Tech writing courses can be quite valuable

Subject: Tech writing courses can be quite valuable
From: "Walter Crockett" <Walter_Crockett -at- notes -dot- teradyne -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 08:27:49 -0400

I'm surprised that in the course of this thread no one has yet mentioned the
Software Technical Writing Program at Middlesex Community College in Bedford,
Mass. I graduated from it in May and started my first technical writing job
three days before graduation. In this job, documenting a complex digital testing
tool in Interleaf and online, I am constantly aware of the value of the MCC
course.
While I agree with those who say there is no substitute for a liberal arts
degree -- and I would go further and say that it's a shame and a handicap for
our country that so many of today's scientists and engineers have such scanty
liberal arts training -- there is real value in a technical writing course well
organized and well taught. I have a BA in English, I was a daily newspaper
reporter for 10 years and a weekly magazine editor for five years, so I already
had many of the language and people skills and the respect for deadlines
necessary for the job. But even though I now work in Interleaf, I found the
training in FrameMaker invaluable: As people have often said on this list, once
you master one publishing tool, the next is much easier. And I would be
hopelessly lost in the swamp of a doc set that includes 900 pages of API
functions were it not for the C programming we did at Middlesex. I have also
found that the standards for procedure-writing at Middlesex are higher than
almost everything I've seen in commercial software applications and in the world
of work.
Those are just three of benefits I've seen from the course. A fourth, is
that the Middlesex certificate is highly respected among employers -- at least
in Massachusetts.
On the other hand, I spent nine months full-time on the course (and
consumed all my savings in the process) . Not many people have the ability to do
that. People who did it while working full-time jobs were run thoroughly ragged.
Without doubt, you can get an almost equivalent education for free at home at
night, slaving over your C, UNIX, and documentation theory books, if you have
the drive to do it.

Walter Crockett






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