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There’s them as say there ain’t no right way nor wrong way to write. It’s all in how you feel like writing and who cares. Thems what you call your descriptive grammarians. They don’t tell you how it is people should write so much as describe how folks do write. One way’s OK like another. Long’s you get the idea across.
Then, there are those who believe that there are some consistent rules of standard, written English that are observed by the majority of educated people. They’re called proscriptive grammarians. They’ll cite rules of grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction that should be followed if what we write is to be clear and intelligible.
True, those on the proscriptive side don’t always agree on the rules, even among themselves. They get very intense over things like whether you should write “in the early 80’s” or “in the early ’80s” or whether there should be a comma before the and in the series “glue, adhesive, and gum.” But even when they don’t agree, it usually comes down to two choices, and they do agree that if you don’t use one, you should certainly use the other.
As individuals, we can agree with either side, but as technical writers, we’re much better off when we write in a way that follows the dictates of Standard Written English (SWE). We can believe all we want that one person’s way of writing is just as good as another. And, in private use, it is. But we know perfectly well that a person who writes the kind of material we do who doesn’t have what’s generally considered “good” language skills won’t be considered a professional – and won’t get work.
Clients may not know the rules, but they can sure spot it when they’re not followed. Write “they was the ones who paid,” and everyone in the review session will say it’s wrong. Maybe no one will tell you that you made a pronoun/verb agreement error, but they’ll all tell you you’re wrong.
You don’t learn SWE by being a tech writer. Being able to write well is what you bring with you to the job. It doesn’t matter how you develop your language skills. Many writers get them from a good high school or college education. That’s not the only way – or even the surest. Too many people get advanced degrees without ever learning that “They gave the prize to him and I” is bad grammar. You certainly don’t have to be a college graduate to be a good writer, but you do have to be a good writer whether you’ve got a degree or not.
So, where do you learn to write SWE? There a number of good ways. Going to school is one. If you’re getting your tech writing training at a college or university, writing skills are part of the curriculum. If you can’t go that route, you can still take classes in writing. There are plenty of schools and training organizations that offer classes in both basic and advanced writing. Some communities colleges do, and there are a ton of resources online. It’s worth checking out a number of them until you find the one that fits your personal needs.
Something you should do in addition to taking a class is read. Read the classics, read magazines and newspapers, read everything. The more you see good writing in use, the easier it will be for you to write well yourself. Then, write. Practice is as much a part of developing your writing skill as it is if you want to be a better musician, athlete, or artist. Writing well is a skill, but it’s also a habit. The more you do it right, the better you get and the easier it is.
If you take a formal class, you’ll be told to get a style guide. If you’re not taking a class, get a style guide anyway. All successful writers have at least one good style guide. Some have half-a-dozen. Then get a good, up-to-date dictionary and a book of synonyms such as Roget’s. These are a writer’s basic tools. Use them to check what you write to be sure that you’re following the same rules that the vast majority of writers do.
Is all this really necessary? Yes, it is, and I’ll tell you why. Tech writing is a great career. If nothing else, it’s just more interesting than a lot of jobs. But it’s still a job, and every job has its own skill-set. For us, it’s being able to write SWE. If we can’t do that, we don’t get work. Then, we don’t get paid. And then we can’t make a living. That’s called bottom line. In this business, being able to write well is bottom line.
If you can write a simple sentence and organize your thoughts then technical writing may be a rewarding field. You can easily make it a second income stream in your spare time.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average salary for technical writers is $60,380. Freelance technical writers can make from $30 to $70 per hour.
The field of technical writing is like a golden city. It’s filled with wealth, rewards and opportunities. After learning technical writing you can branch out into business writing, marketing writing and communications writing. All of these can become additional income streams.
But to succeed you must learn how to market yourself to clients. You have to prove to them that you are an invaluable asset. That’s where ProTech – Your Fast Track to Becoming a Successful Technical Writer can help. It’s a technical writing course that does two equally important things:
1. It teaches you the skills to become a technical writer in the shortest time frame. You’ll learn to create manuals, procedures, tutorials, processes, proposals, spec sheets and other documents that businesses need.
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In fact, you’ll get a complete marketing toolkit which has templates and technical writing job sites to get started immediately!
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