Re: Document Standards

Subject: Re: Document Standards
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- westnet -dot- com -dot- au>
To: Techwr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Dec 2011 14:56:29 +0800 (WST)

Hi Connie. If you're working with a mature organization that's been in the same line of business for a while, they should know the relevant standards and have copies you can use. For example, defence contractors work to military specifications, and presumably there are government or industry standards that affect how you would document products and procedures for pharmaceuticals, food, aviation, medical equipment, etc.

Startups and other small but growing companies often start out with no standards, and only later acquire standards or have standards thrust upon them. As a technical writer in this situation you might be asked to help develop or identify documentation standards. If your job is to produce a document for a new client and it's not clear whether there's some standard or template that should be followed, almost your first task is to pin that down so both of you agree on exactly what it is you're expected to produce. Ask the client if there's a standard or template or a previous document that you should use as a model. If the client doesn't know, spend a little time googling for relevant terms including the name of the document and some combination of words such as specification, document, template, iso, australian, standard.

If the job requires a standard that has to be purchased from somewhere like ISO or Standards Australia, write it up in your contract/proposal/project plan that the client needs to buy a copy. Of course, this means that they get to keep it, but if you think you'll get more work in this line for other clients you can always buy a copy of your own.


Connie Ross wrote:
> A question about Australian and International document standards. How
> do you know if you are writing a technical document to a 'Standard'.
> As an employee several years ago, we were given templates to complete
> our IT specifications and I was not privy to any type of 'Standards'
> process. If someone hires me to write a technical document, how do
> I know which standard I need to comply with if any? If I wish to look
> at any standards documents as a freelancer, I need to buy certain ISO
> or Australian Standards publications. I would assume the organisation
> would be privy to these documents and would supply them?

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