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Work

My technical documentation experience has covered a wide variety of both offline and online disciplines for a wide range of engineering and financial companies. The table below details the companies I have worked for.

 

Employed as a Technical Author to produce a wide range of technical publications for electro-mechanical training aids and computer controlled flight simulators for the Tornado, HS125 and PC9 aircraft. Also employed to produce aircrew technical publications.
bnp paribas Employed within the IT Department as a Technical Author with the responsibility to update/create/write all the company’s IT procedures required for an external audit of the Channel Islands Territory IT department.
equity trust Employed within the IT Department as a Technical Author. My responsibilities were to create/write the company’s IT Infrastructure procedures and also the financial training/user procedures for their ViewPoint Content Management System (CMS).
translation services Employed as a Project Manager with responsibility for several of the company’s major clients. Duties involved liasing with the relevant companies Customer Support and Marketing departments and senior management to ensure that their respective publications were produced to the high standards and to the critical deadlines and budgets that the companies demanded.
technical writing Employed as a Senior Technical Author to write User Guides for the company’s Unix platform telecommunications intelligent network products.
Employed within the Training Department as the company’s Technical Author with the overall responsibility to create/write the company’s style guide and templates for the company’s internal/external training and customer facing documentation for their HUNTER II financial fraud software.
financial fraud Employed within the Product Development Department as a Technical Author with the responsibility to create/write the company’s internal/external training and customer facing documentation for their financial fraud software.
technical documentation Employed as a Documentation Consultant to create and implement a company style guide for their seismic data technical documentation. The style guide and documentation templates were to be used across the companies worldwide Intranet therefore they had to be interactive with all the systems the company used.
financial services Employed as a Technical Writer/Web Administrator within the Customer Services Department to maintain the company’s internal/external Knowledge Base, Customer Services websites and Online Support. Also worked as a Technical Writer to write/update the company’s documentation for their SWIFTAlliance financial telecommunications software.
technical writing Employed as a Documentation Consultant/Support Engineer within the Service Development Department to create a Technical Documentation Standard and Style Guide for the company’s European Database and Networking applications.

Services

Do you need the services of a technical documentation professional that will endeavour to lower your technical writing costs, and increase your productivity?

Do you need a technical communications expert to create the technical documentation for your products or services, audience specific user-friendly manuals, online help, or the content, design and upkeep of your website or intranet?

Do your technical publications need to be structured correctly to allow them to provide effective communication?

Is your documentation problem distracting you from other areas of your business?

Are you desperate to create high quality documentation for your software and associated products, but you don’t have either the staff or time to create the documentation you need for your business?

Does your technical documentation convey the right marketing image your company needs?

Does your existing documentation need a complete re-write or just a brief review and edit?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then I can help you.

technical writingI invite you to take advantage of my 25 years experience in technical communications and I believe we can work together to complete any project you have, not only on time, but within budget. I can offer you high value for your money and in return you will receive documentation of the highest quality and reliability.

I treat every job with the same amount of determination and dedication irrespective of how small. By giving me the opportunity to take charge of your documentation issues will help you to free-up your staff for more critical issues.

I fully appreciate that in the present financial climate it is not cost effective for a lot of companies to employer an in house technical writer. However, I am available to help you overcome this problem. Throughout my technical communication career I have single-handedly project managed large documentation assignments. This experience will allow me to develop your documentation to a standard that will enhance your company’s profile within your specific field.

The technical writer must be brought into a project early enough so that they can analyze the user needs in order to determine the type of deliverable required. Technical writers can contribute significantly due to their user-oriented perspective.

My experience as technical writer for some years has made me understand and appreciate the requirement for tight deadlines, tighter budgets, and heavy workloads. I have continually updated my technical writing skills to ensure that every project I am involved in gets done in the correct manner and on time.

If you let me take care of your technical documentation needs, then you can concentrate on what you do best, running your business.

Here are some of the services I can offer:

Document Standardisation, Design and Development

If your company needs help creating your technical documentation that can help your users to begin using your products or services right away, then I can help you create comprehensive documentation that will allow the intended audience to easily understand your products or services.

Comprehensive user documentation will effectively supplement the company’s marketing brochures and in turn enhance your company’s products or services presence in your field.

