TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:RE: Questions about the Technical Writing field From:"Nancy Kaminski" <nancy -dot- kaminski -at- spanlink -dot- com> To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Fri, 13 Sep 2002 13:30:20 -0500
> 1. How/why did you become a professional writer?
I was a project coordinator in an R&D department when one of the
mechanical engineers asked me to help him write a specification. I did,
and I was hooked. I asked my boss if I could be a tech writer, he said
no, so I set out on my own as a freelancer. I was lucky enough to get
some jobs that lasted a year and a half, after which I found a job with
a hospital writing user guides. aFter 7 years there, I moved on to a
software company in the telecommunications industry.
> 2. What is your job title? job description?
My title is Technical Writer, and I write all the documentation required
to support our software---online help, quick references, user guides,
and service manuals. I'm the only writer on staff.
> 3. What percentage of your time is spent writing, editing, or
100% writing and editing. I don't do presentations.
> 4. What types of writing, editing, and presenting do you do?
Online help, user guides, technical support manuals. I also do contract
work editing, designing, and laying out safety engineering books for the
American Society of Safety Engineers.
> 5. Who are your audiences and what are their needs?
Our customers' contact center agents, supervisors, and administrators,
and the technical support people in my company.
> 6. What things do your audiences expect from your documents or
Clearly presented accurate information and procedures.
> 7. What is your biggest writing-related challenge on the job?
I've had to learn the ins and outs of telecommunications from scratch.
> 8. What about deadlines? How do they influence the way your write
> on the job?
Deadlines make me prioritize work. Some things that are nice to have
(another editing pass, better graphics, a nice design) are left behind
in the interests of getting the information into a book and getting that
PDF included in the build. I've also learned to type faster. <g>
> 9. What standard and predictable processes (writing techniques,
> organizational templates, heuristics for brainstorming, etc.), if any,
> do you employ in profession-related writing?
I write task-oriented user docs, using our major partner's style guide
and my own doc templates.
> 10. What are the frustrations/rewards of your work?
The most frustrating thing is cornering the SMEs when I need them. The
rewards are the software release pizza party and hearing the words,
"Version 4.2 is frozen!"
> 11. What advice do you have for students?
--Realize that what you learn in class has little bearing on how things
work in the Real World.
--Learn to keep a jar of M&Ms on your desk to lure SMEs in so you can
pounce on them with a question.
--A wiffle bat is a handy thing to have on hand when it's necessary to
encourage an engineer to talk to you and the M&Ms don't work.
--Don't get too wrapped up in theory. Sometimes you just have to sit
down and write the danged manual.
--Despite what Andrew Plato says, fonts can be fun, and fondling them
once a week is good therapy. If you do it more than that, though, you
have a problem and should see someone about it.
--Believe it or not, this is a fun job. Enjoy it!
Nancy E. Kaminski * Technical Writer
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
nancy -dot- kaminski -at- spanlink -dot- com
Phone (763) 971-2311 * Fax (763) 971-2300
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! http://www.ehelp.com/techwr-l
Acrobat & FrameMaker Seminars: PDF Best Practices, FrameMaker-to-Acrobat
Advanced Techniques, FM Template Design, Single Sourcing with FrameMaker
in Brussels (Oct), and in Montreal & Dallas (Dec): http://www.microtype.com/1
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 http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/ for more resources and info.