Software manuals

Juliette Curtis juliette at
Mon Dec 13 21:29:03 EST 2004

Don't you think there ought to be some kind of Retribution for people 
who tell you their software is trivially easy to use and then make you 
download a 160 page manual, with links to five or six other manuals 
where they actually explain the details? Something slow, with boiling 
oil in it? </snip>

I write those books! I'm a technical writer for a software company. Some 
of my books are 250+ pages and getting longer by the day. Unfortunately 
it's impossible to write about techy stuff without sounding techy, but 
in my own defence my resume says "Committed to documenting complex 
technical subjects in plain English". I strive for simple grammar, short 
words, and unambiguous phrasing. It's harder than it sounds.
Earlier somebody mentionned the various jobs available to writers. I 
always knew I wanted to write for a living and considered the various 
options. I tried newspaper journalism and it was fun but it wasn't right 
for me because I lack the killer instinct. Tech writing came next and I 
love it. It has everything I like about journalism but doesn't have the 
ethical dilemmas.
Tech writing is as creative and enjoyable as fiction writing but not so 
open-ended because tech writing has to describe/document an actual thing 
-- a machine or program or whatever. The disadvantage of tech writing is 
that it satisfies the urge to write. I enjoy writing fiction but don't 
do much of it because I use my writing energy in my job.
I'm lucky to be in a writing career that is so enjoyable. It also pays 
quite well -- that's unusual for a writing job!

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