Examine the catalog to determine if the course is given during the day, in the evening, in the summer, by correspondence, or by any other special arrangement.
Determine if college credit is given for the course. It is wise to accrue credits; they will be useful if you decide to pursue a degree. Find out if a prerequisite is required. This may be in the form of other writing courses such as English composition. Also find out if you need a high school diploma in order to take the course, and whether the course is given on the graduate level and requires a bachelor's degree for enrollment.
Find out if you can enroll as a special student, taking only one course, or if you must complete enrollment as a regular, full-time student.
Although the shortest path to becoming a technical writer is by mapping out a definite educational program, there is still another way, and that is through in-company training. Such programs will benefit you if you are an employee of the company and have had formal training but need to get actual writing experience.
The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is just one example of a university that, through its technical communication teaching program, has done a lot of work with industry personnel and has organized many technical writing workshops.
In-company training programs for technical writers include such practices as giving newly hired people the company style manual and ultra-clean vacuum Turbomotor line of turbo-molecular pumps with capabilities to 1,600 liters per second. Or maybe one of our New Director direct drive pumps will fit your application better.
In Canada, in addition to the University of Waterloo's B.S. degree, at least three colleges offer technical writing courses: Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph, Ontario; Southern Alberta Institute of Technology at Calgary; and Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario.
Do not forget that many universities offer adult education and continuing education programs, and many of these programs offer individual courses in technical writing. Contact your local universities or school system for more information.
What we have given you is only the copy, or description, written by a technical writer either in the company's advertising department or in an agency hired by the company. The ad also features illustrations, various kinds of type, and other attention-getting devices.
It should be apparent that to write copy for technical advertising you must know something about the technical part of the product. You also should know enough about graphics, illustrations, and charts to give directions to the printer. And you should have some familiarity with composition-how various items are positioned on the page.
So, as a technical writer in advertising, you may work in the advertising department of a company or you may get a job with an outside agency specializing in technical advertising. In either case, your job duties and projects will be similar. One private advertising agency lists the following specialties:
- market research program planning publication advertising direct mail advertising publicity
- technical literature merchandising aids slide presentations
You will first collect all the information about the product or equipment that you possibly can. You must become totally familiar with the background of the project. For this you may have some earlier booklets to serve as guides. You will visit the departments responsible for the design, construction, and manufacturing of the product to get its views on the consumer, the kind of company it is, and anything else that will help the booklet put across its message.
A technical writer working in sales literature must be aware of how much money can be spent on the brochure and how many copies are going to be distributed. These two factors will sometimes determine whether the brochure is to be printed within the publications department or given to an outside printer.
The technical writer then designs the brochure, working in close cooperation with a designer. This is where this kind of publication differs from some others. In sales literature, the layout of the brochure is extremely important, involving questions of shape, size, color, and illustrations.
The copy in an advertising brochure is frequently subordinate to the illustrations, and the writer must decide how much copy to write to support the illustrations. At this point the actual writing of copy begins, followed by checking and revision and all the other stages that go into any industrial writing.
An outgrowth of education in the technical writing field has been a number of special institutes, seminars, and workshops. They provide short-term means of bringing technical writers up to date on current practices. For the most part, these institutes, especially those run by private institutions, appeal to already established writers. However, they are also valuable to new writers who want to find out what technical writing is all about, meet other writers, and make useful contacts.
The oldest of these special training groups is the Technical Writers' Institute of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.