Technical Writing ToolBox

A Blog on Technical Writing

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Technical Writing: The 60th Best Job in 2013

Technical Writing is the 60th best job in 2013

Technical Writing is the 60th best job in 2013

Following the yearly tradition, Careercast released  a list of top 200 different jobs in the U.S based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. The data for this report came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government agencies in U.S.

Technical Writer was the 60th best job in 2013 though it slipped 23 ranks as it was the 37th best job in the same survey in 2012, and it slipped 34 ranks as it was the 26th best job in the same survey in 2011. Read the complete list of Careercast 200 tops jobs in 2013 here and the methodology of ranking here.

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How to document a sound?

As intriguing it may seem, have you ever considered the idea of documenting a sound in your writing? It seems impossible, right?

Apparently, technical writers working at Electrolux have discovered a creative way to do exactly that. This illustration describes various sound (noises) which occur inside a freezer during its normal use.

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Indian Technical Writer Salaries in 2013

Indian Rupees

It was Marsha Sinetar who once said “Do what you love and the money will follow” and technical writers in India seems to get both love and money out of this noble profession.

STC India chapter recently released their salary survey results for 2013 which provides an insight about the technical writing salaries in India and also about the technical writing industry growth in the region. Data collection, analysis, and report was published by Paresh Naik. Kudos to Paresh’s great efforts in publishing this salary survey!

About the Survey

STC India chapter conducted a survey of salaries of Technical Communicators working in India. This anonymous survey was open to all Technical Communicators working in India including those who are not the members of STC. The survey was conducted through a web based questionnaire open from 10th to 25th October 2013.
A total of 165 respondents completed the survey. One invalid response was excluded from the analysis. All the salary figures mentioned in this report are in Indian Rupees unless specifically mentioned otherwise.

The conversion rate between INR and USD or CAD is (approximately):

1 USD= 62 INR & 1 CAD = 56 INR [ USD = US Dollars, CAD= Canadian Dollars, INR= Indian Rupees]

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Top 10 reads for the Year 2012: 30,000 views from 129 countries

Dear Readers,

Thank you for reading my posts and for sharing your thoughts and meaningful comments. It has been an incredible year and I feel grateful for so many gifts I received from God this year. I graduated (with honours!) from a post graduate certificate in technical communication (read about my journey here), I started a new life in Canada, got a great technical writing contract,  and visited my family after a long time.

I started blogging in March 2012 and even though I had posted only 41 blog posts, readers from over 129 countries visited my blog more than 30,000 times!

My top 10 blog posts in 2012 were (according to the number of views):

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Adaptability and Flexibility for Technical Writers

A stretching lion at Ouwehands Dierenpark.

Adaptability and Flexibility skills are now becoming a necessity, and not just a desired quality, to get hired as a technical writer.

Employers want to hire highly adaptable and flexible technical writers who can learn latest technologies, new documentation tools, and can find their way in the maze of social media.
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Working as a Technical Writer in Canada

A lot of readers often ask me to blog about my experience of working as a Technical Writer in Canada.

I’ve lived and worked almost half of my life in the mesmerizing, beautiful, and energetic land of India. India is a land full of opportunities, especially for a technical writer. I was fortunate enough to work with very talented colleagues and supportive bosses and have learned a lot from the Indian Technical Writing industry through STC sessions and TWIN mailing list.

However, one fine day I decided to leave everything to pursue my dream of getting formal education in technical communication. I was fortunate to get a paid co-op (internship) which got extended even during my last semester. Not only that, I was fortunate enough to receive two great job offers and I started working even before my course was finished.

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Technical Writer Salaries- How much do Technical Writers earn?

Without money

Without money (Photo credit: Toban Black)

In our society, money is the most important reason for which people work. Of course, other factors such as learning and gaining a sense of accomplishment after doing their work are also a major driving factor for many. However, most of us will never work for free (at-least not full-time) since we all need to pay the bills. Compensation is often a closely guarded secret and we seldom talk about this important subject.

When I came to Canada, I tried to research over the salaries in the Toronto region and was surprised to see a wide range of reported salaries for technical writers in Canada (but none for the Toronto region). The best and honest advice about technical writing salaries in my area came not from the Internet but from the network I made with fellow technical writers in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).

In this blog post I will try to share that knowledge for the benefit of others and will try to compare technical writer salaries in the U.S., Canada, and India.
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Enrolling for a Technical Writing Course?

A depiction of the world’s oldest continually operating university, the University of Bologna, Italy.- Image Credit, Wikipedia

Learning on the job is a great thing. But, is getting a higher education in Technical Writing after gaining some real-world experience a good choice as well?

I worked as a technical writer for eight years in New Delhi. Recently, I took a sabbatical to pursue a post-graduate certificate in technical communication from Seneca College, Toronto. The term sabbatical (from Latin ‘sabbaticus’, from Greek ‘sabbatikos’, from Hebrew shabbat, that is Sabbath, literally means “ceasing”) means – to take a break from work for an extended period of time, to pursue a goal.

Looking back at the golden triangle of cost, time, and scope, my decision to pursue higher education in technical writing after getting the real-world experience, was challenging and satisfying at the same time. I often felt that the learning outside the classroom is more important than studying in the classroom. For example, walking a kilometer to my class in -25 degrees, and under a heavy snowfall was as challenging as writing a technical autobiography for my technical writing class.

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Visual Chemistry- Interaction of Text and Graphics

Visual Chemistry

Technical communicators often use graphics with written procedures to communicate complex ideas.

