Start-up technical writing

Subject: Start-up technical writing
From: K Watkins <kwatkins -at- QUICKPEN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 1995 10:55:38 EDT

In answer to inquiries from Cathy Quinones (quinones -at- mindspring -dot- com) about
portfolios for writers just entering the field:

As you've probably noticed from the other comments to the list, your
portfolio should contain ANY samples of your work appropriate to the job you
are seeking. The key word is "appropriate". Why you wrote it (i.e. for
pay, as a volunteer, or just to demonstrate your skills) matters much less.
For instance, if you had to leave instructions to tell a repair crew how
to find and deal with your circuit breaker box, that could go in. I'm not
so sure about instructions for making a sandwich. I suspect that potential
employers might rather see work on a subject which strikes them as
appropriately technical (assuming that's what they're hiring for). You
might work up a short document on, say, how to fix a paper jam in a printer
or copier you are familiar with.
"Short" is another operative word. Employers rarely have the time or
patience to examine a large document in detail. If you have a large
document you want to showcase, then, as others have already suggested, use
excerpts, as self-contained/independently comprehensible as possible. The
idea of attaching a very brief note to each sample about the goals and
obstacles which were part of creating it is also a good one.
(I would give credit for all these ideas I'm citing, except that I've
already deleted the messages, so I don't know whose ideas they were.

K Watkins
kwatkins -at- quickpen -dot- com
speaking for myself, not my employers

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