I can help you create user-friendly and reliable technical documentation that can set a professional benchmark and promote your organisations image. Also, I can help you with designing a better approach to structuring the writing standards for your company that will ensure that the technical content is consistent and appropriate for your products or services. Here are some of the types of documentation I have produced:

  • User Guides
  • Maintenance Manuals
  • Operating Manuals
  • Training Manuals
  • Troubleshooting Manuals
  • IT Internet Security Procedures
  • Financial Audit Procedures
  • Validation Procedures
  • Style Guides and Templates
  • Administration Guides
  • Installation Instructions
  • Procedural Documentation
  • Release Notes, and much more…

Operating Systems, Platforms and Software

I have written documentation for the following operating systems, platforms and software:

  • Windows NT, UNIX, SunOS, AIX and Windows 2000/2003,
  • XML source documents, Oracle databases and MS .Net infrastructure,
  • Compaq AlphaServer across a Unix Tru64, Oracle and SAP infrastructure
  • Storage Area Network (SAN) configurations.

Web Site Layout and Content

The written word is a powerful source of marketing. Good content about any product or service that is written on the Internet on the Internet is by far the best marketing tool a company can have. These days the Internet is fast becoming the major place that customers will get their first impressions of a company’s products or services.

The content on a company’s web site needs to be highest quality to draw the visitor’s attention to your products or services and in turn that content needs to impel the customer to take action.

I can provide you with clear and concise content that will help turn your company’s web site visitors into customers. I have an in-depth knowledge and experience of managing and maintaining corporate web sites and intranets.

  • Web site Design and Content Development
  • Intranet Design and Content Development
  • Content Strategy Plans

Document Management

Depending on the amount of technical documentation you have there is every possibility that you will need some form of content management system to be able to keep control of the documentation updates and storage.

I’ll work with you to get every detail related to your documentation and categorise and file each piece of documentation into a structured file system within a content management system.

Online Help

Online help plays a major part in how a customer rates not only your company’s web site but your products or services as well. There is nothing more frustrating to a user when they cannot find the information they are looking for. It is a major turn off for a lot of web users.

I can help you create accurate and useful online help for your product by determining how the end user will use your product, include information to answer their questions at an appropriate level of detail, and make the information easily accessible. Help systems like:

  • Online Help and Training Tutorials
  • HTML Help
  • WebHelp (cross browser web-based help)
  • WinHelp

Proofreading and Editing

Technical proofreading and editing is not just a question of checking for misspelled words and proper comma use. It is much more than that. It is a quality control of the complete document.

Throughout my technical communications career it has been my responsibility to ensure that I perform a meticulously thorough proofreading and editorial check on the documentation. This makes sure that the document is not only correct, but also functional for the intended readers.

Marketing

Great sales and marketing materials don’t just sell your product or services but they also establish a trust and credibility in the way that people value your company. A best way to portray this is to ensure that the marketing artwork and content complement each other in the promotion of your company’s products or services. The marketing services include:

  • Brochures and E-mail Campaigns
  • Marketing Presentations
  • Proposals and Newsletters
  • Product Description

Publishing and Content Management Software

Proficient with the following publishing tools: MS Software Suite, Adobe FrameMaker SGML, RoboHelp, Adobe Photoshop, Visio, Dreamweaver, SnagIt and Adobe Acrobat.

Proficient with using the following content and document management systems: Livelink, Peoplesoft, Sharepoint and ViewPoint.

I am ready to provide you with all my technical communications experience and knowledge and prove that the multiple skills that I have acquired will benefit you and your business. I look forward to working with you in the future.

Can a Person Who Has No Technical Writing Experience Become a Technical Writer?

People who do not have hardly any technical writing experience should not be discarded out of hand. There is every possibility that they could become proficient technical writers if they are given the opportunity. They should not be discouraged from taking up technical writing if they have a strong interest in writing and produce examples of their previous work.

For instance, if the person has got high grades for their dissertations/essays at college or they have had letters published in magazines or newspapers then they clearly understand how to organize their ideas and put them into words. This type of person should not be discouraged from a technical writing career just because they have no experience.

technical writingIt is not a question of whether the person can write that is usually the problem but if they know how to use the publishing software that the company uses to produce their technical documentation. You tend to find that companies like to have their newly employed technical writer to “hit the ground running” from day one. They don’t what to spend too much time letting the new employee play around with the software for any length of time before they start to produce the documentation.

To alleviate this problem the prospective technical writer must do their research on the company first to find out what publishing software the company use. Then they need to read up on the software and get to understand how it works because you can guarantee that questions will be asked about the software at the interview stage.

However, these days the majority of companies use well-designed templates and they usually have a senior technical writer who can oversee and supervise the new technical writer for the first couple of several weeks. This type of scenario makes the argument of not employing an inexperienced technical writer pointless.

There are a multitude of technical writing courses available on the internet that will help anybody gain the knowledge they need to help them get that first job as a technical writer.

