Andy wrote:

>>If you knew someone who was looking to enter the technical writing field
at this time
>>would you advise them to seek out positions where they would be using
>>or would you tell them not to worry so much on which application would be
>>but instead focus on the position and the work itself?


Congratulations on the career move.

My immediate reaction is "all of the above."

I would try to gain as much FM experience as you can because in my opinion
(purely an opinion) most companies that have a more serious documentation
approach, and better documentation processes, also have a respect for
FrameMaker. Respect for documentation and respect for Frame seem to go
hand-in-hand. Those organizations usually want some solid experience.

"That said," it's useful to keep up-to-speed on Word. The blasted software
can do a lot, if you force yourself (as I have to on my current job) to do
so. Beau Cain has a terrific guidebook about this. (I got it from him
somehow from another list, and could probably do so again if I had to!)

However, as you said, neither tool matters as much as core competencies.

Best tips I can give to improve those ...

* Learn business process and project management. That's No. 1. If you don't
already have it, I highly recommend JoAnn Hackos' "Managing Your
Documentation Projects." Nothing saddens me more than to see technical
writers arguing over vagaries of punctuation or "why don't they take writers
seriously?!" while they seem utterly clueless about how they can (or do)
benefit their organization. The greater your business sense, I believe, the
greater will be your job satisfaction, no matter where you go. The
increasing ability of technology to replace repetitive tasks should keep us
all aware of work we do that truly does require a human brain or analysis.

* Membership in the STC and its various groups would be a bargain at several
times over the price. (Every decent job I've ever gotten, I got through one
STC job bank or another; again, an employer who respects technical writing
respects the STC.) I always shudder in embarrassment for them when I hear
somebody whining over negligible dues. When you're talking about an
organization that, if you take advantage of its resources and services, can
make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars in your annual income,
$200 for dues and SIGS is a bargain!

* Write clearly and solidly. Get "Elements of Style" if you don't already
have it. A good new-writer rule (especially for someone coming to it with an
engineering background) is "kick the passive tense." My first boss told me:
"You can teach tools, you can teach technical. It's a lot tougher to teach
good writing."

Bureeda Bruner
Paragon Innovations, Inc.
Phone: 972-265-6000
email: bureeda at
Success Stories:
Embedded systems design from start to success

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