Technical Writing

AAlthough I’m not primarily a tech writer, I  have a rather strong geeky side, and have done quite a bit of technical writing over the years. Some of it was for employers, while I was Director of Technology for a very small company and then Director of Web Technology for a much larger company. (Despite the fancy- sounding titles, my primary function in both jobs was writing.) I’ve also done tech writing as a freelancer, which is what I am now.

This page is an overview of the kinds of tech writing I’ve done. I’m proud of the work, but there are currently no examples of it on this website. The following descriptions should make clear why there are no examples of my past tech-writing work for clients posted here.

(On the other hand, you’ll find plenty of examples of my business writing assignments on this site.)

Technical Guides for Company Staff

Sometimes, relatively non-technical staff need to learn more about specific areas of technology relevant to their business.TTech guides designed for use by non-technical staff need to be carefully tailored to both their existing level of knowledge and their practical needs.I’ve written a number of guides that address this; they’re typically “published” in easily updatable looseleaf binders for use within a company. This kind of writing is actually quite tricky, because it needs to be targeted at just the right tech level for a somewhat diverse staff too superficial, and they won’t learn what they need to know; too deep, and they’ll fall asleep or (more likely) just not read it. Also, such guides often need to be integrated with company training programs, which I’ve also been involved with.

For example, as Director of Web Technology for a large, world-wide employment agency, I wrote guidebooks and handouts explaining how websites work “under the hood,” how that technology relates to typical Web-project job functions, and how applicants for those jobs might be evaluated.

In addition to becoming obsolete fairly quickly, such material is by its nature tied to a specific company’s internal processes and is often confidential. That’s why you won’t find examples of it reproduced here. I might let a prospective client glance at it for a few seconds so they can get a general sense of what it is but that’s about it.

Tests

Companies sometimes use tests to evaluate the skills of job applicants, especially in technical areas. If you ever ask me to write a test for your company, you can be confident that:

I’ve written quite a few tests for technical proficiency over the years. Typically they include a mix of hands-on tasks and short-answer questions (including easy-to-grade but hard-to-guess multiple choice questions). The topics I’ve written tests for include:

In addition to the geeky tests, I’ve also written:

Test-Grading Manuals

I sometimes write detailed test-grading manuals to accompany the tests I write. In some cases, the people assigned to grade the tests may be less expert in the subject matter than the people taking the test. That’s obviously not ideal, but if the company doesn’t want to restrict the test to easily gradable multiple-choice questions for example, if the test involves writing computer code, correcting a badly written passage of text, or performing operations in a computer-graphics program and if so many applicants are being tested that using subject-matter experts to grade all the tests is impractical…then a test-grading manual carefully conceived and written for use by somewhat knowledgeable non-experts may be the best available option.

Of course, the contents of tests are by their nature confidential, and the grading guides perhaps even more so, so I can’t show you actual examples here.

Technical Articles

I’ve had several articles published on topics such as…

These articles, mostly written for niche magazines in the computer or graphics fields, received excellent feedback. I don’t put them on this website because they were written a long time ago, and the technical information in them is totally obsolete. Although I might intend them simply as examples of my writing, people would inevitably come to them via search engines while looking for current information on those topics and either be misinformed by the obsolete material or be amazed at how outdated my knowledge is! Actually I do keep up-to-date in these fields, but a disclaimer might not be noticed by the reader. It seems simpler to just not include the articles on this website.

Tech/Marketing Crossover Materials

There isn’t always a clear line between technical and marketing communications, and I’m adept at creating what you might call “crossover” materials. For example, when the president of a company asked me to create some bullet lists of the key skills required in several technical fields, I took the assignment much further and ended up (with his encouragement) inventing the Talent Skills and Prices Guide. Initially it covered 2-D Animators, 3-D Animators, CD-ROM Developers (remember them?), Digital Artists, Digital Video Producers/Directors, Electronic Production Artists/Prepress Technicians, Graphic Designers, Illustrators, Presentation Artists, Web Designers, Webmaster/SysAdmins, and Web Programmers.

When he sold his company to a much larger company, this reference guide was part of the package they acquired. They eventually expanded it into an entire series of printed publications which they gave as gifts to prospective customers and partners. It became a key part of their marketing program.

This story highlights what is perhaps my most useful role to some companies: as a communications inventor and prototyper. I often exceed expectations and (if the client approves) end up creating something even more valuable than what they originally envisioned.

Technical Column

The Contact San page gives several ways to get in touch, including a quick text-message box. Who says a contact page can’t be fun!

In the earlier days of the Web, I created an online column about Web-development issues to help a company spice up its website. Unusually for that time, and despite the technical subject matter, the column was written with a rather personal slant and with a decided sense of humor. Today we’d probably call that a blog, but the blog concept (and format) didn’t exist yet.

The Tell A Friend panel makes it easy to tell someone else about this website. You can view a strong privacy pledge, and preview what will be sent.

Luckily for me, the column is no longer available online the technical content would be outdated today, and the controversies of that time have been replaced with a whole new range of arguments. Also, not all my predictions came true! Nonetheless, the column received lots of enthusiastic reader response while it was live. The point is that I’m able to take what is normally dry subject matter and give it enough of a quirky spin so that people will actually notice it but not so much as to make a serious subject seem like mere foolishness.

Next step…

If you have a need for technical writing and aren’t sure whether I would be suitable, why not contact me and find out?

This page includes descriptions of…

My tech projects for clients or employers have included:

  • San on Web, an online column about website design and production
  • The Talent Skill and Price Guides, a series I invented for an international talent/employment agency
  • Complete testing packages to evaluate graphic artists, Web developers, and prepress production people; plus grading guides and training curricula for the test administrators
  • A technical handbook on Web development for non-geeks
  • A glossary of medical terminology for laypeople

My areas of technical knowledge:

The best tech writing is done by people with solid knowledge of their subjects (although there are occasional exceptions). Here’s a popup window  listing some areas in which I have expertise… and yes, I wrote the code for it (and everything else on this website) by hand!