Re: Help w/TW skills

Subject: Re: Help w/TW skills
From: Karen Gwynn/Datatel <Karen_Gwynn -at- DATATEL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 08:49:39 EDT

Lynn, I know that you will cover the things like writing, but what I don't see
being taught are:

**the documentation process (planning, research, *then* writing, rewriting,
editing, production, maintenance)

**general common sense graphical design issues: the proper use of bold,
italics, underlines, etc. Dispelling the old "typewriter" myths of underlining
heading (assuming you are working with anything other than a typewriter and can
use different point sizes, type faces, bold, and indenting).

**and speaking of not using a typewriter: what is a word processor and a DTP?
You don't have to teach actual tools--although please encourage your students
to learn at least one--but explain what each does and what you expect from
them. I believe that once you know what you can *do* with any computer software
package the learning then becomes how to use a particular company's
implementation of that software. You need to know that you can add up columns
of numbers in a spreadsheet before you learn how to do it in Excel or 1-2-3.

**try to set job/career expectations. Explain what the writer's role is
(typically) in an organization. If you can, bring in "guest" speakers from
different areas of tech writing to explain exactly what they do. There's a
difference between writing software documentation and writing procedures for a
nuclear reactor.

**explain how to do research. Explain that you will need to do research. Even
when your product comes with complete technical specs (dream world), you'll
still need to talk to people: the engineers/designers/programmers and the users
of the product. BTW, explain what technical specs are!

There's probably more, but I'd have to think about it...

Bottom line, from my very minimal experience with tech writing programs (and I
hope my experience is not the norm), they teach writing, but they don't explain
that writing is only part of the job.

Good luck!

Karen Gwynn
kwg -at- datatel -dot- com

--------------------------Originial Posting------------------------------------
In the fall semester I'll be teaching technical writing
in a computer lab for the first time. The students will
be mostly undergraduates wanting to become professional
writers and editors. Their writing skills vary greatly,
from some who are great writers to some who can't recognize
a sentence fragment from a graphic. As professionals,
what would you all say are the top skills I should push in
this class?

Any and all help will be *greatly*!! appreciated. Thanks!

Lynn Beene email: lbeene -at- unm -dot- edu
B & F Writers Albuquerque, New Mexico 87123

Is it not, then, better to be ridiculous and friendly than clever and hostile?

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