Although it comes up pretty often, I’ve been recently thinking more about how I would teach someone how to be a technical writer.
Spurred on by a programmer friend, I began going through online programming lessons through Codecademy. Since I don’t have any background in development, it was an uphill struggle. Luckily, my friend was there to help me. I’m happy to say that I completed a few courses and learned so much from the process.
At the start of a long car ride, my friend asked if I could return the favor and teach him about technical writing. And, I promptly drew a blank. Granted, I’ve been a technical writer for many years. And it’s been many more years since I took tech comm 101 at San Francisco State University. So, I was at a loss for how to condense my years of knowledge into chunks or even lessons.
So, I stumbled around for a while:
“Well, you have to know the basics of grammar…”
“And, you need to write, but you need to learn how to write as little as possible because people don’t like reading docs…”
“You really need to know how to interview people…”
“Audience and purpose…”
“You’re really an advocate for the user…”
Granted, I probably could have shared more useful information if I spent some more time thinking on it, or was a skilled instructor. Looking back, it was interesting to see how difficult it was to start from zero explaining what I believe can be a difficult profession to pin down.
I’m working with an intern at work for the summer. It’s my first time working with an intern as a senior writer. And, I feel an immense sense of responsibility to share what I’ve learned with her. Luckily, as a technical writing intern, she’s learned the basics. But, remembering my earlier, sad efforts with my friend, I’m starting to think more seriously about how to share information.
I had a rocky start at my first “real” technical writing job, so I deeply understand how important it is to support those who are starting their journey in technical communication. Maybe I won’t give a perfect lesson every time, but I will try my best to be patient, encouraging, and generous with my time.