Tech writer wannabe

Subject: Tech writer wannabe
From: Melissa Hunter-Kilmer <mhunterk -at- BNA -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 1996 11:05:24 EST

The daughter of a friend is considering getting into technical writing. She's
currently a senior in college and majoring in English. I'd like to hear what
tips you guys might have for her, in addition to what I've already told her.

I said that her English major was fine, since she just now realized that she
wanted to be a tech writer. A tech writing major would've been good, too, but
any kind of literary major works well.

Since breaking into the field seems to be a hurdle these days, I suggested that
she get experience now, as a volunteer if necessary. She could see what
technical writing needs to be done at school. For instance, maybe there are
some procedures for using lab equipment that need to be improved; maybe the
library could use a small manual on its search engines; maybe her local church
needs to have its annual picnic procedures written up. She should be sure to
get permission to include copies for her portfolio.

She should familiarize yourself with as many word processing and desktop
publishing applications as possible. Some employers are extremely shortsighted
and want only those applicants who already know an application. (Or they have a
tight deadline and can't afford time to train. That just happened to us.) Hot
applications right now are Microsoft Word and Framemaker. It's also good to
know WordPerfect and some HTML.

She should also read like mad, everything from the newspaper to software
manuals, and figure out how she would have organized and written things
differently. And she should develop her curiosity, because the most successful
technical writers are curious about everything and want to communicate their
knowledge to others.

I encouraged her to write to me again. Seems to me that tech writing is a
booming field and we can really use new talent! If she's serious about tech
writing, I'll recommend the list to her.

Thanks for all the input I know that I'm going to receive. Happy New Year!

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer
mhunterk -at- bna -dot- com
(standard disclaimer)


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