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Melanie Shook wonders <<I'm new to tech writing and need
more samples for my portfolio. Does anyone know where I
can find some poorly written, short user manuals I can
re-write and use for writing samples?>>
My first instinct is to say "pick anything written by the
Microsoft people", but that wouldn't really be true or fair to
the writers. <g>
Rather than rewriting someone else's material, use it for
inspiration and create a list of (say) a dozen different 1-page
sample topics; for each topic (a problem to be solved), spend
some time thinking about how you'd solve it, then apply that
solution to one of the eternal dilemmas of modern life: how to
program your VCR. <g> One sample might show how you
describe a dialog box or onscreen menu (e.g., with or without
screenshot), another might be a numbered procedure (with
one-line main steps and indented, multi-line elaborations for
those who need them), another might be a troubleshooting
guide, and still another might be an index page. The basic
notion is to produce a series of "bite sized" examples of how
you solve problems.
On top of this, you could easily do some work for local
community groups and add that to your portfolio (PTA
newsletters, charitable fundraisers, etc.). Plus there may be
essays, newsletter articles, or homework assignments that
showcase your skills; if they're good, include them too.