Re: general query on technical writing

Subject: Re: general query on technical writing
From: nancy ott <ott -at- ANSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 1993 10:12:18 EDT

> From: Faith Weber <weber -at- EASI -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
> Subject: Re: general query on technical writing

> Just a quick addition to the list: it also helps to be
> a naturally detail-oriented person. If your friend doesn't
> accept things at face value, asks a lot of "why" and "how"
> questions, and takes pains to avoid carelessness or sloppiness
> in his/her work, I'd also consider that a good qualification
> for tech writing (given that the writing skills and some kind of
> technical background are there).

The ability to see the "big picture" is extremely important, too.
Being attentive to detail won't help if your friend lacks the
top-level understanding to pull the details together into a coherent
whole. He/she needs to do both to be an effective technical writer.

Your friend should also enjoy doing other things besides writing. The
specifics depend on the situation, though. As a freelancer or a
writer for a small company, he/she may be involved with document
design, illustration, informal quality assurance testing (simply from
using the product), user interface or industrial design (also from
using the product), desktop publishing, editing, proofreading,
production, and so forth. (Then again, he/she may end up working for
a company where you write your piece of the document, then hand it off
to a desktop publishing/word processing department for final edits,
proofing and production.) In general, the more your friend can do,
the better off he/she will be.

At a career fair in college, one person told me that she liked
technical writing because she did not have to be creative. Luckily,
I'd already worked as a writer for a bit ... so I knew that she was
full of bullsh*t. (But how many people has she scared away from the
field?) Creativity is almost a requirement -- from the creative
visual skills needed to do layouts and illustrations, to the creative
writing skills needed to explain complicated concepts to your reader.

On the flip side, I've also had people tell me that tech writing
couldn't possibly be creative. I do poetry, fiction *and* technical
writing, and don't see what the big deal is. They're different types
of writing, and require somewhat different skill sets -- but creative
thinking is essential to all three.

So ... getting back to the point ... if your friend is intimidated by
the thought of learning new things, is afraid of computers, becomes
bogged down by details, doesn't like dealing with scientists,
engineers, and other techie types, or doesn't feel particularly
creative, technical writing is a *bad* career choice.

nancy ott | Feminism is a socialist, anti-family political
Ansoft Corp. | movement that encourages women to leave their husbands,
Pittsburgh, PA | kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy
ott -at- ansoft -dot- com | capitalism and become lesbians. - Rev. Pat Robertson

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