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Everything I Need to Know As a Technical Writer I Learned In High School

TechWhirl WebsiteTechWhirl Website United StatesPosts: 396 admin
edited September 2013 via Wordpress in Technical Writing and Communications
Everything I Need to Know As a Technical Writer I Learned In High School

Not many of us started off here. Although it seems that the field has been growing steadily for twenty years, there haven't historically been a lot of technical writing programs, and thus most technical writers began their professional lives as…something else. Of the technical writers I heard from, only four had been through a dedicated program and turned it into a career. The other fifteen had come from other fields — mostly technology.

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Comments

  • Cathy ScodaCathy Scoda Posts: 1
    via Wordpress
    Thank you for this excellent article! I, too, am a former teacher (but not of high school students...you brave person!). I joined this technical writers discussion group, because part of my job requires that I write instructional product manuals and other types of product documentation for Web-based products. I don't consider this as "technical" as some other products (because many of our products are built with for the non-tech folks to use), but this group's discussions give me some food for thought. Your article gives me hope that a career as a technical writer might be worth investigating.
  • Miles KimballMiles Kimball Posts: 1
    via Wordpress
    I understand the story behind your title (you started as a high school teacher), but the title and your article also give the impression that training in tech comm isn't valuable or worth getting -- in essence, that anyone can be a good technical communicator with a basic high school education.

    You are fortunate to have good writing skills and a flexible mindset -- good. But you'd be a better technical communicator if you had training not only in the basics of writing clearly, but also in some of the more challenging angles of the field: usability, user experience design, technical editing, rhetoric, content management, distributed content development, intercultural communication, etc.

    True, many people come to tech comm through a back door, but that's to be lamented, not encouraged. Tech comm is one of the few professions with such a low bar for entry. We only recently have developed certification; our academic programs don't have accreditating agencies, much less accreditatoin. It's only been a couple of years (thanks to the efforts of the STC) that we have even been recognized as a separate job category for BLS statistics. Dismissing education and training in the field discourages the public, the government, and corporations from recognizing that tech comm requires a high level of skill to do well. That leaves tech comm to be done poorly, to the point that the public perception of tech writing extends only to the last badly-written manual people read.

    I don't mean to sound exclusive or to dismiss your abilities or your promise. I'm sure you'll work hard to enter this new profession. But it will take more than confidence for you to reach competence.

    If you're just starting out in tech comm, you might investigate the large number of academic programs (a good number of them online) listed on the STC website, or start self-educating by participating in the STC webinars, the summit, and your local STC chapter. Ideally, you might eventually aspire to STC certification, which just started last year.

    I make this comment a couple of years after your article was posted -- I hope you have learned a lot in the meantime and met with good success. But please don't encourage people to think they can become good technical communicators without training and considerable effort.
  • I'm glad I stumbled upon your post. I'm a secondary teacher of English and Literature turned elementary and am miserable. I've been looking into a new career path. A friend's husband suggested I look into Technical Writing but didn't know where to start or how to reshape my resume. Even though I teach writing and can write, I lack the technical component, but am eager to learn. I do have experience writing curriculum, instruction and assessments. Your post gives me hope. Now to make it happen.
  • TechWhirlTechWhirl United StatesPosts: 128 admin
    welcome - we have some good information on TechWhirl and also check out the Society for Technical Communication. They're pretty good for networking and training.

    There's a number of good books on Technical Writing out there. Long run, great Tech Writers are part business analyst; part communicator since it requires a clear understanding of the product to be able to instruction someone else on how to use it. 
  • opwopxocopwopxoc Posts: 4
    thanks for the good info, you guys/
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