atw: Re: Technical Writing for Retirees!

  • From: Stuart Burnfield <slb@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2007 19:34:05 +0900

Hi Martin -

Go for it. You're not too old, it sounds as though you have realistic expectations, you can write, you've shown you can master technical subject matter, and 35 years of maths/science teaching suggests that you enjoy communicating technical concepts and procedures.

Tech writing, like most occupations, can be demanding, but it is certainly not "extraordinarily demanding". I don't know of anyone who's been "destroyed by the level of brain stress".

It's true that some people view a TW as a sort of eccentric typist, but as long as you have your own opinion of your worth you don't need to be too worried about other people's.

Quite often TW and training contracts are bundled together--write the manual, prepare the course, present the course. It seems to me you would have a head start on this sort of work.

Science communication is another field you could look at. There are uni courses in it. I know Biotechnology Australia advertised on this list last year for a tech writer to help rewrite a lot of their web content. There must be other organisations with science-related content on their web sites that needs updating.

You can obviously write, but there's more to tech writing than knowing a bit about the subject matter and being able to write. (Just as, I expect, there's more to being a physics teacher than knowing the physics and being able to speak.) You should probably read a couple of books to get you started. These are a couple I recommend:

User and Task Analysis for Interface Design, by Hackos and Redish
Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry, by Sun Technical Pubs

These will give the foundations for learning about TW. Anything else you might need to know for a particular job (such as indexing, MS Word, Framemaker, technical illustration, software development, writing online help, writing for the web) you can scrounge for on the web or get a specific book. Ask here for recommendations.

Good luck

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