Posts with the Tag: technical writing
Technical writing isn’t something that simply happens incidentally anymore. While technical writers might have been good writers in school and then had the technical experience to bolster their writing expertise, times are changing and schools are offering degrees in technical writing.
At Carnegie Mellon, students are able to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Communication. Students will take classes to help them become technical writers in one of two different tracks:
- Technical Communication (TC)
- Scientific and Medical Communication (SMC)
Those who maintain a B average in these programs at Carnegie Mellon will be able to apply for internships in technical writing, helping them get valuable experience that will support their career development. The documents that students write during these internships will be the beginning of a portfolio that students can then pass on to prospective employers, allowing them a better chance of getting a job when they’re out of school – or perhaps while they’re still in school.
Press file photo - Ozaukee Press
A special group of students at Ozaukee High School in Wisconsin participated in the 2011 MATE International ROV competition held in Houston. As a result, the team won an in-pool challenge at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s neutral buoyancy lab. Overall, the team finished second amongst the participants.
“Students became experts in technical writing, accounting, public relations, presenting, engineering and problem solving. Employers will want to get their business cards to these young adults because they will lead the next generation,” according to high school science teacher Terry Hendrikse and head of the Ozaukee winning team.
When you’re writing up a technical piece, you know that you need to follow certain guidelines – formatting, style sheets, document specifications, etc. Though you might not start out with an exciting topic, can you use technical writing skills in a creative way? Here are the two sides to this endless question:
The Case for Creativity
While instructions seem bland, this doesn’t mean creativity isn’t necessary. A technical writer still needs to think of the most effective way to present information that is accessible to many levels of readers. In doing so, they need to find ways to interpret the truth and turn it into a usable and user-friendly document. It takes a certain amount of creativity to assemble a document that can work for many reading levels and experience levels. While a technical writing document may never include metaphors or literary references, a creative process is a must.
The story of going to get a fire hydrant to put out a fire, but then having difficulties knowing how to use it because of the instructions is a terrific illustration of technical writing gone wrong. Most of us think of writing as having to be deep or profound, but technical writing is another concept altogether.
The Problem of Solving Problems
Technical writing begins with a problem, essentially. This problem could be that a person needs to learn something or that they need to relearn something after a change. In either case, the audience needs to be able to use the information to reach a certain goal or set of goals.
Who hasn’t wanted to correct Wikipedia from time to time? If you’re a technical writer or just a fan of a certain celebrity, you might have noticed that not all of the Wiki entries are accurate. But who has time to fix them? One technical writing class at James Madison University decided that enough was enough. And the idea became a class project.
How to Fine Tune Wikipedia
In Cindy Allen’s Professional and Technical Writing class at James Madison University, she is having her students work on their writing and researching skills via Wikipedia. By examining the contents of Wikipedia to find errors, the students are then going in to correct those errors and make Wikipedia a more accurate research tool.
According to this San Francisco class advertisement, marketers need to learn technical writing in order to create effective cover letters and to hook clients.
Marketing Night School
When: Thursday, June 9 5:00p
Location: Atkins – Faithful+Gould, San Francisco, CA
Price: $25 – $150
This four-part professional development series is “designed to meet our marketers ever changing needs in a more hands on setting.”
When you think about technical writing, you probably think about the dry writing that fills software manuals or other user handbooks. Boring and dull – but is this the only way to approach technical writing? Not at all.
What you might not realize is that technical writing happens whenever someone instructs someone else. This might be something as basic as a recipe or something more complicated, like how to handle hazardous materials.
While most people think of technical writing as being instructive, that’s a limited point of view. True, software documentation can help you convey your ideas to others, but it can also allow you to show customers what your product has to offer. And the more you can show your customer the value of your product, the more likely they are to purchase it.
Selling Through Details
Details matter. Imagine purchasing a computer without knowing its specifications. If you couldn’t find out what the computer offered ahead of time, how would you know if it was the right choice for you? You wouldn’t.
Technical writers are not just any other writers. While they will follow the rules of spelling and grammar, they are capable of doing so much more in the field of writing and in the field of company support. Whether you employ technical writers or you want to begin to do so, it can help to understand how technical writers help you help yourself – and help meet your company’s goals.
Life and Work Made Easier
Technical writers used to be a part of companies, without any special title or designation. They were the folks who wrote up the instructional manuals because they realized that having a set of instructions would not only help the company, but also new hires. This hasn’t changed.
What can technical writers teach and learn from others? Plenty, it seems. Will Kelly is a technical writer who maintains a technical writing blog in his spare time.
In a March 13, 2011 post, he described his process for writing technical documents. For those looking for ways to improve their writing or begin to assess their technical writing team, this can provide a simple outline of how the writing work can be managed.
This is the outline that he follows, depending on the final product he needs to create: