[austechwriter] Re: BA training

  • From: "Steve Hudson" <cruddy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 15:42:33 +1000

A post I sent to the Word PC List the other day, included because of Deb
Hope's comments re a BA:

> Personally I think it is just an EXTENSION of what we as
Technical Communicators do anyway as we gather requirements before a
documentation project. (Please, no flames for this comment people)

I think the 4th para says something similar.

Dearly beloved,

our sermon for today is technical writing. It gets mentioned obliquely on
support lists for Word, whose constituent members are often unaware that
performing the advanced fang-dangerly they are getting help with is usually
the province of a role known as technical writer (TW).

I am a writer, as I have many strange published bits and pieces. However, I
earn most of my money and generally perform contract / freelance work as a
TW. It's also the work I prefer doing, having originally been both a writer
and a technical person as well.

A TW writes the books that no-one reads. It is a great line, as it always
raises an eyebrow and the obvious question: "What the?". TW's write,
maintain and control Policy and Procedure manuals, hopefully not using Pen
and Paper, user guides, help systems, online content, plans, forms and
templates, to name a few.

It's a field that bumps right up against secretaries and Personal
Assistants, programmers, professional Subject Matter Experts, Business
Analysts, editors, journalists and many more. One of the key signs of a
technical writer is their flexibility as sometimes you have to expand your
capabilities to include a new discipline as part of the required solution
for a business.

When I was wee little tacker starting out all those years ago, I had no idea
that such a role existed. I loved computers, I loved writing - better get
work in the computer industry as I was not living in a trailer drinking
cheap wine and being a novelist. Was I as happy as a pig in the proverbial
when I found out there was such a thing? You betchya. Never looked back

I was still missing two vital bits of information. #1: There are mailing
lists / news groups to help with thorny stuff for people and #2: There are
professional organisations of other equally clueless people who get together
and help each other get cluier.

Being a contractor I moved on to another place and eventually wasn't the
sole writer working with some old dudes who'd been in the game for years. In
between cigarettes they told me all about mailing lists and the right news
groups, I was used to a few alt. groups myself, and showed me Woody's book.
This led me to www.wopr.com, www.raycomm.com, www.editorium.com  and others.
These in turn, led me to professional organisations like WinWriters, the STC
and here in Australia, the ASTC (State).

As a lone writer, then lone TW, I had to work with Word. It sucked, but hey.
I eventually worked out how to avoid most of its suckiness and THEN
discovered the realities of the new wonderful online world I had helped
build, but had never wasted time on. I even picked up a few things,
including just how damn weird the things are that a Maggie fixes. The
eventual eyeballing was the best though - conferences with meaningful
matter, other folk stuck with the same problems I faced, etc.

My point is two-fold. First, avail yourself of the listed resources and any
others you can find. Each professional group has its own association, they
get stronger by you joining their ranks and adding your 2c to the collective
seething throng. Second, ensure you constantly communicate these ideas to
anyone new in the arena, or right next door to it. A lot of us make the
mistake of assuming that people already know all this stuff. Quite often, it
isn't the case. Some of us make the mistake that the membership fees aren't
worth it, when even the newsletters alone are a huge benefit and the return
benefit to the community is enormous.

Steve Hudson

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