Illustrated text often delivers better information that is more readily comprehensible to readers. However, if illustrations are merely used as a decorative item then they do not convey worthwhile information, and have a significant impact on readers. Readers are benefited when illustration and text work together to put forward a complex idea in a simple way.

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7 causes of Inefficient Writing

Few weeks back I talked about three external factors that gives birth to inefficient documents.  Writers either have no or very less control over these factors. However, this is not always the case. In fact, usually a writer makes documents inefficient if they fail to remove common writing mistakes from their work. Let’s look at seven  factors that cause inefficient writing even when the content is technically accurate and the grammar is perfect:

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How to write a Technical Autobiography?

Technical Autobiography of Nikola Tesla

When I joined Seneca College (Post Grad) Certificate in Technical Communication, the first (informal) writing assignment we received was to write a technical autobiography (worth 10%) in the TCN700 (Technical Writing I) class.

Wait, I hear you saying that the term ‘technical’ and ‘autobiography’ don’t go well together. You are in good company as most of us in the class at that moment thought on similar lines. It was only when our dear professor explained the concept of technical autobiography when we understood how important it is for a writing student.

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10 Useful LinkedIn Groups for Technical Writers

LinkedIn started out in the living room of its co-founder Reid Hoffman in 2002 and now operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with 161 million members in over 200 countries and territories. It is available in seventeen languages: English, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

LinkedIn receives a new member after every half second. If you do not exist on LinkedIn then you are surely missing job and consulting opportunities available in this professional network. If you are present on LinkedIn, I invite you to get connected with me at http://ca.linkedin.com/in/gurpreettw.

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My talk on Technical Writing in George Brown College, Toronto

George Brown College (St. James campus at King Street) in Toronto

I was invited to give a talk on Technical Writing at George Brown College, Toronto few weeks ago. I talked about technical writing in general and how social media tools such as twitter, blogs, and LinkedIn can help them in getting a writing related  job or consulting assignments.

It was a lovely experience for me as I love to talk about technical writing and social media. I hope that my talk inspired few of them to use social media tools to demonstrate and publicise their writing portfolios and they will soon receive their desired writing assignments through this new tool in their arsenal.

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Top 3 Serial Killers of a Good Document

Don’t kill me- says your document!

Whether you are writing a user’s guide, online help, or an installation guide, you always strive to convey a meaningful message to your intended audience.

However, the message often gets diluted and becomes meaningless due to a number of reasons. Of course, a writer may not put enough efforts in making a message meaningful but most of the time several external factors contribute in killing the effectiveness of a document. Let’s look at the top three factors that kill a good document:

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Pomodairo: A Software Timer based on the Pomodoro Technique


Program Name: Pomodairo

Use: A software timer based on the Pomodoro Technique

Cost: Freeware

Size: 1.7 MB

Works on: Windows (XP/Vista/7), Linux and Mac (requires Adobe AIR)

Download Linkhttp://code.google.com/p/pomodairo

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5 Free Online Tools for Distraction-Free Writing

Last week I talked about the importance of distraction free writing and suggested five free desktop tools for distraction free writing. However, some of us cannot install any software in a workplace computer due to the mighty-IT department restrictions or often work on shared computers. If you find yourself in either of these scenarios then you can use an online version of a distraction free software.

An online distraction free tool allows you to write without any distraction. There is no installation required and it can work with any modern browser. Let’s look at five such online distraction free tools:

Update (19 Feb 2014): A reader comment pointed out that QuiteWrite, LightWrite and Writer are inaccessible.

1. Koi-Writer

Online Accesshttp://www.koi-writer.com


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7 Useful Insights about How People Read Documentation

Reading is a primary form of communication for most people and they have different habits of reading. Not surprisingly, different people read product documentation in different ways. But how do they read and why should we care about their reading habits?

A writer writes with a purpose. This purpose gives shapes to their thoughts and allows them to convert their body-less thoughts to words. A strong correlation exists between a writer’s purpose and use of the document.

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TextCrawler- Search and Replace Text in Multiple Files

Program Name: TextCrawler

Use: Search and Replace Text across multiple files

Cost: Freeware

Works on: Windows (XP/Vista/7)

Detailed Review: Read here (opens in a new window)

Download Linkhttp://www.digitalvolcano.co.uk/content/textcrawler/tcdownload

I’ve often faced disappointment from various Help Authoring Tools when it comes to a simple text operations such as search and replace among multiple files. Most of the time I had to create a small macro that could do the job, or had to manually search and replace the text in html mode. Few years back I started using specialized text editors such as Crimson Editor and Notepad++ to do the job. They were good but limited in their functionality and took a lot of time to do the job.

I recently started using TextCrawler and have been pretty impressed with its ability to find and replace text among multiple files.

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Getting Rid of Misplaced Modifiers

Modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that restricts or provide additional information about other words, phrases, or clauses. Modifiers can be adjectives or adverbs. Modifiers that appear before the head are called premodifiers and modifiers that appear after the head are called postmodifiers.

We have a certain amount of freedom in deciding where to place our modifiers in a sentence:

We rowed the boat vigorously.
We vigorously rowed the boat.
Vigorously we rowed the boat.

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Five Best Distraction-Free Writing Tools for your Desktop

As a person who makes his living by writing, I have to admit that writing is hard work. And what makes it even harder are the constant distractions in our workspace. I’m not talking about noisy children, complaining in-laws, and constantly barking neighbor’s dog (although they all distract!). I’m talking about the constant electronic distraction on our computer screen.

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