Unskilled technical writers tend to find interviews intimidating and nerve racking because they don’t know what to expect. That is why they must do their research on the company. What the company is about, what it produces, and more specifically how they produce their technical documentation. Armed with as much information as possible about the company will go a long way in helping the inexperienced technical gain employment.

Advantages of Being a Technical Writer

Have you ever been one of these who end up sitting around wondering if there is any type of career that just suits you “right down to the ground” Would you love to be able to write but simply cannot see yourself writing a magazine, journal or for the media?

Well, if you have a love for writing and also the liking for a number of industries, think about this: technical writing. Working within this area has several benefits.

First, you have to understand that technical writing is a very popular profession and if you are a good technical writer then you could be guaranteed a good career throughout your working years.

You would also get to select your approach to working whether it is like a full-time technical writer (technical author in the UK) for a specific industry, a writer or perhaps a freelance technical writer.

technical writerOn top off all that a good technical writer can earn a pretty decent salary. You tend to find that a technical writer who works in a permanent position start off with a low salary but it increases with experience.

Whereas if you are a freelance technical writer you tend to be paid a lot more but you have to take into consideration the lack of benefits that a permanent writer has. Also a freelance technical writer has to understand that they are only hired for the life of the project.

A technical writer gets great satisfaction from knowing that their work is helping people to easily understand the product or service they have been writing about. There is no greater feeling for a technical writer to know that their efforts are appreciated by not only their bosses but their intended audience as well.

Being a technical writer gives you variety. They are exposed to the most recent devices, breakthroughs, technologies etc, and find out about them before they are released. It is often the case that through their research of a product or service a technical writer will fully understand how they work long before it is released.

Technical writing can be tough sometimes, and also you will have to put your flow of thought so as and also the little pieces will have to fit correctly. The process it produces keeps your work exciting as long as you have to keep up your desire to write. This provides the energy and pumps you as much as anticipate your work instead of detesting it.

I hope by reading this article you will appreciate the benefits that a career as technical writer can offer you. If you like to write, then do not dismiss the opportunity to become a technical writer if it ever presents itself to you.

The Principles of Technical Writing

Well-written and accurate documentation plays a major role in any company’s customer support strategy because it helps to reduce support costs. Technical writing plays a big part in the support equation.

Technical writing is much more than just technical jargon, and structured, concise instructions. As the intended audience for the technical writing could be for both technical and not-technical people it must to convey its message so that both sets of people understand it.

technical writingThe main purpose of a technical writer when approaching a new technical writing project is to ensure that they maintain focused on what they are writing about. The information they are producing has to be organized and structured within the laid down style that is appropriate for the intended audience. By sticking to the basic principles of technical writing the technical writer is ensuring that the documentation is clearly understood by the reader.

The following is the six basic principles of technical writing that a technical writer has to take in to consideration.

Content

There are five basic questions a technical writer has to ask themselves when starting a new project – who, why, what, how and when. Answering these questions will allow the technical writer to be able to develop the content for any type of technical documentation. For example, let’s say the technical writer has to create a user guide for a new video recorder. Before creating the user guide, they will have to plan the content of the user guide by applying following key questions to the situation:

  1. Who will read the user guide?
  2. Why do need to create the user guide?
  3. What is this user guide going to offer its intended audience?
  4. How is the user guide going to be delivered?
  5. When does the user guide have to be ready (publishing date)?

The audience and purpose of the documentation

Before beginning any new writing project, the technical writer has to analyze the intended audience and identify the purpose for the document. The technical writer will need to ask the following questions about the audience:

  1. Who will read the documentation?
  2. What are their biases?
  3. What responsibilities does the technical writer have when communicating the information to the audience?

With regard to the purpose of the documentation, technical writer will need to know what the documentation will accomplish and also what should it do.

Styleguide

Technical writers will more than likely use a company styleguide (if there is one) to ensure that their documentation has a structured and organized pattern so that it gives consistency to their writing. A styleguide will provide the document with continuity so that the audience can comprehend the information. For example, technical writers need to organise their ideas in a specific chronological format because without a specific layout and structure to the documentation it will be very confusing for the reader to understand.

Writing Style

Technical writers will need to change their writing style depending on the audience and situation they are writing about. If they are writing technical documentation then it needs to be formal and devoid of any emotion as you get with creative writing. Whereas, if say they were an email to one of the senior managers involved in the project then their approach would more casual than formal.

Accessing the information

Accessibility applies to the ease at which the intended audience can gain access to the information they need from the technical documentation. A technical document must at least contain a table of contents, headers and footers, list of illustrations/tables, page numbers, etc.

