Today at work I was assigned the task to write a “Manual” for a particular piece of software we are deploying. The mere sound of this gave me chills, I am not a particularly talented writer and a horrible speller. When I was in school, there were several classes we took that made an emphasis on technical writing and they always complained about the fact that “Computer Science People” can’t write. I used to complain about said classes and hardly payed attention to them when I was taking them. But now that I need to use said skill, I am finding it much more difficult than I thought. See for me a simple combination of key strokes would be sufficient in order to understand how to make a process. For example something like Open Work, press Ctrl A to select all then press Ctrl C to copy go to new document and press Ctrl V to paste. But when you are writing a technical document for a not so technical crowd (Refer to my Excel Database fiasco) you can’t just spell out what they need to do in terms of keyboard shortcuts.
I have found that a simple task such as log in can be very time consuming to describe in writing. You have to be very detailed, explain what their user name is, what their password is, where they can reset it / acquire it. All of this needs to be encompassed with screen shots and fancy arrows that point you to the right direction.
In one of those classes I mentioned, the professor explained that there are people whose sole purpose is to write technical documentation. My hat goes off to them, the amount of patience and detail oriented reasoning required for this is far much more than what I am willing to put into. Will someone please hand me a manual for some language preferably some obscure one so that I may spend the next month reading instead of writing?