripts from time to time to update the database when I'm writing
the user's guide. We do have occasions when, for example, I have to have a
requisition with a status of Approved to view a screen I have to have a
screen shot of, but for some reason or another, the software doesn't let you
approve requisitions yet. (This is way before the software is released to
customers.) It's nice to be able to log into SQL Plus and run an update
query to change the status of the req.

I don't know if there are any jobs that would require you to know SQL, but
it wouldn't hurt, especially if you do ever have a job that is related to
databases in any way. It wouldn't just be database manufacturers; lots of
companies design software that runs on other companys' databases. The
biggest benefit for me is that I understand more of what the developers tell
me, and that makes them respect me more and help me more.

Hope this helps.

Amy Griffith
Datastream Systems, Inc.

---

SQL is very worthwhile. In various industries, subject matter experts who
are not especially enamored of computers often need to query databases to
get their work done. For a chemical company, I wrote some training manuals
to help users write and structure queries to extract information from
databases full of formulas. I had no background in either databases or
chemistry before doing that job.

It's fun if you like puzzles and problem-solving types of activities. At
least I thought it was fun. There's lots to learn about structuring queries
properly to get the right information out of the database. I would start
with some introductory SQL books and then move quickly on to Joe Celko's
"SQL for Smarties" to get the most out of the subject.

................................................................
Michael Collier, Technical Writer Office: N546
Information Systems Laboratory http://isl.arlut.utexas.edu/
Applied Research Laboratories: The University of Texas at Austin
Voice: 512-835-3408 e-mail: mcollier -at- arlut -dot- utexas -dot- edu
................................................................

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Relational database theory. Straight Db is easy to understand, relational
can be a bit more tricky.

Also, ask around and check out some oracle code, its a bit different, but
sorta same.

Steve






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