For new and emerging technical writers, education is at the forefront of the conversation. What classes should I take? Who has the best master’s program? Should I get a technical writing certificate? What other certifications should I pursue?
Naturally, when looking at these questions, I start to evaluate my own technical writing education. What lessons do I carry with me every day? Where did I learn the most?
Was it my engineering classes? Sure, they exposed me to the technical world, but it was a world I already felt a part of. They also exposed me to coordinating with technical people (can you say “group project”?). But in the long run, this exposure would have come with any technical writing position.
Then, surely, my literature classes. Organization, research, deadlines. All of these are important as a technical writer. But again, these were less new lessons and more practice. Something that would come with any on-the-job work. Nothing that was new to my way of thinking.
No, when looking back now it had to be my poetry classes that did it. While other classes were focused on reaching page count and sounding as lofty as possible, poetry did just the opposite. My instructors preached careful word choice to evoke emotion and a particular thought in the readers mind. They also taught minimalism and saying just enough to get your point across, not a word more.
I’d say that as a technical writer, I succeed most when keeping a poetic mind. “Why use that word?” “How can we say this more simply?” Those lessons remain the most important part of my education.
What about you? Where did you learn your most important lesson? What lesson did you learn?
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.