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Any technical writers out there? Tell us about your job

I’ve always been amazed at the wide variety of jobs and specializations that are available for writers and editors. As a freelancer myself, I’ve taken on a number of writing jobs. One of the most challenging types of writing I’ve ever heard about is that of technical writers.

Any of you out there technical writers? Leave a comment and tell us about your job, please. I think it must be interesting. (And since this is MY blog, if it interests me, I’m happy to hear about it.)

I’ve tried a variety of copywriting and I’ve done a lot of newspaper copyediting, but I’ve never tried my hand at technical writing. Copywriters, of course, handle the “features-and-benefits-and-motivate-to-buy” aspects of marketing. Whether they’re telling us about the excitement and challenges of the latest XBox or Wii games, or urging us to spend our money on a particular ceiling fan, copywriters do stuff I “get.”

Technical writing and technical writers, I’m not so sure I completely “get.” As I understand it, technical writers are responsible for things like “how-tos” and user manuals, right? I actually applied for a position at a local nuts-and-bolts company (they really did make nuts, bolts, and electronic switches and connectors of various types) as a technical writer. I knew someone who had done the job at that company and I was acquainted with one of their engineers. I figured I could fake my way at the job until I’d learned what it would take to do it right.

Fortunately for me and for the company, they eliminated me at the first interview stage. That was probably a wise decision on their part.

So, what about those of you who are technical writers? Leave a comment and tell us what you do, what you don’t do, and what you do or don’t like about technical writing.

2 Responses to “Any technical writers out there? Tell us about your job”

  1. ld says:

    I don’t know if “Technical Writer” is totally accurate, although I certainly do my share of it. I’m actually Configuration Management II certified, but spend a great deal of time doing technical editing, and yes, technical writing, in the aerospace industry. Learned at my parent’s knees – Dad was an advertising salesman, and artist, and Mom was a freelance writer, editorial advisor, and published a book she edited. Life experience and many great professional opportunities afforded me the experience needed to assist engineers when they are truly struggling with words, a common problem. Interesting work, wish I could do it full time.

  2. Gary says:

    Ah, great. Thanks for your comment. I have a strong feeling that many writers and editors out there who do it professionally — whether full-time or part-time — generally have a strong life experience background in writing. In your case, you had a great family setting to learn a lot about writing and editing. In my case, most of what I’ve done as a writer has been similarly “self-taught.” And of course, very few best-selling writers in any field sport any sort of “how to write” degree.

    (Side note — my son is an aerospace engineer. That was his college degree. His work experience has been mostly as a production engineer and currently as a senior research scientist. To his credit, he’s highly literate and a great writer. Of course, with my background and my wife’s background as a professional proofreader, the lad wouldn’t dare NOT be able to write.)