Re: which courses--if you want to write documentation

Subject: Re: which courses--if you want to write documentation
From: K Watkins <kwatkins -at- QUICKPEN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 1995 12:29:39 EDT

On 27Sep95, LeAnne Martin (kismet -at- umich -dot- edu) wrote:
|I was wondering what kind of training people would
|recommend. Again, I would like to write documentation
I know this isn't exactly what you asked, but what I would recommend most
is EXPERIENCE. This gives you the biggest leg up, not only in learning what
the work requires, but also in demonstrating to prospective employers that
you're worth hiring.
I hope others can recommend particular courses to take or avoid. I got
into technical writing through the back door, with degrees in English, but
very few courses in the sciences, and none that were specifically on
technical communication...though I did teach such a course at one time. I
gathered that part of my education directly from the excellent books and
periodicals out there. (The STC publications and bibliographies are a good
starting place if you take this route.)
Specific training is certainly worthwhile. There are many known wheels
which you shouldn't have to re-invent for yourself. But you also need to
take some actual trips, even if you have only the most rudimentary wheels so
So look for experience. If you're lucky enough to find something official
like an internship, great. If not, make your own opportunity. Ask a
biology teacher at the local high school to collaborate with you on
hard-copy instructions for dissecting an earthworm or putting together a lab
report. Volunteer to create a handout for the public library on some
question which the reference desk keeps hearing over and over. Compose a
more usable alternative to the infamous manufacturers' booklet for friends
who bemoan the impossibility of programming their VCR. Anything. Each bit
of experience is worth it, both for itself and for the credibility it can
give you at the next step.

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

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