1/06/2006

Technical Writer List Server

Technical writers are a group of professionals who face great demands from the corporate and government sector. They must often create order from chaos, clear words from dense words, clean visuals from blurry originals.

Oftentimes, they must search through mountains of documents to find the nuggets that help others to understand an item, procedure, tool, concept, theory, software, hardware, diagram, table, DVD, brochure...whatever medium is asked by superiors...and they must do so under very, very tight deadlines...therefore...it can begin to feel like the rock is about to fall...any day now.

Technical writers understand each other...and the unique demands each faces each day. Thus...importance of the technical writer list server, where technical writers can gather over the Web, trade war stories, exchange advice and point to where help is to be found. Technical writers are a group of professionals who help the world run...better...faster...easier. I tip my hat to them.

I encourage any tech writers who are wondering about any task they face each day...what software to use to capture photos best, how to convert a .pdf back to Word...how to get programmers to share their design document...to visit the Google Groups technical writers list server (bit.listserv.techwr-l) for the "how to."

And I recommend that, if you choose to make your living doing technical writing, you reach out to the other technical writers out there, by joining the national Society for Technical Communication...and a local chapter...and by joining the technical writers list server. I show a random post taken from the technical writers list server, below. It demonstrates the format where this wisdom can be viewed, mined, and used in practical ways to do a better job each day.

I don't know Goober Writer, but his words give the flavor of the individuals who make this profession such a fascinating and interesting craft


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From: gooberwri...@yahoo.com (Goober Writer) - Find messages by this author
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 08:00:06 -0800 (PST)
Local: Wed, Oct 29 2003 11:00 am
Subject: Re: Re: What is "technical" writing? (Was: RE: What to do?)
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When an engineer learns to write about engineering topics, he or she does not study "engineering." He or she studies "writing." The skills that allow an engineer to write about technical subjects are writing skills.

Technical writing is *taught* in engineering programs (such as Northeastern University), but that doesn't mean that writing is an engineering discipline. In no way should the act of writing enter this equation. This is all about core communication skills.

The "engineering" aspect (IOW, "technical") is required for anything concerning a technical concept. The "writing" aspect (IOW, "communication") is required for anything being conveyed from one person to another.

So what is "technical writing?"

It's the clear communication of technical information and concepts to another person or party.
Whether an engineer learns to write or a writer learns in-depth technical concepts is moot. The fact is that someone needs BOTH to succeed in communicating information about technical "stuff" to ANYONE else (techie and Luddite alike).

You gain NO advantage from ignorance when approaching the task of communicating technical information. The argument of "being on par with your audience" is pure and utter crap. You need to know your stuff.

If you're writing about a UI that traps user input and saves it to a database for later queries, you really should know the ins and outs of how that entire system works. That way you can clearly communicate the facts to the audience at hand.

True, data entry people don't need to know about SSL, encryption, why some things get hashed and others don't, and so on. But, YOU knowing why is important so you can make an intelligent call as to what to communicate, to whom, how, when, and why.

A technical writer doesn't need to be the person who developed the tool being documented, but that writer should know all there is to know about that tool so they have the knowledge and expertise to know what info is important for whom, and how best to communicate it.

THAT is technical writing.



=====
Goober Writer
(because life is too short to be inept)

"As soon as you hear the phrase "studies show",
immediately put a hand on your wallet and cover your groin."
-- Geoff Hart

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