There is a debate going on today as to whether or not tech writers need certification in their field. STC is offering a certification, and the debate rages on as to how much value it is worth.

I am of two minds of this. On the one hand, it’s always nice to have initials after your name, to show that you’ve studied something and passed their tests. For instance, I’m currently pursuing a CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) certification – Project Management certification for those without the managerial experience. I want to augment what I can already offer, and it’s not outrageously expensive. I’ve been studying it for a while, and am almost ready to take the test.  And I know of others who are certified in other complimentary fields; to show they have the breadth of knowledge to do whatever writing job is necessary for their field.

But the CPTC (Certified Professional in Technical Communication) certification is another story. Their prices are much larger than PMI’s prices, and are currently well beyond my means. They say that you can ask your employer to help – that may have been fine for the 90’s, but for today’s penny pinching climate, some of us need to do this on our own. And it’s not just a test; you have to turn in a portfolio of your work. Which some of us can’t do because of non-disclosure agreements that we have with the companies we work for.  Now, I happen to have a relatively new portfolio because of the work I’ve done for my Master’s degree – I can easily use that. But what about those practitioners who got their degree years ago? Or those who can’t pull together a portfolio without erasing most of the information because it’s all proprietary? A résumé just doesn’t cut it with this certification.

So, unless it comes down in price, I will be forgoing the CPTC certification for now. It’s something that I would love to get, but it’s just not possible, given the current economic status.

Are you pursuing the CPTC? Or other certifications? Please leave a comment below – I’d love to hear your opinion!


Talk to your user?

I’ve almost completed my Master’s degree in Technical Communication, and most of the classes say the same thing. You must talk to the user to see what they need. (This may be different from what they say they want, but that’s a whole other blog post.)

I know it is rule #1 in all of technical writing – Talk to your user. You can’t create a product without knowing what the end-user needs. Yet I’ve been in multiple positions where we were so removed from the end consumer that it’s very hard to know what they really need. I’ve spoken to the client about what they need, I’ve asked to speak to the end-user, and yet the client always says that they know best. So I’ve done what any good writer does – given the client what they ask for.

But then I get some feedback (usually about 6 months later) about how the end-user liked the product I delivered. And it’s usually not as well as I had hoped. They need feature A and I was told to deliver feature B. Or they were expecting feature B and I delivered feature L – something totally different and unrelated to what they need.

And I always find it amusing that the client comes back to me and expects me to take the blame for this. Because it’s my fault that I delivered what I was told to deliver, instead of what the end-user needed.

What do you do in a situation like this? How do you explain to the client that you really do need to communicate with the end-user? Please leave your opinions and comments below – they’re always welcome!

Links for the week

Arnold Burian – a Technical Communication Interview at Technical Communication Center

Do cave paintings reveal the origins of the Health and Safety user manual? at Cherryleaf Technical Authors

A day in a Technical Writer’s life at Technical Writing ToolBox

Writers Are Leaders at Technical Writing Tips for the Oil Patch

I am conflicted about typos at mike’s web log (very interesting point of view)

Hello There!

Hi there!

This is my first try at writing a blog – please be patient with me.

I’m hoping to write about Technical Writing and all of the things I learn from reading other blogs and from my masters degree classes.

Wish me luck!

And – as always – please leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

 – Bridget

Is there a spell check on this thing?

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it is tech writers in general. But I know it annoys me to no end.

What am I talking about? When I read blog posts (OK, anything published) that are chock-full of spelling errors.

Spelling errors are simple mistakes to prevent from being published. There’s something called a Spell Checker that looks through your post and makes certain that everything you’ve written is spelled correctly. It’s usually a button with a check mark and a little “ABC” on top/inside the check mark.

I read a lot of different blogs. And most of the ones I read are pretty good. But every once in a while I come across one that has too many spelling errors to continue reading. That’s when that blog gets crossed off of my list.

What’s your opinion? Do you notice spelling errors?

– Bridget