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Anyone know anything about being a "technical writer"?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by BB Bobcat, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member

    Now that I'm looking for new employment, I'm seeing all sorts of ads all over the place for "technical writers." I have a vague idea about what that entails, but I'm wondering if anyone out there has actually done it and can give a description of specifically what you did.

    It seems like anyone who has been a reporter ought to have the skills to do this.

    They're not going to ask you write a manual on how to perform brain surgery, I assume.
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I took a class on it in college and the teacher made a pass at me. I was 19, she had to be 45 or so. I had a girlfriend so I didn't partake. As I recall, the assignments were so boring it's no surprise the prof wanted to be banged by teen-agers who still had a zit or two. Anything to kill the boredom. She didn't hold it against me, gave me a B.
  3. You basically write manuals for computer programs (or, theoretically anything that's complicated enough to need a manual). It requires a good comfort level with technology and the ability to document every step of the way.

    Reporting and editing skills usually translate perfectly to that field, but it's difficult for most hiring managers to comprehend that a decent newspaper person can research and write about ANYTHING and sound like an expert. In my experience they focus on the fact that you don't have a technical degree.

    The style of most manuals are far too wordy and business-speaky, which takes some adaptation from newspapers. The ironic thing about that is that a good copy editor could rewrite most of these manuals into plain English and greatly improve the learning process for a lot of people.

    Like many technical fields, it pays well because some people seem to think it's magic when someone understands and interprets a complex subject.
  4. KevinmH9

    KevinmH9 Active Member


    That'll give you an idea of the field. It can be rewarding and it pays a lot better than your average newspaper gig, too. The type of work you'd be doing differs depending on the company you're working for. I took a Technical Communication course and my professor was a technical writer for Autodesk in Kansas City for some time before taking the teaching job he currently has.

    Like Nathan mentioned, you'll basically be writing manuals the size of textbooks on how to do this and that. You'd likely need to take a few classes on web design, programming and other computer-related fields.

    It can be a rewarding career and can potentially lead to much higher jobs within the company you're working for.
  5. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Do it soon... they see too much experience in papers and you won't get a sniff.
  6. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member

    Well, I've already got 16 years, so I guess I'm screwed.
  7. editorhoo

    editorhoo Member

    Technical writer = a writer with no creativity.
  8. You're explaing things.
    It's a good fit for a good writer. It's also boring and tedious, but it pays waaay better than newspapers.
    You could be writing safety manuals for Cat Walker or training material. Or installation instructions for the Clarkman garbage disposal company.
  9. nmmetsfan

    nmmetsfan Active Member

    Not technically.
  10. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    Try to find a gov't gig.
  11. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

  12. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    there are usually tons of tech writer/editor gigs on sites like Monster and Career Builder. quite a few usually on craigslist, too.
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