RE: Training a new writer

Subject: RE: Training a new writer
From: Michele Marques <MarquesM -at- autros -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 09:40:00 -0500

Karen Gloor writes:

> [...]I've been "given"
> a person, part-time, to be on my team as a technical
> writer. Catch is, she has never had any training
> whatsoever in the field (though she does at least know
> what Word is and does!). Her background is in the
> testing arena. She knows a lot about the products,
> but not how to actually put that knowledge into
> legible sentences.

Karen asks for ideas and says that she has this person learning the

I have been there many times! You don't mention whether this person will be
doing technical writing for a substantial amount of time and/or whether this
person has any technical writing aspirations.

If the person is being given to you part-time on a temporary basis to ease
your load (or even on a long-term basis, but has no writing interests), then
you may want to find various tasks for that persons that do not necessarily
involve writing new procedures from scratch. For example, this person could
do many of the screen captures you need. If a product has been updated, and
you are not confident you've been told of all changes, this person could
test the existing manual against the product, making small changes (screen
shots, modifications to procedures) where needed and noting new areas that
you will need to write up. There may be other "housekeeping" tasks or
non-writing tasks that are appropriate for this person to handle.

If the person will be assigned to you on a more long-term basis and/or would
like to become a technical writer, I recommend that you start the person
with smaller writing tasks (e.g., updating existing procedures) or very
specific writing tasks and from time-to-time hand this person articles (from
the techwr-l web site and/or Intercom or other sources) that have good tips
about writing. Also, realize that you will have to do a lot of editing at
first, but if you want that person to improve, it is probably best if that
person gives you printed copies and you give written edits for that person
to incorporate. This gives you an opportunity to explain why things should
be done differently and for this person to see how her writing can be

One very big plus is that this person has come from testing and knows the
product. Good luck!

Michele Marques, Technical Communicator
AUTROS Healthcare Solutions, Inc.
marquesm -at- autros -dot- com <mailto:marquesm -at- autros -dot- com>

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