[Query] Landmark Books on Technical Writing

Subject: [Query] Landmark Books on Technical Writing
From: David Dickerson <davidmd -at- echomusic -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2006 21:24:16 -0500

Greetings, everyone!

On 1 March, I started a technical-writing position for a company
that has never had a technical writer.

The open-source-based, patent-pending software that the company is
developing has one major architect and I am in the process of
trying to learn this intimidating and very impressive product. I am
currently working on a document that I am about to complete, except
for updating the rest of the screen shots -- plus, my first "real"
project, in which I am documenting a client's Web site, and
documenting in detail the particular features of above-mentioned
software that form the foundation of the Web site (and how the
software performs these functions).

Before accepting this position, I had been doing Web design and
editing work as a consultant for an international, educational
nonprofit organization. (In addition, I did Web contract work
for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for three months, and
11 years of volunteer and paid work for The Wildlife Center
of Virginia.)

Prior to my recent consulting position, I was the senior technical
writer for an international company that outsourced all of the work
for my US location of 100 people to a firm in New Delhi, India.

My first technical-writing position was in the spring of 1985, so I
have 20 years of experience as a technical writer -- on a team of
writers and as the sole technical writer for various firms.

I did not intend for this TECHWR-L inquiry to be a biography,
so I will come to the point. ;-)

I am interested in reading some of the most-respected and landmark
books about the art and science of technical writing. I have begun
doing searches on Amazon.com, but I realize that the members of
this list most certainly have suggestions of books in English that
are "must reads," as well as books that should be avoided, or are
(at the least) mediocre.

Because of my years of experience, I am interested in books that go
beyond basics, but -- on the other hand -- will help me continue
to grow as a technical writer. I am very glad to return to the field
of technical writing, but I feel as if I have been on an extended

I would appreciate recommendations of books that have had a
profound impact on their readers -- books that are considered
"classics" about technical writing, but obviously are not obsolete.

I am looking for practical works, as well as thought-provoking
books that are challenging philosophically. In a nutshell, I am
asking, "What books do you consider to be the most important works
about technical writing"?

Finally, I would very much like to hear from technical writers who
have learned some programming or pursued similar interests in
technology, perhaps because you have a passion for documenting
software -- or for other reasons altogether.

(In 1993, I took an ANSI C programming course at a college. I
thoroughly enjoyed the course, earning an 'A', despite the fact
that ANSI C was my first programming language -- except for a bit
of experimenting with BASIC when I got a Commodore-64 in 1984.
Needless to say, one can learn only so much in a single semester,
but I did write a text-filtering program in July of 1993 for the
Macintosh and DOS/Windows.) Currently, I am very interested in PHP
and open-source technology. I have been exploring Linux since
November of 2002, but I run Windows XP Professional and Mac OS X as
well. I am also very interested in PHP, Apache, and MySQL.)

I apologize for the verbose and vague nature of this message, but
I do not want to constrain anyone in what you recommend by making
my question too specific. (Incidentally, I will be paying for any
books out of my own funds; I am making a personal investment in
my career.)

Finally, despite my monologue about programming, I want to focus on
books about professional technical writing, but I certainly welcome
your thoughts on learning technology, perhaps as a way to complement
one's career as a technical writer, or even as a way of "following
your bliss," to quote the late Joseph Cambpbell.

Thank you very much, in advance, for your time and help -- as well
as for your patience in reading this "tome."


David M. Dickerson
United States

David Dickerson
david -dot- dickerson -at- echomusic -dot- com

echomusic.com – intelligence, artistry, innovation
615.371.5119 | 615.777.5119 fax


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