Copyright © 2004 by Tim North
Bio: Timís background is a diverse one and includes: working as a technical writer for local companies; copy editing and proofreading of technical, academic and business documents; teaching computing at Curtin University; providing I.T. training to industry; and providing a diverse range of consulting activities.
Timís diverse professional background includes qualifications in the following areas: a Master of Education degree; a Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Development; a Bachelor of Science degree (major in Computer Science); and past membership of the Australian Computer Society.
|Before setting up shop as a proofreader (www.scribe.com.au), I worked as a technical writer. When I told people what I did, I was often met with blank stares bordering on total incomprehension.
These days, I'm often asked how to get into the field of proofreading, and I usually suggest a stint doing technical writing first. Again, I'm often met by the same response. :-)
Thus I thought I'd set the record straight and finally answer that question that has (I'm quite sure) been keeping you awake at nights:
Just what is a "technical writer" anyway?
Technical writing is the profession that involves translating scientific and technical information into more easily understandable language.
Some technical writers work full time for a single company for many years; others choose to do short-term contracts (usually of three to twelve months duration) for a variety of companies. Some hold a managerial (or other) job in which technical writing is just one of many tasks that they perform.
Some technical writers may specialise in a particular field such as medicine or computing. Others may write about a wide range of areas. Some start as general writers and then acquire specialised technical knowledge. Others start as technical professionals and then learn technical writing "on the job".
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To be a successful technical writer
(whether full time or just occasionally)
you need many skills:
|* You need a degree -- or at least a great deal of experience in the field (or fields) about which you're writing.|
* Obviously, you need to be able to write well. At a minimum, this involves having a good vocabulary and a strong command of grammar, spelling and punctuation.
* You need good people skills. Sometimes the only people who will be able to answer your questions about the material you're writing about will be scientists, programmers and engineers. These folk are not always the best communicators! Regardless, you'll have to be able to organise time to talk with them, tease out the answers to your questions, and have them check your work for technical correctness. This requires good interpersonal skills.
|* You also need to be able to organise information well. When writing a technical report, you need to be able to arrange the information into a suitable order, delete (or de-emphasise) less important information, cross-reference the information and more. |
* You will need good Internet and library skills as these can be vital sources of information. You need to know how to use them efficiently.
Summmary: It's a challenging career, and not an easy one to get into.
If you work at it, though, it can be both financially rewarding
and professionally satisfying.
You'll find many more helpful tips like these in Tim North's Better Writing Skills web site. For example, you'll find free articles, a much applauded range of easy-to-read, jargon-free downloadable e-books that will make you a better writer. This handpicked selection of ebooks will help you with business proposal writing, report writing, term papers, technical writing, grant writing, creative writing and more. FREE SAMPLE CHAPTERS are available, and all books come with a money-back guarantee. http://www.BetterWritingSkills.com
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