Re: Breaking into Technical Writing

Subject: Re: Breaking into Technical Writing
From: "Huber, Mike" <mrhuber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998 15:59:53 -0600

There is a lot more to technical writing than HTML and page design.

I don't think you can learn the core of this profession - extracting
information from a variety of sources and turning it into something
comprehensible - by reading about it. It takes other people, either in a
classroom or on the job.

What's he been doing for the last ten years? It could be that he has
life experience that would qualify him, particularly if he can start by
writing for a current employer about what he's been doing. Otherwise,
not to be negative, but this profession involves a lot of book learning.
It also involves a certain amount of the kind of formality that turns
off many people who don't like formal learning environments. If he
doesn't like classrooms, is he going to be able to stomach a corporate
style guide? What about spending altogether too much time in meetings
that are %95 (to be charitable) wasted - but you have to attend to catch
the other %5? Is he going to be able to avoid going postal when his
coworkers spend a week debating the number of spaces that belong after a

Still, he might be able to find something out there. HTML authoring and
page design are good skills, and there are a lot of different employers
with different needs.

A rather large number of people get into technical writing by way of
another job. You start by doing something, then you write about what you
(or those around you) do. Most of the time, there is a degree involved
somewhere, although it may not be directly related to technical writing.
I don't personally know any technical writers who don't have some kind
of degree, but those degrees are widely assorted.

What the heck. Go for it.

mike -dot- huber -at- software -dot- rockwell -dot- com
Home: nax -at- execpc -dot- com

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Megan E. McMacken [SMTP:megan -dot- mcmacken -at- fanucrobotics -dot- com]
>Sent: Friday, March 13, 1998 2:09 PM
>Subject: Breaking into Technical Writing
>A friend of mine is interested in breaking into the technical writing field.
>He graduated from high school about ten years ago and recently took a couple
>of college classes but decided that the classroom and formal book learning
>are not for him. He wants to teach himself how to do technical writing by
>reading books on the subject, learning skills like HTML and Javascript, and
>eventually getting hired someplace as a writer or HTML author.
>He does show natural ability with page layout and design from what I've seen
>of the various brochures he has put together for fun and he taught himself
>HTML in a couple of days, but I'm not sure how successful he'll be at
>teaching himself enough technical writing skills that potential employers
>would feel he's qualified for a job.
>How many of you within the past five years have started your technical
>communication career without any college education and no formal training in
>technical writing? Are employers interested in hiring technical writers
>without a degree or certificate of any kind?

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