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NZ Writing Courses - Editing and Technical Writing

NZ Writing Courses - Editing, Proofreading and Technical Writing (Discussion - Various Contributors) 

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Barbara Jouvernaux wrote:

<<I would like a career in editing / proofreading and I would like to study towards a qualification which is going to get me on this career path. >>

...and Jodie Rush wrote:

<<While working in a software product development team, I fell into technical writing one day when asked to produce a user guide for a module of the in-house software. Now 6 years later, I am still technical writing but have come to a cross-roads and need some advice... [A]re there professional technical writing courses out there somewhere? What are employers looking for these days with regards to technical writing skills and qualifications? >>

Here are the very helpful responses we have since received from readers of this newsletter:

**Tony Murrow  - a reply to Barbara Jouvernaux (editing courses):

<<I work in the book publishing industry in New Zealand, so perhaps my comments are relevant just to that small part of the publishing industry here.

There is a year-long course for entrant book publishing workers that has editing as its main area of focus: Whitireia Publishing. They are based in Porirua, but also have a branch in Auckland (I teach a small part of the course, but not the editing component). There's no web site, but I could email you the snail mail and other details if you 
are interested.

Also, the Local Publishers Forum [LPF] <  > holds seminars and workshops for book publishing workers and wannabe workers every month or so, not necessarily on editing though. The fees for such courses range from $10 (for a two-hour forum/discussion) to around $50 for a half day seminar ... very cheap (it's a non-profit cooperative organisation). LPF is based in Auckland, but 'roadshows' some seminars with the help of BPANZ or other local editing groups. Again, I'm involved in this organisation (technical support). It's got strong associations with the Society of Authors and works very hard for everyone involved in the book industry here...

Hope this helps some, 
Tony Murrow>>

**A Melbourne Career Counsellor  - a reply to Barbara Jouvernaux (editing courses): 

<<Your husband did the right thing. He checked the market place. Your decision is whether you want job skills or an education. There is a tension between these two objectives. University degrees aren't only pretty. They teach us to think, question , interpret ,evaluate, understand. In other words develop our capacity to be full and thoughtful human beings. However it is not the only way. If you want training for a job, check the industry requirements as your husband did. It could help you to do an assessment of your current skills and to clarify the skills you need to learn and develop. Then find out where you can learn them. Speak to publishers, newspapers, editors, proofreaders, societies and institutions. Ask them what they are looking for. Find out how jobs are distributed in these worlds.In other words research, research, research. Also get started now. Start editing and proofreading for local newsletters, publications etc as a volunteer. Do a short course in writing, editing, proofreading. Think about your other skills too .e.g. do you have medical knowledge which could make you attractive to medical publishers, computer skills that would make you attractive to proofreading computer manuals?? It is a life task to develop a career and I wish you well. Melbourne Career Counsellor.>>

Comments? Please email us and they will be posted to the next issue of this newsletter.

** Beverley Stevens - a reply to Jodie Rush (tech writing courses):

<< My recommendation to anyone with on-the-job technical writing and documenting experience who wishes to up their skills and value in the marketplace, as well as gain a recognised certification, is to do the 3-day Information Mapping course on writing and structuring manuals. The course is called 'Mapping Documentation For Online & Paper (MDOP) ' For more information, contact Tactics on 0800 50 50 56 or email

Many NZ and US employers of contract and permanent technical writers ask for Information Mapping experience.

When selecting technical writers myself, I look for analytical ability, evidence of excellent written English, a high degree of competence with software packages (MS Word as the core one) and comfortable learning new ones through self teaching. A degree (any degree) can be a useful indication of analytical skills and language ability, but is not essential.

For links to information about technical writing courses at NZ polytechnics, go to the NZ Technical Writer's Association site Select Resources, then Courses.

Both Unitec and Christchurch Polytechnic courses include components on online documentation. Unitec has a Certificate in Technical Writing which is a subset of the Bachelor of International Communication. Or you might want to enquire about taking specific modules rather than the entire degree/diploma/certificate.

Thanks and regards,

Beverley Stevens
Documents by Design (NZ) Ltd
Ph 64 9 630 9416
Fax 64 9 630 9436
Mobile 025 223 8357  >>

**Word Wifery  - a reply to Jodie Rush (tech writing courses):

<<There is a course in Professional and Technical Communication which is run by Christchurch Polytechnic. It is a post-graduate diploma, although I think they accept work experience as well as actual degrees. All the tutoring takes place using email. >>

**Tim Monck-Mason  - a reply to Jodie Rush (tech writing courses):

<<Have a look at the DPTC web site...I did this full time last year and am now finishing my internship - it has been a very good course, not without any problems - but they are improving and responding all the time. Alison Sanders is very helpful...
Tim Monck-Mason

**Victor Johnson - a reply to Jodie Rush (tech writing courses):

<<Having been directly involved in the field for the past 15 years or so I am unaware of any formal education within the public sector for technical writing. For this reason my company is planning to franchise the competency-based method. This will enable us to train individuals and protect intellectual property and copyright.

The qualifications for the technical writing vocation are derived from within industries. Technical writing evolved from within industries off-shore for development of the competency-based training method and the requirement for written instruction documents. The documents are highly structured for learner readability with elements for self-evaluation, on-job training and performance qualification.

There are technical writing standards that apply successful use of documents by readers.

For example, organisations contemplating SO9000 Standards series certification will find the journey rewarding if documents are technically written for on-job training and reference purposes.

The competency-based method as espoused by the New Zealand qualifications Authority is a curriculum-based performance system, not the competency-based training method as applied within industries.

I know of few New Zealand organisations that have a competency-based training method with documents technically written. Therefore there are no Technical Writer courses within that arena.

The system is expensive to put in place due to the process and procedure analysis combined with time spent in technical writing that can be measured in hours per page.

Some have plagiarized and copied our per verbatim claiming that it is public domain. This is not the case.

Victor Johnson
Managing Director
Premier Organisational Training & Development Consultants Ltd
PO Box 20 357
Te Rapa 
07 849 9982
025 2772790  >>

**On the other hand...

Maybe writers just either "have it" or they don’t. At least this is what Lori Williams  is suggesting here:

<<I don't have a degree in anything having to do with writing, yet it is my aspiration as well. I truly don't think you need one. Writers either "have it" or they don't. Someone with a Master's may not be able to write one interesting or creative paragraph , yet your local auto mechanic may be able to write the most tender and heartfelt poetry you've ever read. Just my opinion. Not that an education can do you wrong on the mechanics side of writing, but I think it comes from the heart, rather than education. >>

Comments? Please email us and they will be posted to the next issue of this newsletter.

Nicole Bishop is the publisher of "Writerfind News", an ezine for professional writers and publishers which focuses on the internet. Subscribe at