The Role of a Technical Writer in Audiovisual Scriptwriting

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Who doesn't have visions of being a screen star or a soap queen on a popular TV serial? Alas, in your capacity as a scriptwriter, you'll be behind the camera-way behind. However, you will lose your anonymity, because it's customary to give credit to every person who is a major contributor to a film or tape. The preparation of training, instructional, and documentary films and tapes is a huge business.

"Who," you may ask, "produces and uses these?" Generally, they are produced by private film and television studios, or even by large companies that have their own production facilities. The films and tapes are broadcast by private or public television stations. Some films, such as the Civil War documentary by Ken Burns, are so superlative, that they attain widespread fame.

Training Videos

Audiovisual productions cover a wide range of topics. Uses of these films include training personnel in industry, hospitals, and consolidates a number of individual progress reports. The periodic report also may be edited by a technical writer. After the material submitted by the scientists is put together, the technical editor will work on it. For example, in the case of NASA reports, NASA spells out certain specifications for the format of its reports. This format must be checked by the editor, along with grammar, punctuation, and other stylistic features.

Report writing is one of the principle categories of technical writing. As technology increases and as companies become larger and larger, so do written records and communications. Only by means of reports can many of the larger companies coordinate their various activities, especially if research is a principle occupation. The publications department will be responsible for the reporting, and a technical editor will be assigned to supervise the undertaking.

Some engineering and scientific organizations, both large and small, exist primarily for testing, research, and experimentation. Their main product is not the manufacturing of products, but instead, the production of reports and papers describing research procedures and results. In this endeavor, the technical writer is as necessary as the researcher.

There are many kinds of reports, depending on who will use the information being reported. External reports go outside the company to clients, government bureaus, and libraries. They become the basis for further research. Internal reports are written solely for use within the company. They may be service reports, progress reports, and maintenance reports, to name only a few.

The reporting skill of the technical writer is important to most technical fields because reporting is basic to the success of the enterprise. The techniques of reporting are the foundation of instruction books, technical papers, and various forms of promotion and publicity.

A basic approach to technical writing is suggested by Matt Young in The Technical Writer's Handbook. In his preface he states: "My prescription for technical writing is this: It is not (or should not be) any different from other writing." He presents a few simple rules:

There are special assistants. These assistants, combining a flair for writing with a sound scientific background, help top management officials by writing progress reports for them or reviewing their speeches.

With the continuous introduction of new technology, the communications field is an ever-changing and expanding field. Technical writers will be preparing lectures and instructions to be delivered from video cassettes, developing programs for data storage and retrieval systems, and performing a multitude of other communications jobs too numerous to mention. Traditional pen and paper reports have all but disappeared. The technical writer now uses word processors. Even the time-honored typewriter has gone to its final resting place. The writer must be prepared to adopt and adapt new communications and computer techniques as they present themselves. The technical writer, like the rest of us, must change with the times. He or she also must remember that whatever writing and communication tools he or she presently has are merely transient, waiting to be supplanted by something newer and, one hopes, better.
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