Tech Writer Certification

Subject: Tech Writer Certification
From: Joanne Wittenbrook <jwittenbrook -at- ameritech -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sat, 3 Mar 2007 09:51:41 -0800 (PST)

>Science and technology - basic programming/physics/electronics
>Graphic design - layout, page design etc.
>Basic business - marketing etc.
>Anything else you think we should all know!
There are many tech writers who do not deal with science at all. I recently completed a project for NASA(yes NASA). If any organization would ask for a science background you would think it would be the aerospace industry. No science background needed (that info came from the rocket scientists, engineers and others in that area), no marketing involved, no concern with page design (large organizations and government agencies have predefined specifications for documents.) No need for programming knowledge. The only skill required was excellent grammer and writing skills.

Many of us that are in the field started our careers 15 or 20 years ago. Pre-desktop publishing software and only programmers took programming classes. We focused on writing and communication. With the move to structured authoring, the ability to design a page is becoming obsolete for the writer.

A good technical writer is not creating information from scratch or past knowledge. They are getting their information from the engineers, developers, programmers, chemists or other professionals. Our job is to organize and translate. Take those five pages and make it available for a specific audience. The finished product then goes back to the subject matter expert. They have the expertise.

A certification program for tech writing,should be similar to Project Management certification. (my first and only professional certification) Knowledge and understanding of the methods and techniques used in best practice, combined with professional experience performing those methods and techniques. To retain your certification, you are required to fulfill yearly requirements of continuing education.

A good project manager can manage any project, it doesn't matter if it is an aerospace project or opening a restaurant. The methodology and skills are the same.

Technical communicators need to understand the best practices of gathering information and communicating. It should not matter when programming languages change or methods of delivering information change. The essential function of the technical communicator remains the same.

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