What the Technical Communicators Have To Say

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We would like to turn to the comments of technical communicators themselves as we conclude this section on courses and pro-grams. These comments have been gathered from several studies on the subject:

You just can't put writers in slots anymore; they are doing all kinds of things.

Another reason for the greater use of non-technically trained writers is that most liberal arts students come out of school with a better knowledge of technology than they did, say, thirty years ago. Most companies would like to see the graduates equipped with communication skills-and these include more than a nodding acquaintance with graphics and some knowledge of computer techniques.

The company would like to think that its new technical writing employee would be able to move into management and administration.

The technical editor and the technical writer should be in contact with the entire communication process. This is easier in a small company, where one or two writers must take on a variety of communication jobs.

Company Magazines

Your first job as a technical writer may be with a company magazine, such as Raytheon's Electronic Progress. Sometimes the table of contents of this publication contains a wide variety of articles on electronics. At other times, an issue is devoted to discussing a particular field in-depth. In any case, you would probably be writing some articles of your own or editing other people's articles.

You may ask, why do engineers and scientists write articles? The prime reason is the communication of knowledge. They may be engaged in research, may have developed a new technique, or may have been called on to publicize something for their companies. There is also the prestige factor-it enhances the author's professional reputation to have an article accepted and published.

In working on a company magazine, you will be helping others prepare their articles. You will find that most magazine companies consist of three departments: editorial, advertising, and production. As a writer, you will be assigned to the editorial department, but if you should demonstrate advertising or production ability, you may be able to transfer to these departments.

One of the best features of working for company magazines is that they are likely to operate with small staffs on a fairly informal basis. This often results in interesting working conditions, and you could find yourself doing a variety of things: writing original artiorganic chemists. It is not generally available to the public at large. Similar journals would be the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, Chemical Engineering, Physical Reviews, and many others.

In scientific journals, the writers are generally the scientists who are involved with the work. Their names appear directly under the titles. In academic institutions, papers presented for publication often are written by the graduate students who actually did the work. The professors in charge provide guidance and lend their name to the final publication. Sometimes, professors who did their own research hire or supervise graduate students to do the actual writing, although the students in this case would remain anonymous. In industrial concerns, the preparation of papers is usually done by technical writers to enable the authors to engage in "more productive work."

Papers presented to scientific journals for publication undergo a process called peer review. After the paper has been presented to a journal, copies are sent to recognized authorities in the field. They carefully examine the paper for originality of work, correctness of experimental procedures, and validity of the claims. If they are not satisfied with the paper, they reject it and state the reasons for then-rejection. They tell the authors what they must do to satisfy their objections. As a rule, the authors will comply with the objections and do additional work to make the paper acceptable for publication. It is not unusual for a paper to be presented and rejected several times before it is finally published. This process reduces plagiarism and fraud and ensures scientific integrity.

Trade Magazines

There are many scientific and technical magazines sold on newsstands and kiosks to the general public. Among these are Scientific American, Science, Omni, Psychology Today, Popular Science, and few others.
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