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Shifting from Technical Writing (or from a Non-Writing Position) to Technical Training

Technical Writing Technical Training

© Ugur Akinci

In a world hungry for training, a good career path is for technical writers to shift into technical training positions.

But even more interesting than this career move is building an expertise first in a non-writing field and then shifting to technical documentation and training.

Take Dan Trahey, for example, who started his career as an auto body technician, insurance appraiser and shop manager. After solidifying his knowledge base as a auto body repair expert, Trahey started to get involved in documentation of things that happen regularly in a body shop and while appraising damages in vehicles involved in accidents. In an auto-body repair shop one needs to follow a lot of steps and time-proven practices to complete the task in optimal time and at optimal cost. All that needs rigorous documentation.

Increasing documentation eventually creates another question: how does one transfer all that knowledge to new employees?

Also: how does one create similar documentation for new systems so that existing employees can be brought up to speed?

Enter technical training.

Dan Trahey has recently been hired by the international car-repair systems manufacturer Car-O-Liner and I congratulate him for his recent promotion.

The press announcement says “in his new role, Trahey will support the Car-O-Liner Academy training initiatives by developing technical education programs and technical writing, as well as supporting the company’s distributor and customer network through technical presentations within the North American automotive aftermarket.”

Training is one of the two expanding frontiers for technical writers (the other being structural writing). If you are thinking of ways to re-calibrate your career for better challenges and more income, or if you are non-writer who find the limits of your existing job description stifling, you should definitely look into the ways in which you can make the shift to technical training.

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How to Write the Perfect Travel Article for Fun and Profit

© Ugur Akinci

Travel writing is a great way both to travel around the world and make money while doing it. Imagine having fun, staying at the best hotels, spending time on golden beaches and heavenly mountains, and getting paid for it? You can finance such pursuits by specializing in travel writing.

Of course, like in anything else in life, theory is easier than practice. So here are some suggestions to write one great travel article after another, sell’em well, and make your sweet dreams come true.

1) Pre-Sell Your Article

If possible, query he editor of the magazine where you’d like to publish the article and ask if she’d be interested in publishing it once you’re done. Editors know what sells and what doesn’t and they’ll tell you what kind of material they need. That would save you from a lot of unnecessary effort if you happen to think about something that the magazine has published earlier. So, within this context, it pays to STUDY the magazine in advance to prove to the editor that your are an informed writer who has done his homework.

2) Have a Sunny and Inspirational Outlook

More than anything else, travel is about having fun. A travel piece is not an academic dissertation or a political op-ed piece. You are not trying to find solution to the problems of the world. You are trying to motivate others to leave their homes and enjoy the good things that the world has to offer. Thus you need to stress the positive.

This does not mean you need to lie and hide all the inconvenient facts. Actually, it’s your duty as a travel writer to point out all the things that your readers should pay attention to for a smooth and trouble-free vacation. For example, if the local hotels refuse rooms to unmarried couples, you need to mention that. But that does not mean you need to criticize the country’s sociopolitical culture. That’s the job of political and editorial writers.

3) Photos, Photos, Photos

Visuals are very important in travel writing. If you have at least a 4 Megabyte camera and know how to take good pictures, you’ll have an easier time to sell your travel article.

Here are 2 GOLDEN PRINCIPLES of taking excellent photos:

a) NEVER take a picture when the sun is up above your head. SUNRISE and SUNDOWN are perfect times to take a picture. Even the most mundane scenes are bathed in a gorgeous light at these hours of the day. As Rembrandt has said: “It’s all about the Light.”

b) Always include a FOREGROUND to frame your BACKGROUND.

For example, if you are shooting the photo of a hotel, try to include a tree branch hanging over or a flower in front of the frame so that there will be a comparative sense of depth to your photo.

If you are shooting a beach or a mountain, try to include a plant or another attractive object in the foreground. See the public domain photo of the Lion Rock at Piha above, courtesy of Wikipedia.

How to Write the Perfect Travel Article for Fun and Profit

4) Provide Useful, Timely, and Relevant Information

This is the heart of any travel writing, really. Provide good information about where to stay (hotels), where to eat (restaurants), how to reach that spot (transportation).

It is not easy to share the latest information and that’s why travel writing goes stale quickly. That’s the down side. But the upside is, since travel information changes constantly, that also creates a constant need for new travel articles for the same location. That’s why the global demand for travel writing never goes away.

If you read the best travel writing, you’ll see that most of the time such to-the-point information is provided in SIDEBARS. You can try the same.

