RE: Questions about the Technical Writing field

Subject: RE: Questions about the Technical Writing field
From: "Anita Lewis" <anital -at- threerivers-cams -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2002 09:07:00 -0500

I am a technical writing student at Virginia Tech, and I would really
appreciate it if any of you could take a few minutes to answer some or
of the following questions about the field of technical writing. Please
free respond to me off-list at jumays -at- vt -dot- edu and thank you for your

1. How/why did you become a professional writer?
Always liked to write... First creative writing (grade school),
then journalism (high school and college), then sales material. Just
out of college worked for the nation's largest car rental company making
reservations. Was discovered that I could write, so I was assigned to
put together a monthly newsletter. Was recruited to be part of a core
group developing a roadside assistance team, so developed the procedures
involved and documented those, along with how to handle the calls and
which computer programs to access to get the information needed to
assist the renter. Ended up writing a 100 page manual... Had no idea
that what I was doing was tech writing. Saw an ad on our internal job
board for a tech writer at our corporate headquarters for a tech writer,
and figured, hey, I can write, so why not? Was offered the job not
because of my writing samples but because I filled a niche they had for
an 'assertive' woman. Spent the next three years developing
documentation on AS400 programs for rental agents, writing HR manuals
(what is diversity?), developing and delivering four monthly
newsletters, developing training materials and occasionally presenting.
That's my start.
2. What is your job title? job description?
My current job title is "Training and Customer Support" (at
least that's what it says on my business card, since they couldn't fit
Trainer, Documentation Specialist, Marketing Coordinator, Project
Manager, Quality Assurance Specialist, Technical Editor). My boss asked
me the other day what I thought my job was here. I responded, "To do
anything that needs doing of which I am capable of doing." I was HIRED,
however, as a trainer/tech writer. But we are a small company, and
everyone here wears multiple hats.
3. What percentage of your time is spent writing, editing, or
I'd say 50% presenting (traveling all over the US), 20% writing, and the
other 30% doing all of the other stuff like project management or marcom
4. What types of writing, editing, and presenting do you do?
I write user manuals, online help, marcom materials, training materials,
memos, reports, procedures, website content, and anything else that
might need to be written. I don't really edit anything besides my own
work. The presenting is in the form of training, either onsite or
remote, anywhere from two to five days of classes.
5. Who are your audiences and what are their needs?
My audience is higher education administration (admissions personal,
registrars, bursars, financial aid officers, business managers, etc.
They need clear documentation/instruction on how to use and maintain our
product, which is highly specialized administrative software for higher
educational institutions.
6. What things do your audiences expect from your documents or
They expect to be able to learn how to use and maintain the product.
7. What is your biggest writing-related challenge on the job?
Flight delays (cut into writing time).
8. What about deadlines? How do they influence the way your write
on the
job? We have no deadlines (unless I am preparing something specific for
a training class on a certain date). My boss absolutely refuses to
prioritize; he wants everything done at once, everything is equally
important to him. I set personal deadlines on a weekly basis to make
sure I can accomplish everything I need to.
9. What standard and predictable processes (writing techniques,
organizational templates, heuristics for brainstorming, etc.), if any,
do you
employ in profession-related writing?
I sit down with the program, play with it, break it, send out msgs to
support, listen to the answers, write it down in several formats.
10. What are the frustrations/rewards of your work?
It's frustrating not to have time to polish everything they way I would
like it, it's frustrating to sit on a airplane for three hours on the
runway, and it's frustrating to find errors on maps when on the road.
However, travel is rewarding because I love going to new places and
getting to get into the environment in which the product is being
used... Helps me improve the docs continually. It's rewarding because
it consists of three of my primary loves: writing, traveling, and
teaching. It's rewarding because my niece is accumulating quite the
t-shirt collection (one from each place I go).
11. What advice do you have for students?
Watch Office Space over and over... Memorize it. Realize that no matter
where you go you will encounter all kinds corporate BS... You'll never
get around it. Even if you work for yourself, you'll have to deal with
it. The only difference from company to company is the culture. Learn
to operate within the culture so that you can actually extract the
information you need to do your job. Also, take every opportunity to
learn new technology, skills, tools. Your education will continue long
after you've got your sheepskin tucked under your arm.

Absolutely FREE! FrameMaker/Win 6 & 7 Express Customization (v3):
Quick-access buttons & keys to common functions, char tag/font drop-down
lists, charset browser, QRef guides & much more:

Experience RoboHelp X3! This new RoboHelp release combines single sourcing,
print-quality documentation, conditional text and much more, into the most
monumental release of RoboHelp ever!

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as:
archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: RE: Job market and potential age discrimination?
Next by Author: RE: Funny Tech Writing
Previous by Thread: RE: Questions about the Technical Writing field
Next by Thread: RE: Questions about the Technical Writing field

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads