Re: Info request on teaching TW (long)

Subject: Re: Info request on teaching TW (long)
From: Hillary Jones <hillary -at- NICHIMEN -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 13:44:09 -0700

I'm not disagreeing with Alexia's list of learning objectives, but I did
want to mention that if your students are not planning to become
technical writers, their needs from a beginning tech writing course will
be different. In the case of the person who wrote for advice, for
example, most of the students will just need to learn some basic writing
strategies so they can write an effective legal brief, research
proposal, or business report. If you try to suck them into the world of
technical writing, they may be resistant. Remember, your students may
not have had a writing class since their freshman year, or even since
high school!

Alexia Prendergast wrote:
> 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
> project.
> 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
> cost-effectively
> Here are some suggestions off the top of my head, in no particular
> order.
> 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
> audience.
> -The opportunity to take an existing piece of bad writing and rewrite
> it.
> -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!
> A.
> --
> 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?

Hillary Jones
hillary -at- nichimen -dot- com

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