Re: Advice on starting out; dealing with employers

Subject: Re: Advice on starting out; dealing with employers
From: Chris Morton <salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 09:29:55 -0700

Joan, you've got a lot on your plate. Besides the archives of this list,
there are already queries of this nature—with great answers—on the Technical
Writer Forum group at LinkedIn. You may also want to investigate joining the
Society of Technical Communications to accelerate your learning curve.

As for style guides, I'm going to suggest *Read Me First! A Style Guide for
the Computer Industry*, followed by the *Chicago Manual of Style* (you'll
want both as references). I also use *The* *Gregg Reference Manual*.

One tip I'm going to offer right away is to eliminate using two spaces after
punctuation in all further communications. Regardless of how you were taught
in high school or college, this convention became an anachronism as manual-
and non-IBM Selectric typewriters became relegated to The Antiques Road
Show.

Best of luck to you!

> Chris



On Fri, Apr 15, 2011 at 8:31 AM, Joan Wamiti <jwamiti -at- breakeveninc -dot- com>wrote:

> Hey All,
>
> I'm new here, both to the list and to technical writing. I've been lurking
> for a few weeks, browsing the archives and reading the daily digests with
> interest.
>
> Some background: I've just been hired by a tiny software/consulting firm
> as
> a Business Analyst. However, since I have a little experience with
> writing,
> they'd also like me to be responsible for their documentation needs -
> mainly
> a help guide/wiki for the software that our clients use. There's also talk
> of a blog...
>
> My undergrad was a combination of Math and Economics, and my writing
> experience comes from writing personal projects and working as a
> copy-editor
> for the on-campus newspaper. Technical/scientific writing is something
> that
> I've been interested in for a long time, and I've done some investigation
> into courses/online resources.
>
> Questions:
> 1. What are some good basic resources for someone just starting out? I
> was
> thinking about a dictionary and a technical style guide (I'm used to using
> a
> journalism one), but I feel like I need more information specific to
> writing
> user guides. I'm ok on the language front, but I'm at a loss when it comes
> to file formats, document layout etc. Right now I'm writing everything up
> in Word 2010, then emailing it to my boss, who inserts screenshots and
> converts it to pdf. In reading some of these threads, it's pretty clear
> that I have a lot to learn, but I don't want to overwhelm myself with
> unnecessary information.
>
> 2. What should I keep in mind when dealing with my employer? My bosses
> have technical backgrounds and only have the haziest idea of what their
> requirements are - they want a wiki, client-specific help guides, and a
> blog. They have no idea of what a style guide is or why anyone would need
> one. I feel like I come off sounding fussy and pedantic about getting
> documentation right, but I want to do a really good job with it, even if
> I'm
> just a beginner. I've clarified who my primary audience is (the end-user)
> and the blog isn't a priority right now.
>
> 3. Credit/attribution - how do I address this with my employer? I've
> already written up some user documentation for clients. I'd like to be
> able
> to use some of what I've done for a portfolio, but I'm dealing with a lot
> of
> proprietary information, some of which I can't just scrub/block out
> (describing processes etc.). I've only started working for this company
> and
> I'm hesitant to bring this up right away, but I don't want this to become a
> problem later on. I know I could save all my work for a portfolio and use
> it anyway, but I'd rather have permission.
>
> 4. How do I deal with previous documentation? There's already some
> existing documentation that I'm expected to review (and most probably
> revise). Some of it is inconsistent, jargon-filled and unclear, and
> there's
> a lot of Power Point presentation style to it (lots of unneeded bullet
> points and sentence fragments). I don't lie when the previous writer asks
> me about it - I do my best to be tactful with questions/comments since the
> person who wrote it is my boss, but he doesn't seem to think that the
> inconsistencies/lack of clarity matter. What's a good way of showing him
> the importance of documentation?
>
> These are the main issues I've been thinking about. I'd appreciate it if
> you could let me know if I'm on the right track, or if there's anything
> else
> I should think about.
>
> Oh, and this is supposed to comprise a fraction of my normal duties.
>
> Joan
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References:
Advice on starting out; dealing with employers: From: Joan Wamiti

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