I’m working on a freelance gig for a startup, one that is creating some interesting and complex electro-mechanical hardware with associated software. I’m their first technical writer, but my manager does have an inkling about technical writing and writers, and mostly steps back and lets me ask questions and write; I feel pretty lucky about that.
I feel pretty lucky, too, that I’ve been a member of STC for most of my writing career and have learned some tips and techniques to be more successful. For example, I know that I don’t need to reinvent the wheel with every sentence, heading, step, or list I write, I created a style sheet that defined what those elements should look like almost before I wrote my first word. That’s a tip I picked up a long time ago, and it’s preserved my sanity more than once.
More recently, our chapter had a presentation on using File Properties to store information about the document, such as the part number or the type of manual. That keeps the file name to a reasonable size, but keeps the documentation findable in a search.
The presentations dealing with aspects of preparing docs for successful and less-expensive translation didn’t seem to be pertinent at the time, but I’m so glad to have been there–these documents are planned be translated into multiple languages, and my work to be accurate and excruciatingly consistent will help the bottom line.
Of course, the networking aspects of STC meetings help, too. We’ve talked about dealing with SMEs of all sorts, software that helps and hinders, even how to deal with staying sane during the contracting process. Thanks to all those presenters and attendees who have helped to make this gig a good experience!
I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at a meeting.
Marie McElravy, Editor