5) Write with Your 5 Senses and Get Personal

Draw pictures with your words, and to do that, rely on your personal impressions. Use metaphors and similes (by comparing two objects/entities via the conjunction “like” or “as”).

Don’t just say “the city was beautiful” and leave it at that. Listen to your inner voice, watch your inner state, and try to pour the energy churning inside into honest words.

Try something like: “When the spires of the thousand-year castle emerged from the morning mist that cuddled the city, I felt like I was transported to a time when the stone bridge that curved gently towards the main gate echoed with the hoofs of the horses ridden by the knights in sparkling silver armor.”

Instead of just saying “hot,” try something like “the minute I stepped on the beach barefoot it burned like a sizzling hot pan.”

Instead of “cold” try “the weather was so merciless and iron-cold my lips froze up as if they were glued to one another.”

6) Keep Your Ears and Eyes Wide Open

Take notes as you go along and write down every interesting local expression or piece of conversation that you hear along the way, even of they are not correct grammatically. Such authentic details bring out your piece alive in colors and shades that cannot be invented from afar while you sit comfortably at your desk.

Travel writing takes a lot of effort, planning, and keen observation but at the end it’s probably one of the best ways to have fun while making money.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ester Inbar

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4-U Method for Power Headers in DIRECT MAIL COPY

4-U Method for Power Headers in DIRECT MAIL COPY

© Ugur Akinci

The header or the leading sentence of a sales letter, a brochure, flier, or a classified ad is probably 80% of the message.

Headers are important even in news business. That’s why some newspapers have full-time “title editors.” Their job is to make sure people will read the headlines because that’s only what most people read anyways. And most of the time Direct Mail Power Headers work pretty well in the news business in terms of triggering the curiosity of the readers. A news article story that has a weak and dull header will never be able to hook the reader into reading the whole article.

I’ve known copywriters who write at least one or two hundred titles before they decide on one header for their direct mail letter. If you follow the following 4-U Method thought you will come up with Direct Mail Power Headers that work time after time.

A great header must satisfy the following conditions formulated by Michael Masterson and taught in many excellent copy writing courses offered by the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI):

1) ULTRA SPECIFIC

2) UNIQUE

3) USEFUL

4) URGENT


 

1) ULTRA SPECIFIC

For example: “Make money.”

That’s certainly useful. We all like to make money. But there is hardly anything particular about this message. It’s just too general to move us to action.

BETTER: “Make $2,567 a month.”

EVEN BETTER: “Make $2,567 in 30 days.” That’s much better. Don’t you feel already more interested in the message?


 

2) UNIQUE

We’d like to make “$2,567 in 30 days” but we still do not know how.

Everybody is promising us something and God knows we’ve seen and heard it all.

So what’s the big deal about this offer? The header still won’t say much.

BETTER: “Make $2,567 in 30 days by making one phone call as our Local Home Reporter.”

Now it’s getting more interesting, correct? When was the last time you heard anyone working as a

“Local Home Reporter”? And just “making one phone call”? What’s that all about? Can it be true?

Our antennas go one notch higher.

EVEN BETTER: “Make $2,567 in 30 days by making one phone call as our exclusive Local Home Reporter in your neighborhood.”


 

3) USEFUL

Your header must also express either a direct or indirect utility for your prospective customers. “Learn ancient Mayan dialect in 90 days” is certainly very specific but how practical is that?

Direct utility would be a direct benefit for them (“get your ACM degree and make $20K more”).

Indirect utility involves the satisfaction of helping other people benefit from your services (“help low income kids earn their ACM degrees and watch them earn $20K more”).

Returning to our above example:

“Make $2,567 in 30 days by making one phone call as our exclusive Local Home Reporter in your neighborhood while increasing your home equity by 20% a year.”


 

4) URGENT

Every sale message must have some kind of time-pressure and urgency built into it to close the sale. In our complex and busy world, a decision deferred is a decision never made.

“Make $2,567 in 30 days by making one phone call as our exclusive Local Home Reporter in your neighborhood. Apply now until October 1st for the only position still available in your area.”

In the body of your message or letter you will of course explain that this is a job that involves finding old dilapidated houses for an out-of-state new home developer. Your neighborhood appreciates so rapidly that the developer is willing to pay a premium price to purchase old homes, tear them down and replace them with deluxe units and pay you an average of $2,567 a month for your scouting services.

But the simple header “Make Money” will probably not be enough to compel anyone to read the rest of your message. Thus comes in the 4-U Method of writing Power Headers that work.


 

ASSIGNMENT:

Write a great headline about:

  The stock price of an athletic shoe company going up by 125% (hint: can you use a verb like “sprinting” within the context of stock market?)

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