Re: Greetings

Subject: Re: Greetings
From: "Charles P. Campbell" <cpc -at- PRISM -dot- NMT -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1993 13:21:23 MDT

Michael Burris wonders whether one needs a "solid understanding of
the 'field'" to become a tech writer. As one who, thirty years ago,
parlayed an electronics-technician background and a masters in English
into my first tecwriting job, I'd advise anyone with a technical
degree and a desire to do techwriting to look for one of the certificate
programs. The Society for Technical Communication, 901 N. Stuart St.n
Suite 904, Arlington VA 22203-1854, publishes a descriptive listing
of all kinds of programs, certificate to PhD.

Back when, anyone with some technical understanding and a knack for
writing was apt to be a techwriter. Some of the folks I worked with
(in Cambridge, BTW) had no degrees; one had a PhD in chemistry; others
were degreed in everything from mechanical engineering to French.
Looking back on that era from my present perspective as a teacher
in a Bachelor of Science Technical Communication program, it was
like the age when anyone with the desire and a set of tools could
open a garage. Now that my car has EFI and an on-board computer,
I'm likely to look for a mechanic who's certified rather than take
the car to the kid at the corner garage. Similarly, now that
documentation is part of the product rather than an add-on, companies
seem to prefer to hire writers who do have an understanding of the

And technical communication is becoming, more and more, an identifiable
field. It has degree programs, several scholarly journals, and pro-
fessional conferences; there are moves afoot to certify technical
communicators, just as other professionals are now certified.

If the opportunities for education and professional development that
are availavle now had been available when I started out, I think I'd
have spent a lot less time reinventing wheels; I might have enjoyed
the work more from having a theoretical perspective, and I'd have
done a better job for my company.

So I'd say to Mr Burris, read _Technical Communication_, _IEEE-PCS
Transactions_, _Technical Communication Quarterly_ (for starters) to
get a feel for the field, then pursue certification or a degree if
it seems like something he'd like to do.

What say the rest of you?

Chuck Campbell, Assoc. Prof. *
Technical Communication Program * In chaos
Humanities Department *
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology*
Socorro, NM 87801 *
Voice 505-835-5284 * there is possibility
email cpc -at- nmt -dot- edu *

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