RE: Questions about the Technical Writing field

Subject: RE: Questions about the Technical Writing field
From: bryan -dot- westbrook -at- amd -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 2002 08:34:06 -0500

-----Original Message-----
From: jumays [mailto:jumays -at- vt -dot- edu]
Sent: Wednesday, September 11, 2002 12:45 PM
Subject: Questions about the Technical Writing field

1. How/why did you become a professional writer?

It beats cleaning a chicken processing plant on the graveyard shift, and the pay's better too. I actually went back to school and got a B.A. in this stuff. College really helped me get started in this field because one of my classmates there (hey, Paula) gave me the lead on my first job.

2. What is your job title? job description?

Technical Writer. Software documentation for an internal audience consisting mainly of the fab techs and engineers of couple of semiconductor wafer fabs. I also maintain a few sites on the intranet and work on WBT courses when the opportunity arises.

3. What percentage of your time is spent writing, editing, or presenting?

About 70%. The rest is spent

4. What types of writing, editing, and presenting do you do?

Whatever I'm asked to do.

5. Who are your audiences and what are their needs?

See above on the audience. There needs are to be able to use these applications.

6. What things do your audiences expect from your documents or

How to use them. What to do when they break.

7. What is your biggest writing-related challenge on the job?

Pinning the SMEs down long enough to get answers to my questions.

8. What about deadlines? How do they influence the way your write on the

I actually don't have very many of those in this job (that's one of the reasons I like it so much). When I'm documenting a new system, I try to have the manual ready when they launch it. Usually it works out pretty good because I write faster than the SMEs code.

9. What standard and predictable processes (writing techniques,
organizational templates, heuristics for brainstorming, etc.), if any, do you
employ in profession-related writing?

Figure out what it does and how to get it to do that and then start typing. BTW, you probably won't want to use academic words like "heuristic" in the workplace (especially in a field where using simpler language is one of the key virtues).

10. What are the frustrations/rewards of your work?

Projects that get cancelled after I've already been working on them.

11. What advice do you have for students?

Learn how to learn how to use stuff. Seriously. The typical college assignment is to write instructions for something you're familiar with. In the real world that will happen about 0% of the time. You've got to be able to learn the subject matter well enough to explain it to somebody else. Otherwise, you'll just be a glorified typist and layout designer.

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