TECHNIQUES - Archives Nov. 99

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Keeping with the Times in Technical Communication
by Brandi Mason

The technical communication field is constantly changing. Each year new discoveries are made that impact the way technical communicators perform their jobs. College students majoring in technical communication learn the current trends in the field and what skills employers expect. As technical communicators, it is imperative to keep current on the changes in technical communication in order to produce the most effective and highest quality documentation possible.

There are many ways technical communicators can stay current on the changes in the technical communication field. A few are listed below:

Although it is not required to subscribe to all technical communication publications, it is recommended to subscribe to at least one journal and one magazine. Journals typically feature longer articles about findings while magazines contain shorter articles about special interests; both provide a wealth of information that technical communicators will find useful.

Online Resources

Get online. The Internet has become the number one source for information including resources about technical communication. Although it may take some time to find the most useful technical communication sites, it is well worth the time. Once the most useful sites are found, bookmark them, and visit them frequently as the information contained within them is often updated.

Listservs provide an interactive way for technical communicators to review and analyze new ideas, discuss old trends and argue about current practices. Subscribers to the listserv do not have to be active in submitting questions or making statements as most subscribers prefer to read the comments posted by other subscribers. Listservs keep people current about topics and ideas that are presently being considered; however, do not expect to find definite answers for many of the people actively involved in listservs rarely agree on anything.

Professional Organizations

Become a member of a professional technical communication organization such as the Society for Technical Communication (STC). STC provides members with current information and trends in technical communication. It does this by holdingmeetings at local and regional levels and annual national conferences. The organization also provides its members with a monthly magazine and a quarterly journal that contain information for technical communicators and special interest groups.

For more information about STC or becoming a member, visit


Enroll in courses at local community centers, community colleges, and universities. Although these establishments may not offer courses directly related to the study of technical communication, many of them offer courses in computer software, visual design, graphic layout, and practical grammar. If any of these establishments offer courses in technical communication, take a one and learn about the new trends and styles that are being taught and discuss why the old styles are no longer practiced.

Taking additional courses provides an opportunity to improve writing skills while using the latest computer technology. Technical communication is an emerging field that is constantly changing. With all the changes in styles and trends, it is important to be informed and to keep up-to-date.

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