Need for Technical Writers

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- The ever-expanding world of technology has spawned jobs that few people ever heard of 10 years ago and certainly not 20 years ago.

Anyone who has ever brought home an electronic gadget, plugged it in and read the instruction book has come in contact with one of those jobs: technical writing.

Any company that uses computers needs a manual that tells people how to get those computers to work. A technical writer creates that manual. Job titles for technical writers vary. They can be known as learning products engineers, knowledge products specialists, documentation specialists, information developers, information architects, procedures analysts, procedures writers or instructional designers. Or even just plain technical writers. One technical writer, known as an instructional designer, is Marina Krakovsky -- an independent contractor who formerly worked with an Apple Computer group in Cupertino that creates manuals for the educational market. Krakovsky, 27, also teaches an introduction to technical writing class through the UC-Berkeley Extension's Belmont site. Besides the demand in the computer industry, Krakovsky said tech writers are needed in industries ranging from science and engineering to banking and medicine. Writing, editing and preparing publications, their job is to convey information accurately and efficiently, understanding who will be using the information. Collaborating with other writers as well as engineers, designers and others, technical writers may create not only user manuals but also tutorials, which are less thorough than manuals because they aim only to get someone started with a new machine, system or program. Other projects might include reference manuals, installation manuals, on-line help systems, computer-based training for complex software and applications, World Wide Web pages and scientific pieces such as articles, technical reports and even speeches for professional conferences. Because technical writing is so collaborative, Krakovsky said she spends much of her day communicating with other people in order to gather information, check on progress or determine strategies for completing a project. From her point of view, the profession's rewards include the chance to be creative, to use many skills, to work on innovative technology and to understand how the entire company operates. She also has found that she has relative freedom to structure her day as she sees fit and that it's easy to advance quickly into more challenging jobs, averting boredom. …