I’m a blogger and student tech writer. I write feature stories and the occasional about-town news story. People say I’m a lucky girl. There is, however, a significant problem with all the fun I’m having: I’m kind of poor. Plus, I don’t feel smart. Real tech writers write about topics like computer parts or helicopter engines.
Thanks to my technical editing course, I was recently given the opportunity to become a real tech writer.
The Assignment: Edit a template for a cyber security company. The template functions as the basic form used for their clients’ System Security Plan. My Task: Move content (tables and text) from one word document to the template and place under the appropriate heading, (already ordered). Then, add coordinating headings to tables. Check format consistency. Oh yeah, and make sure the checkboxes work.
Pros and Cons
Blogging Challenges: headlines, keywords, and SEOs. You only have 10 seconds to grab them before they’re headed down the next, way more interesting, rabbit hole. That means every heading counts. Traffic and SEOs lead the day.
Pros: Blogging’s not stuffy. You can use the word I. You can get a little cheeky in your prose.
Tech Writing Challenges: Boredom can be an issue. I copied and pasted over 100 tables.
Pros: On the other hand, it was peaceful. My mind could plan dinner without the threat of low SEOs lurking nearby. And no worries about people hanging around long enough to read my copy – they had to read it to get the task done. Clarity became the focus.
Check boxes. You might want to worry when an IT guy says, “Oh yeah. And make the check boxes work too.” That means he tried it and it wasn’t easy peasy.
That’s why the gods created You Tube.
MAC vs. PC
I own a Mac. The client uses PCs. Even though I used Microsoft Word, the two software systems are NOT 100% alike. Once I added the developer tab (see the video above) and activated the boxes, I checked it on a PC. The boxes didn’t work. Plus, the entire edit function was deactivated.
Time to go for a little walk and call in my Tech Possee, Here’s a summary of their varied and helpful responses. I hope it makes you smile on your journey to becoming a real tech writer.
Laura: Can you create it in Excel and embed it?
Peggy: Just google it.
Julie: I have to see it. Can you meet me at West Huntsville? They have beer at 4:30.
Daniel: Shoot, it’s been a long time since I did that. Don’t forget to double click the checkboxes. Are you doing that? Me: I don’t know. I had to get away from my computer before I took a hammer to it. Daniel: Okay, well check the double click thing.
Ana: Do you have a developer tab? Did you check the “check box content control?”
Turns out, the double click function was the real culprit. Once you’ve activated the check boxes, you double click on a PC and click once for a Mac, then choose check options on a text screen. Additionally, you’ll need to unlock the screen if using a Mac. That’s why the edit mode was deactivated.
Being a real tech writer isn’t all that different from being a real blogger. The difference is in the method of communication. And in knowing who your Tech Possee is. Big thanks!