Also a technical document must adhere to a specific heading and sub heading structure to break down the information into relevant areas that the reader can access easily.

Grammar

A technical writer must adhere to all the rules of conventional grammar. Also it is the technical writer’s responsibility to proofread and edit their documentation to detect and correct any errors in the writing, graphics, typography and layout.

In summarising, a technical writer must ensure that they incorporate the above mentioned principles into their everyday writing style. This will go a long to make them not only a better writer but their technical documentation will be appreciated by both their peers and readers alike.

Technical Writing Is Meant to Convey a Technical Idea

There are plenty of areas that need technical writing. It is a type of writing that describes the appropriate technology along with other concepts which are associated with it. It may be created having a wide selection of viewers at heart. It may be as specialized as detailing how you can repair your car generator for automotive technicians or even describing the way to look at the engine oil for somebody that does not understand the location of the dipstick. The purpose of technical writing is always to express that information and facts to ensure the audience can understand what it is.

Before anybody begins the technical writing task they have to understand what the prospective readership will be as well as exactly what the objective of the actual writing will be. Dependent upon as to who the content is good for then the procedure may begin by having a meeting with the individual authorizing the actual task. This is often to ensure the technical writer can understand what the overall task is going to entail.

technical writingWithout having that information along with comprehending the technical writing task the technical writer won’t be able to convey the right information to the actual target audience. It might have incorrect details within it.

A fundamental element of virtually any technical writing will be the subject matter expert (SME). The technical writer is not always the actual SME, plus it very feasible that they do not actually have the actual specialized understanding of the product or service to create their particular documentation. The SME can provide just about all the facts they require as well as solve virtually any related queries.

As an example the technical writer may not know what a piston is or even what the compression setting is, so they will be able go to the chief technician and inquire precisely how these things function. This will ensure that the technical writer can finish the task using the correct details.

Because the objective of technical writing is always to promote the correct information then talking with an SME could possibly be the key to the actual task. The majority of SMEs are extremely very helpful in aiding the technical writer simply because they realize it is their own facts the technical writer is actually counting on to create the actual documents.

The individual that does the actual technical writing will be revealing details for the audience to ensure they will completely understand what are the service or product will be and the way to utilize them correctly. The particular task by itself could be tailored for a big or small target audience, based on exactly what the technical documentation is being produced for.

The technical writer must ensure that that they realize whom the actual technical documentation is designed for and exactly what the information they’re writing will be and just how the actual expected target audience is actually likely to utilize it. Technical writing can be used for various areas with various objectives.

Is Technical Writing Boring?

A lot of people believe technical writing is boring. Having spent almost 25 years in the profession I can honestly say that description of technical writing is so far from the truth it beggars belief. In fact I have found it to be a very challenging and stimulating career.

But, I have to admit I do like technical communications and especially technical writing because I take great pleasure in writing and organizing technical information in ways that the intended audience can easily understand and use.

I believe that technical documentation that is well written and conveys the message to the intended audience is a great asset for any company’s marketing department.

OK, so let’s see if technical writing is actually ‘boring’…

I suppose in some cases technical writing can be classed as boring. Why is that then? Well, because of the nature of the beast, technical writing needs to convey a consistent and precise form of communication. There should not be any discrepancies in the style and content of the information.

technical writingYou have to remember that the aim of technical communications is not to be entertaining or emotional. That form of writing falls under the category of creative writing.

If you have taken any creative writing courses, then one of the first things you have to master is the variety of expression. Fiction and emotional engagement requires a wide variety of words, metaphors, and phrasing to keep the reader’s interest alive and to help them to visualize the human aspect of the writing.

But technical writing is not like creative writing in any way, shape or form. Because the essence of creative writing is that the content is inconsistent and contains diverse expressions that are woven into the structure of the writing.

This type of writing can create all kinds of problems for a technical document. A technical document needs to be consistent and something that the end user can rely on. There we have it, yes technical writing could be classed as ‘boring’ because it is reliable to a fault. There again that is what technical writing is all about.

For a technical writer to achieve their goal they need to ensure that the technical writing is disciplined and consistent throughout the whole document. For that consistency to prevail then, for example, if a certain component is called a cylindrical shaft, then it needs to have the description (cylindrical shaft) throughout the whole document. Consistency is the key in good technical writing.

I believe that the people who criticise technical writing for being “boring” confuse the goal of this form of writing with that of creative writing. It is an easy mistake to make because in one way I suppose technical writing is a form of creative writing but instead of feelings and emotion it contains technical information.

