Re: New to Technical Writing

Subject: Re: New to Technical Writing
From: Andrew Plato <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 11:05:19 -0800 (PST)

"Caldwell, Shannon" <> wrote ...
> My question is about education for Technical Writing. I am new to technical
> writing but not to the technology field. My background is in systems and
> network administration. I have also worked on software development. I am
> looking to expand my technical career into technical communications. I feel
> a better fit with this than systems support. I have researched some of the
> education links on TECHWR-l and the local chapter STC website and soon
> became overwhelmed. I would really like to take online courses. Any
> suggestions from anyone. Actually I would take any suggestions for a
> newbie!

1. You're not a newbie. If you've done network admin and software development,
you're miles ahead of most "technical" writers.

2. You don't need on-line courses. Just get up to speed on some basic word
processor and graphics tools. Frame, Word, RoboHelp, Photoshop - all good ones
to learn. No need to be an expert, you can learn as you go. If necessary, buy
older copies on Ebay or get the free demos so you can get the basics down. When
people ask you if you used these tools - just say yes. They are easy to learn
and master.

3. Apply for jobs. Focus on your technical skills. Sell yourself as a person
with a strong technical background who likes to write. Demonstrate your ability
to explain how complex systems function. You'll probably have to take something
with lame pay and entry level to begin with. I'd suggest smaller companies
where you can get a feel for the bulk of the job.

4. Ignore most of the STC stuff. Those people obsess on one-off work.
Single-sourcing, style guides, all that stuff is of marginal consequence. Jam
out some useful docs and worry about that stuff later. If you need a guide for
how to format docs, just grab a copy of the MS Manual of Style and copy it.

5. This is EXACTLY where I came from and I had a very successful and lucrative
tech writing career...and I never once took a course in tech writing and mostly
ignored STC.

Good luck.

Andrew Plato

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