Technical Writing at NASA

I must admit, working at NASA as a technical writer would be an interesting experience indeed!

I came across this handbook for technical writers on NASA’s online archive here.

Also interesting, is an old compilation of papers on the technical writing profession on NASA’s website. I enjoyed skimming through this document, particularly the paper titled “How do Technical and Non-Technical Personnel Communicate?” by June Ferrill. I like the tips that she presents in her paper, on how to make for a more productive working relationship between subject-matter experts (ie, engineers) and technical writers.

Elements of Understanding Technical Material by June Ferrill

“Elements of Understanding Technical Material” by June Ferrill

(screenshot taken from here)

The Engineer’s Best Friend

Coming from a lovely family of engineers, naturally, most of my early work experience had to do with engineering documents. Merging into the humanities discipline was rare in my family, but was encouraged by my mother and father who wanted me to pursue my passion. Nevertheless, I loved working on scientific subject matter and all the while learning new things about bearing capacity, slope stability, and foundation analysis.

It seems to me that technical writers and engineers work well together. Engineers write scientific jargon, then turn to the technical writers to decode it for the reading audience.

I enjoy working on engineering documents because it allows me to be exposed to things outside of my field and my educational background. In fact, documents of any discipline are enjoyable to work on and I hope that my technical writing career takes me on more educational journeys.

Converting .doc to epub

I used online-convert.com to convert an old psychology stats report in .doc to epub format for my first assignment in my Web-based documentation course at Algonquin college.

online-convert.com

(screenshot obtained from online-convert.com)

This is what I noted to my professor about the conversion process:

Pros:

  • The conversion process is quite simple and easy.
  • There is a list of target Ebook readers to choose from.
  • It provides the option of changing the Ebook title and author
  • It provides the option of adding a border
  • It provides the option of embedding font
  • For advanced users, they could play around with the input encoding and the ASCII output.

Cons:

  • The Ebook publication did not publish my word file with its formatting (font, spacing, margins, etc)
  • The tables within my word file were not published as figures, but as text.

After converting my Word file into the Epub format, I realized why online-convert.com offered what seemed like many options for the user to choose from before starting the conversion process. Online-convert.com is certainly a useful tool and I may use it again in the future, however, I wouldn’t use it for complex documents that have tables, figures and such graphic elements.

Examples of Jobs in Technical Writing

Paperwork
  • Technical Writers & Editors
  • Indexers
  • Information Architects
  • Instructional Designers
  • Technical Illustrators
  • Globalization & Localization Specialists
  • Usability & Human Factors Professionals
  • Visual Designers
  • Web Designers & Developers
  • Teachers & Researchers of Technical Communication
  • Trainers and E-Learning Developers

This list was obtained from the Society for Technical Communication at http://stc.org/about-stc/the-profession-all-about-technical-communication/defining-tc

Technical Communication as a Profession

“What all technical communicators have in common is a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make someone’s life easier and more productive.” —STC

This blog aims to provide insight on technical communication as a profession and how it is essential across disciplines and fields.

Feel free to browse around!

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