Well, I suppose to some degree I have to agree that technical writing can be boring but in the nicest way possible way. Technical writing serves the purpose it is intended for and so long as that is the case then who am I to disagree.

That’s my opinion and if others feel differently well who am I to pressure them into thinking otherwise.

Technical Writer – Don’t Take Criticism Personally

As a technical writer there is every chance that you will be criticised for the work you have done. Learning to deal with the criticism is the important part a technical writer has to understand. Once you come to terms with criticism and accept it with the professionalism you used to create the technical documentation and then use it to improve what you have written is the best thing you can do.

By learning to work with your critics is one of the best skills that a technical writer can possess because it will go a long way to helping your technical writing career flourish.

The majority of editors are exceptionally professional in their job and will provide the kind of changes and suggestions that will enhance your documentation. A good editor is one that will put the intended audience first and their only intention is to work hand-in-hand with the technical writer to create the best result possible.

technical writerAs the technical writer is the person who wrote the words that are being rightly criticised, you will need a fresh pair of eyes to review the document. The document is your creation and you can see nothing wrong with it, but, there is every possibility that because of your familiarity with the document you will miss the errors that the editor will pick up.

However, no two editors are the same. Some editors like to play the bad guy and dispense totally with any form of niceties. They prefer to tell it like it is even if it upsets the technical writer. All they are interested in is getting the job done right and do not care a hoot about the technical writer’s feelings.

The phrase, “don’ take it personally” is not very helpful for the technical writer to hear because it gives them the impression that they are being pacified and that they should just accept the criticism without being able to challenge the criticism.

This frequently used expression implies that anything the technical writer creates is just that and nothing else. Just because you created it doesn’t mean to say that it should have any emotionally hold over you. You have to distance yourself emotionally from what you have written and therefore allow yourself to accept any criticism of your work. Because your main aim is to get the job done as quickly and professionally as possible.

This sort of throw away remark is dangerous because it immediately it gives the impression that any resistance to criticism by the technical writer is just downright petulance and childishness.

With technical writing you tend to find that by overusing certain phrases gives the impression that the writer has of lack of imagination and their writing skills are poor. Therefore, when you hear the phrase, “don’t take it personally,” coming from an editor the conclusion is drawn that this type of remark comes from an editor whose editing skills leave a lot to be desired. The important thing for a technical writer is to not take the “don’t take it personally” line too seriously!

Technical Writing Tips and Tricks

Technical writing is a great profession to belong to but it can be frustrating job if you don’t stick to a set pattern in creating the documentation. Here are few technical writing tips and tricks to help with your technical writing.

Know the target audience. It is important that a technical writer knows who the end user of the documentation will be. Are they going to be technical or non technical? They are two totally different audiences. One will understand technical information whereas the other will not. You have to ensure that the content is specifically written so the end user can easily understand it

What is your writing goal? You must make sure that your writing makes sense. Will the end user understand what you have written? It is no good if you have written a very detailed technical manual if your intended audience cannot understand it. It is a good idea to review your writing to make sure you are writing for the correct audience.

technical writingUse illustrations and graphics. By using illustrations and graphics it allows the intended audience to understand the information a lot quicker and easier. An illustration or graphic will be far more descriptive of something than words can ever be. I believe it was Confucius who first said: “a picture paints a thousand words.

Use examples. It’s OK for you to understand what you have written but don’t assume that your reader will. If it is a technical document you are writing then it is a good idea to provide the reader with some examples. But, make sure the examples are relevant to the subject and that the end user can understand them.

Proofread your work. You must proofread what you have written. It can be very embarrassing if the documentation you have produced is distributed with errors. Even some of the tabloids and magazines have errors in them. So, make sure that all your documentation is proofread to make sure all errors are found and corrected.

Have a peer review of your work. A peer review process allows you to get a second opinion on what you have written. This is a good idea because there is every chance you might have missed something which would give a totally different meaning to what you have written.

Use headers. By strategically using content relevant headers throughout your document will allow you to break up the content and it will make reading a long manual a lot easier.

Stay in the present tense. When writing, use the present tense instead of future tense – it makes it a lot clearer and concise. By using the present tense it allows you to be specific and to the point and the end user immediately knows and understands what to do.

Give your resources credit. If you have used information from a reference source then make sure you give that source the credit it deserves. If the information has enhanced the quality of your document then you must acknowledge the part the resource has played in improving the quality of your document.

If you implement these technical writing tips and tricks into your technical writing your writing will improve and you will produce better quality technical documentation that the end user will appreciate and more importantly read.

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