De Anza College
Technical Writing
          

 

Twrt Home Button Program Button F.A.Q. Button Careers Button Contact Button Resources Button Newsletter Button De Anza Home Button

 

 

 

Last updated
May 2005

Frequently Asked Questions


What is technical writing?

What are the objectives of the Technical Writing (TWRT) program at De Anza College?

What elective courses are available to support technical writing students?

Do I need a technical background to study technical writing?

Who employs technical writers?

What skills do technical writers use?

What do employers look for when hiring technical writers?

What computer-related skills do employers look for?

 


What is technical writing?

Technical writing, also known as technical communications, includes all of the following:

  • All types of workplace writing including correspondence, reports, program plans, presentations, and e-mail
  • Writing for print, online communications, the Internet, and more
  • Translating complex information into understandable documents for diverse audiences
  • Helping engineering, scientific, financial, government, nonprofit and consumer enterprises communicate
  • Speaking about technical and professional topics
  • Getting an audience to say "YES! Now we get it."

Click here or click the Careers button on the left above for more information about Careers in Technical Writing.

What are the Objectives of the Technical Writing (TWRT) Program at De Anza?

As students progress through the series of TWRT courses, they master increasingly complex material. The type of writing, target audience, and concepts intensify in difficulty from writing short documents to preparing camera-ready manuals.

Each class explores career and professional opportunities. Students learn about professional organizations and meet experts in Technical Writing.

button_up.gif (125 bytes)

What elective courses are available to support technical writing students?

Elective courses offered by the Technical Writing department include:

  • TWRT 71. Designing and Writing Online Documentation. Offered on a periodic basis. Check the current Schedule of Classes.

  • TWRT 66 courses. Special Topics in Technical Writing. Offered frequently. Special topics courses include Document Planning and Scheduling and Technical Editing.

  • TWRT 67. Writing for Publication (Non-fiction). Offered as an online course.

Additional electives offered by other departments support technical writing students in areas such as graphic design, Web development, programming, e-business, and many other subjects. See the Elective Course list at AA Degree - Technical Writing.

Do I need a technical background to study technical writing?

No, a technical background is not essential to studying technical writing. The skills you learn in the technical writing program will be valuable in your professional career regardless of whether or not you have a technical background. Writing clear reports, planning efficient programs, and making persuasive presentations are important skills in every area of business today. Technical training is advisable if you want to work in engineering, where you deal primarily with technical material. However, many marketing, sales, executive, and managerial positions demand excellent technical communication skills but do not require a technical background.

Who employs technical writers?

Technical writers are hired by companies involved with electronics, aerospace, medicine, scientific research, engineering, construction, and automobiles. In fact, every product or service that exists needs to be documented and its benefits need to be communicated.

In the Bay Area, computer, multimedia, biotech, and other high tech companies need writers to produce manuals and online documentation. Additionally, government agencies, service firms, and nonprofit organizations need writers who can explain their services in clear, concise language and who can translate their end-users' goals into designers' specifications.

And technical writing is not just for writers. Skilled technical writers are also sought after for executive, managerial, marketing, and sales positions in every industry.

What skills do technical writers use?

Successful technical writers usually combine superb writing skills and a love for learning with a background in technology or marketing. Other skills that will help you be a successful technical writer include:

  • Time management
  • Interviewing
  • Analysis of technical information
  • Desktop publishing
  • Editing
  • Page design and illustration
  • Training

What do employers look for when hiring technical writers?

When you interview for a technical writing position, show the employer evidence that you are flexible and learn quickly, that you work well individually and in a team, and that you accept criticism gracefully and can meet tight deadlines. Invite her to study your portfolio that displays knowledge of business conventions and practices, a wide range and depth of subject matter, and, of course, flawless style, grammar and puncuation. Demonstrate strong interpersonal communication, analysis, and time-management skills. If you can achieve all these goals, you are the ideal candidate employers are searching for.

What computer-related skills do employers look for?

Technical writers should be familiar with one or more of the software tools in each of the categories listed below:

Category Tools
Word processing and page layout Word, FrameMaker, Quark XPress, InDesign, PageMaker
Illustration and graphics Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand
Online help RoboHelp, RoboHTML
Markup languages Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), HyperText Markup Language (HTML), XML
Operating systems and programming Windows UNIX, Linux, Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), PASCAL, C, C++, and Java

Knowledge of computer hardware and networking is also a plus.

While you are studying for your technical writing career, classes in De Anza's Computer Applications and Office Systems (CAOS) department can help you build many of the skills listed above. CAOS classes are often offered on a self-paced basis to accommodate the busy schedules of working people. De Anza's sister college, Foothill College, may offer classes in their CAST department for skills like FrameMaker which are not currently taught at De Anza.


HOME
Program · F.A.Q.s · Careers
Newsletter · Resources · Contact Info
Credits · De Anza College

De Anza College
 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd.
 Cupertino, CA 95014
 (408) 864-5678