Where to start with Technical Writing?

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Comments (10)

Gerald in Warner Robins, Georgia

36 months ago

I'm just discovering this and it seems like a good thing to go into. I am a Creative Writing major and i heard that it can help with the art of Technical Writing. The only thing is I'm not exactly sure where to start. I mean I don't have my degree in Creative Writing just yet (I'm a Junior) but i would like to go ahead and start getting in some experience. Where should I start? Is there a website where i can search places needing technical writers? I'm not looking into Tradition Technical Writing but more into Education or Marketing. And even so is it even possible to get a job doing Technical Writing without much experience or before graduating or should i just go ahead and gain experience with freelance? And what is Framework?

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jbara in Louisville, Kentucky

35 months ago

While in school, you should take at least one course in technical writing so you can become familiar with the methodology and see if you like it. Framework is a word processing program that is used by many technical writers. Google Framwork for more info. See JamesGraves.com

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aspanier in San Francisco, California

35 months ago

I've never heard of Framework, but maybe you mean Framemaker? That's Adobe's structured document software. Other common tools are RoboHelp and Madcap Flare (for online help), authorIT, and Web Works ePublisher. Framemaker and either RoboHelp or Flare are probably the most useful to learn. If you want to get into education or marketing, specifically, you may want to familiarize yourself with Adobe Captivate or Techsmith's Camtasia, which are both video screen capture software.

If you can take a tech writing course, do that definitely. Journalism courses can be useful too, as you spend a lot of time interviewing subject matter experts. I studied journalism and anthropology and have found both to be helpful in my career (I've been a tech writer for 10 years).

Good luck!

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jbara in Louisville, Kentucky

35 months ago

Gerald: As Aspanier says, you probably meant Framemaker which is a word processor program. The Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0 (x86) redistributable package installs the .NET Framework runtime and associated files required to run applications developed to target the .NET Framework v2.0.

I would say that most important is that you take a course in technical writing so you can learn the methodology. The tools can come at anytime but you should at least be familiar with Microsoft Word. Good information can be found at JamesGraves.com

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alexis-mueller@hotmail.com

34 months ago

Hi there!

Entering technical writing---probably more conventional, mauscripts, manuals and I am open to the web but I feel I have a lot to learn. I took technical writing and did my report on Weblogs three years ago. Ya, that took off since then.

Every company that publishes has at least some of their material on-line. Seems like there's a lot of work out there, any comments?

Alexis

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alexis am mueller Denver Co

34 months ago

Hi there!

Entering technical writing---probably more conventional, mauscripts, manuals and I am open to the web but I feel I have a lot to learn. I took technical writing and did my report on Weblogs three years ago. Ya, that took off since then.

Every company that publishes has at least some of their material on-line. Seems like there's a lot of work out there, any comments?

Alexis

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jenab in Austin, Texas

33 months ago

If you're really interested in technical writing, understand that creative writing will not prepare you for the field. It's a very different process (although I find it very creative in it's own way).

As most people who are good at it will tell you, if you do it for the love of writing, you're in the wrong field. It's about helping people get practical, re-usable information quickly. Think less about "tech" and more about "content" for a diverse audience (from end users and consumers to experts).

An exceptional tech writer will have hard skills that apply to a web-enabled world (at least a firm grasp of markup languages like XML, HTML, structured information models like DITA, and CSS). Do learn some authoring tools and know the hardest part of learning them is knowing the concepts behind them.

Make sure you understand the concepts of single sourcing, usability, localization, portability and principals of process development and change management (even ADDIE). Take courses in technical writing, critical analysis, journalism and business writing if available. And don't overlook critical analysis as a fundamental skill.

Most of us in the field came to technical writing through a completely different discipline, we're just focused on communicating complex ideas to others in a practical way.

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Alissa in Plano, Texas

25 months ago

Hi Gerald,

The Society for Technical Communicators (STC) and TechWhirl are probably two good places to help brush up your knowledge on this industry.

There is a STC chapter in Atlanta stcatlanta.org/

Also TechWhirl techwhirl.com/ has a number of articles outlining what the industry is and also how to start in this industry (including internships and volunteering).

Good luck!

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him8nc in Springfield, Missouri

25 months ago

If you love creative writing, then a job in technical writing will suck the creativity right out of your soul.

It happened to me.

For me, tech writing was a nightmare.

The job was advertised as being filled with writing and interviewing subject matter experts. With my background in journalism (and minor in creative writing), I thought it would be interesting.

There were no interviews. There were pages and pages of documents from the programmars, and I had to try to figure out what in the world they were talking about and put it into words that the users of the software could understand. This means I had to get in there and use the software, even though it was for an industry that I had never worked in and did not understand.

Once I (hopefully) figured out what the programmers meant and how this software worked, there wasn't really any writing. It was more like cutting/pasting the info from the programmars and tweaking it so it would make sense.

Then the info had to be set up correctly in XML using topics and ditamaps, which were things I had never heard of and still do not make sense to me, even though I have left the job behind me.

If you like the challenge of figuring out technical things pretty much on your own, go for it. Or you might get lucky and have SMEs or programmers who are actually helpful and easy to understand.

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jbara in Louisville, Kentucky

25 months ago

There is a wide range of definitions for technical writing. What you did was once considered word processing. A lot of rewriting and formatting of copy was given to word processor operators by technical writers who were not expected to type their own work. Eventually the word processor operators were called technical writers.

It used to be that technical writers were technical people who decided that they wanted to write for those in their field of expertise. I was an ex-Navy Electronics Technician and started writing avionics for technicians and engineers(installation, disassembly, assembly, operation, maintenance, and repair) for the aerospace industry.

Since PCs and PC applications became popular, there became a demand for technical writers to write user guides for PC applications. This can be done by non-technical people who learn the methodology and write decent English. However, many think that that is all there is to technical writing.

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