Ah, punctuation humour 🙂
I’d like to start by saying that just because I’m a tech author does not mean that I will be adhering to strict rules here. I’ll probably make mistakes with my grammar and punctuation, and honestly, the amount of times I went against my company’s writing guide specifications in my last post alone is more than I’d care to admit. However, I don’t really care. This is a blog after all. No one is going to rely on this nearly as much as the content that we produce at work, so I can use all the contractions and different types of punctuation I want! WOOOO!!
There are several ways of answering this.
Of course, there’s the people that think we just spell check what comes from engineering and repackage it but that is an unfair/grossly under-representation of what we do (although don’t get me started on some sentence structures and punctuation (or lack thereof) that I’ve seen since being here).
[NB I would like to point out however, that I know some very eloquent engineers who can write very well. I’m by no means tarring them all]
A common way of looking at it is that we ‘just’ provide the manuals that go along with the engineering products. This makes it seem pretty trivial, but the better the supporting documentation, the more chance the customers will have of avoiding issues or, be able to solve problems if they arise. This should mean the some of the pressure on the Support group is removed.
The other problem with this is assuming that the only way of communicating is by documents alone, usually pdfs. That is probably still the most common method but by no means the only way. Communicating can mean providing face-to-face sessions for training on a particular topic, it can mean posting on forums and blogs so that the information can get to our end users faster. We do presentations that can be recorded and e-learning modules that can better explain concepts and tools and make the user more confident in their knowledge and understanding.
A good way of looking at it is the recent increase in crafting hobbies, like knitting, at the moment. You know what you want at the end and you need accurate and simple instructions to get there. Diagrams are often provided which makes it a lot easier to understand, especially for people that are new to knitting. Patterns also don’t just come on paper anymore. There are YouTube videos and tutorials for specific types of stitches to full projects depending on how much help is needed.
I know a lot of people find this topic a little…dry sounding. But honestly, having to explain the ‘how, the what and the why’ of the products means that not only do I have to learn about them, but I’ve had to essentially teach myself computer science/basic engineering understanding to understand the information on the products! And I love that. Yes, I admit I miss biology but I read popular science books, I get updates from journals I like and talk to my friends still in that area so I’m not completely missing out.
I also think that as much as I love my job now, in the future, who knows where I’ll end up. What I enjoy most is editing, so I would love to get back into publishing one day, be that academically with journal articles, science textbooks etc. or maybe not STEM publishing at all! That’s the brilliant thing about what I do. I feel like it gives me so many skills that I can work on over the years and apply to other specialisms if I want to move on. (At the very least, I can’t imagine me staying in Cambridge forever…I mean, I want to buy a house one day and unless I marry somebody very well off, I can’t see that happening here).
So that is a fairly quick look at what I do these days. If anyone reading is interested in technical communications, please get in touch, ask me questions J I’m happy to help and give advice if possible. I also highly rate my employer and I believe they are currently accepting applications for their graduate scheme (for engineers and technical communications etc.), so if anyone would like to know more about who I work for, send me a private message.