Re: Breaking into the tech writing job market

Subject: Re: Breaking into the tech writing job market
From: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- alltel -dot- net>
To: Mike Schmidt <mschmidt -at- weathercentral -dot- tv>
Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2006 17:05:41 -0400

Mike Schmidt wrote:

I use my lack of expertise on a product to help. I figure that if I can
understand it, I can make others understand it. Others who also might
not hold degrees in the field. Right now, it's TV weathermen and women.
They're not necessarily computer literate, so my directions (and my lack
of weather knowledge) are basic, easy to understand, and user friendly.

Yes, yes, yes! When tech writers were hard to find and we
were building them out of clay, this was one of the best
things about the naive writer. We found it was better to
take a bright person with language skills and add tech
ability than it was to teach writing to a technical person.
I'm an example of someone who came from the technical side,
and I can attest that *either* method works, and that it's
not the so-called skills (MS Word, Robohelp, Easycoder,
Oracle, etc.) that are needed as is the ability to see from
the "user" side what needs to be created. Even native English
ability isn't necessary--one good writer turned out to be a
student of Cobol programming who had previously worked as a
broadcast announcer in Taiwan. Her native language was
Chinese, but her skill in presentating ideas crossed into
English with zero difficulty.

We found the new writers especially good at finding bugs in
manuals intended for naive users. I figured on two or three
months at the most before a new writer was seasoned and thus
useless for "naive" testing.

It's harder to do this now, because there is a greater
expectation in the HR department (and elsewhere) that the
writer will have certain mandatory skills. "Carpenter needed.
Must have three years with Craftsman 20-oz hammer."

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RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market: From: Mike Schmidt

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