Fundamentals of Technical Writing

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Description

About This Course

Do you have a knack for explaining complex subjects in a way that makes them easy to understand? If so, you should consider entering the well-paying field of technical writing. This course will teach you the skills you need to succeed as a technical writer. You will learn how to translate complex information into easily understood language, and how to become a wizard at marrying the art of publishing with the science of technology. You'll learn the secrets of successful technical writers, including technical writing conventions, interviewing skills, desktop publishing and formatting techniques, key tips for developing graphics and templates, documentation management, and ho…

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About This Course

Do you have a knack for explaining complex subjects in a way that makes them easy to understand? If so, you should consider entering the well-paying field of technical writing. This course will teach you the skills you need to succeed as a technical writer. You will learn how to translate complex information into easily understood language, and how to become a wizard at marrying the art of publishing with the science of technology. You'll learn the secrets of successful technical writers, including technical writing conventions, interviewing skills, desktop publishing and formatting techniques, key tips for developing graphics and templates, documentation management, and how to publish documents both on paper and electronically. You'll also learn how to get your first job as a technical writer, plus tricks of the trade that enable you to create high-quality documentation with less work.

About The Instructor

This course includes a knowledgeable and caring instructor who will guide you through your lessons, facilitate discussions, and answer your questions. The instructor for this course will be Janet Underwood.

Janet Underwood holds a bachelor's degree and has more than ten years of experience as a senior technical writer. She has developed technical documentation for major corporations in the computer, information technology, telecommunications, financial, and medical industries, as well as for the U.S. Army and public utilities organizations. She has also worked as an English teacher and as an editor and writer for several internationally known trade publications. She has won numerous awards for the excellence of her writing and documentation design, and currently owns a technical writing and services business.

Syllabus

A new section of each course starts monthly. If enrolling in a series of two or more courses, please be sure to space the start date for each course at least two months apart.

Week 1

Wednesday - Lesson 01

Technical writing is a relatively new profession, but people have been writing technical documents for centuries. In our first lesson, you'll learn the fascinating history of technical writing, plus how the instructor (and many others) became technical writers and how technical writing employs both the logical and creative sides of your brain.

Friday - Lesson 02

Technical writing requires preparation. In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of project management for your documentation project (including average amounts of time you should dedicate to different writing activities), key questions to help you analyze your reading audience, and how to organize the information you gather.

Week 2

Wednesday - Lesson 03

In today's lesson, you'll learn powerful communication skills that will help you get the information you need. You'll find out how to develop your listening skills and use body language that keeps you alert and encourages the people you're interviewing to talk with you. You'll also learn how to ask questions that help you get the answers you need more efficiently, and how to apply principles of adult learning when you're analyzing the information you've gathered.

Friday - Lesson 04

Do you ever get writer's block? Most writers do! Today you'll learn how to shut off your internal editor and give yourself permission to write your first draft more quickly and easily. You'll learn tips that will help you keep writing even when you realize you don't have all of the information you need, plus you'll have more confidence after you finish the grammar and punctuation review in this lesson, which includes tips about how to make your writing more interesting.

Week 3

Wednesday - Lesson 05

Every profession has rules and conventions that separate the novices from the pros. In this lesson, you'll learn all about time-honored technical writing conventions, such as using parallel structure, an inverted pyramid style of writing, effective headings, and lists.

Friday - Lesson 06

Should you save your graphics as bitmaps, gifs, or jpgs? In this lesson, we'll go over the difference between the most popular graphics file formats and guidelines for using each. You'll also learn about a new file format called PNG, and how to create screenshots on your PC, then manipulate your shots in Windows' Paint, saving you the expense of far more costly graphics programs.

Week 4

Wednesday - Lesson 07

Formatting your document can be critical to its success. In this lesson, you'll learn how to choose the typeface or typefaces you want to use and principles for using type effectively in your document. You'll learn about the things you need to keep in mind when laying out your pages. We'll take a look at some layouts that are commonly used in technical documents, then we'll discuss how to achieve those layouts using Microsoft Word.

Friday - Lesson 08

Microsoft Word has nearly a 93-percent market share for PC-based word processing—it's the de facto standard for most corporations and government agencies. So chances are high that you'll use it at some time in your technical writing career. In fact, most companies require that you be proficient with Word when considering you for technical writing positions. So in this lesson, you'll learn how Microsoft Word is different from other word-processing applications and how to use, modify, and create Word's paragraph styles.

Week 5

Wednesday - Lesson 09

When companies use Microsoft Word for their documentation, they expect you to know how to use and create Word templates. In this lesson, you'll learn quick ways to build templates, plus you'll learn some Word skills that will help you dazzle potential employers, such as recording macros, customizing your toolbar, and using cross-references, AutoText, and captions.

Friday - Lesson 10

Did you know that indexes are the most widely read section in any technical document? In today's lesson, we'll review indexing conventions, and I'll provide a few tips on building a great index for your document. You'll also learn how to use Microsoft Word to make indexing a bit easier.

Week 6

Wednesday - Lesson 11

To polish your document and make it the best it can be, you need to proofread it and edit it. In today's lesson, you'll learn tips from professional proofreaders and editors, as well as ways you can use Microsoft Word to help you check your spelling and grammar.

Friday - Lesson 12

Publishing your document is an exciting time. All of your hard work is almost done—or is it? In our final lesson, you'll learn about different printing options and how to work with printers. You'll also learn about future trends in publishing and how your documents may be distributed in the future. Last, we'll talk about different ways you can use your technical writing skills in the job market, and a four-step plan for getting your first job, as well as some ideas about freelancing. Questions are always encouraged!


Requirements

Internet access, e-mail, the Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox Web browser, and the Adobe Flash and PDF plug-ins (two free and simple downloads you obtain at http://www.adobe.com/downloads by clicking Get Adobe Flash Player and Get Adobe Reader). and Microsoft Word (Versions 2007, 2003, XP, 2000, or 1997 are all acceptable). This course is not suitable for Macintosh users.

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