“The Tech Writer’s Survival Guide”

By Deane Barker on October 1, 2002

This is an extraordinarily broad overview of technical writing. So broad that the author delves into subjects like how to write your resume, how to take criticism, and even how to avoid on-the-job injuries like repetitive stress injuries and eye-strain. And, oh yes, somewhere in there is some information on technical writing…

Actually, that’s not fair. From the outset, this book proclaimed itself as less of a technical writing manual and more of a…well, survival guide. It’s not so much about the nuts and bolts of technical writing as it is about what it’s like to be a technical writer. There are some basic building blocks of writing style in there, but a lot of the book covers things like how to plan a project, how to get cooperation from your subjects, how to handle office politics, how to run an interview, etc.

A necessary side-effect of this breadth is shallow-ness. The book doesn’t dig too deep in any one area. Moreover, the book is breezy to begin with. I started reading it on take-off in Sioux Falls, and was more than halfway done when I landed in La Guardia three-and-a-half hours later. For someone who wants to find out what the life of a tech writer is like, and who wants the big picture of the challenges a tech writer faces, this is a great book. For someone who wants specific instruction on technical writing best practices, they’d do best to look elsewhere.