Re: Info request on teaching TW (long)

Subject: Re: Info request on teaching TW (long)
From: Alexia Prendergast <alexiap -at- SEAGATESOFTWARE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 09:07:11 -0400

Hi, all,

One of my college projects was a "How to do laundry" guide for incoming
freshmen. It was representative of most of my tech writing jobs -- I had
to learn the technology, then document it. ;-) We included conceptual
information (philosophies behind different approaches to cleaning out
the lint trap), procedural information (how to load the washer), and
reference information (detergent and dryer sheet specs). It was a fun

IMHO, tech writers need to be able to:
-Research their topic thoroughly and become SMEs ("become one with their
subject" is not too far a stretch)
-Document/communicate it clearly
-Use appropriate tools/technology to do good job efficiently and

Here are some suggestions off the top of my head, in no particular

Critical knowledge:
-Technical writing (as opposed to just writing in general)
-Style guides and how to use them
-Some basics on info design
-Different methods of info delivery and when to use them
-Different tools available and when to use them
-Their field of choice (for example, computers or pharmaceuticals)

Critical skills:
-Ability to communicate technical information clearly and efficiently to
a defined audience
-Ability to solve problems
-Ability to adopt different points of view
-Ability to spy, bribe, threaten, and do whatever is necessary to get
information ;-)
-Familiarity with computers and a WP and/or DTP package
-Basic skills in their field of choice (reading schematics or
programming, for example)

Critical experiences:
-Opportunity to do projects dealing with a variety of
subjects/industries (We used a book in the class called something like
Case Studies in Technical Writing--a medium-sized paperback with an
orange cover and white title--that was quite good and had a variety of
realistic scenarios, from medical to environmental to high-tech.
-Some "real world" experience (someone suggested once volunteering to
document some freeware or shareware)
-Opportunity to "simulate" a small doc department -- designate a SME, an
editor, and a couple of writers. Have the writers to a project, the SME
answer questions, the editor mark it up. Test it out on a designated
-The opportunity to take an existing piece of bad writing and rewrite
-Have them check out the web site with examples of bad writing (what was
that URL again?)

I could go on and on.

Have fun with it!

Alexia Prendergast
Tech Pubs Manager
Seagate Software (Durham, NC, USA)
mailto:alexiap -at- seagatesoftware -dot- com

> -----Original Message-----
> For the beginning TW student:
> 1) What critical _knowledge_ should be emphasized?
> 2) What critical _skills_ should be emphasized?
> 3) What critical _experiences_ should be provided?

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