Success as a Tech Writer
"While some freelance technology writers may be experts upon entering the field, there are some freelance writers who discover technology writing by accident. To be successful as a technology writer, you will need to find out what sources the experts use when looking for tech-related news or information...Read the technology sections of well-respected newspapers like the New York Times. Familiarizing yourself with the style of professional technology writers, and the type of content that makes the news[,] is essential. Take advantage of opportunities; don’t apply for casting calls for which you aren’t qualified, but when technology assignments are uploaded to the general pool, pick up an assignment. Stick to assignments that are straightforward...Write about a device you have so you can explore features on your own phone. Learn about the phone’s most appealing features...Be on the lookout for reviews of products, announcements of new products, updates to existing products, or other news that may be relevant to the solvency or reputation of a technology company...Freelance technology writers should make a point of keeping up with important and newsworthy technology stories. Mobile devices are always big news...Be sure you keep up with news that will be important to businesses. Mobile marketing is very big these days, so make a point of learning about all the different ways that mobile marketing can help businesses, both with their bottom line and in building their customer base...One of the biggest trends in technology today is social networking. Businesses are discovering how useful it is for attracting customers, and for building a solid base of loyal customers. If you can promote your writing through social media, you will connect with people in the industry. Self-promotion is also a good way to get noticed...When there is breaking news about anything, social media sites are often the first to broadcast it, so by paying attention to posts, you avoid a situation where you don’t find out about something until days after it made news. Make a point of keeping up with technology news by reading technology content in newspapers, watching news segments on television, and following technology blogs. You can also sign up to receive notices about important content from sources like the New York Times. By learning as much as possible about hot topics related to technology, you’ll have the knowledge to write about different aspects of the field with much greater authority."
Nadine Smith reports:
"In a reaction paper, the writer responds to what she has seen and heard, explaining her feelings and thoughts and relating the subject to course material or her own life. Thus, a reaction paper is a personal composition and does not follow a rigid structure. However, each paragraph in a reaction paper should still include a topic sentence and maintain unity and coherence among ideas...Pick one point that the speaker or film made that you found meaningful or convincing or that you strongly disagreed with. Write a topic sentence that explains this point and briefly states your reaction to it...Describe your reaction in detail. Write your thoughts, feelings and observations. Use analogies or imagery if helpful...Explain the reason for your reaction...Reflect on the significance of the event in relation to the course, school or even your own life. Discuss how watching or experiencing the event will affect your future, whether it’s something as minor as what happens today or as major as your future career...Conclude your reaction paper paragraph with a sentence that brings closure to the ideas you presented, rather than ending abruptly...Edit your paragraph for clarity, and correct any grammar and spelling mistakes. Check that the ideas in your sentences connect from one to the other like links in a chain. Ensure your concluding sentence relates back to the topic sentence...Avoid simply summarizing what happened. A reaction paper covers the writer’s experience; it does not strive to retell the event from an objective point of view."
"If you take the time to write good survey questions, you’ll be well on your way to getting the reliable responses you need to reach your goals...Not only do you have to pick what type of question to ask, [but] you [also] have to decide how to ask it...Keeping language simple and direct in general is very important. Talk to people on their level. Avoid grammatical messiness like double negatives and off-putting vocabulary like industry jargon or overly technical concepts. If you are going to reference a concept that your respondents may be unfamiliar with, don’t just gloss over it. Remember, these people are interrupting their busy days to do your survey and they’ve got a lot on their minds...If you don’t explain what you’re talking about, you risk respondents getting frustrated and quitting your survey, or, even worse[,] answering the question randomly. The former will raise the cost of getting your data, and the latter will lower your data quality...Always ask about just one idea at a time...For example, take the question: How organized and interesting was the speaker? If a respondent answers 'moderately' to this question, what does that mean? Moderately organized AND moderately interesting? Extremely interesting but only slightly organized? Or vice[-]versa. This confusion on how to interpret the answer becomes a real problem when you want to give feedback to your speaker. Do you tell her to be more organized or more interesting next time? End all of this confusion simply by writing two questions instead of one. For example: How organized was the speaker? How interesting was the speaker? Now you have separate ratings for each idea—this makes providing feedback quicker and easier for your respondents, and it makes that feedback easier for the speaker to respond to...Writing survey questions that bias respondents toward one answer violates a survey’s objectivity and biases the answers you get to your questions...[T]ry to focus on more specific qualities...[as] it will dilute the power of sweeping generalizations...It’s best if you can avoid inserting your own opinions into the question altogether, as these opinions will bias the answers. This, however, is not always possible. In that case, try to keep the survey balanced as a whole. Frame some of your survey questions in a positive way and some in a negative way...Keeping the tone of your survey balanced and even-handed will ensure that you get people’s 'true' attitudes instead of what they think you want to hear. This will help you make the right decisions, and alert you when you have a problem."
Charmayne Smith reports:
"The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported about 25,900 general convenience stores in operation during 2008. These convenience stores range from small, limited inventory stores to large, high-volume locations. This fair amount of competition makes the convenience store business plan a necessity to ensure the store’s longevity and competitiveness...Create the general business description for your convenience store. List the registered name and business structure of your business...Use this section to summarize the convenience store’s financial outlook. Include a brief breakdown of the startup costs and equity needed for your store...Identify the products and services that your convenience store will provide. Include a description of its general merchandise, along with any additional services that the convenience store will provide...Break the items into categories and detail each service...Research the convenience store industry in your area as the information will assist you in completing a market analysis. Use resources such as Convenience Store News, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census and the Texas Grocery & Convenience Association for information. Seek assistance from the local U.S. Small Business Administration...if you encounter research difficulties...Begin the marketing analysis with an overview of the industry’s economic outlook. Explain the current and forecast state of your area’s convenience store industry, the overall economic climate of the area and the target market, or customer profile, of the store’s intended customers. Follow the overview with a detailed analysis of the convenience store industry, your convenience store’s target market...Include a competitive analysis. Display the number of convenience stores in your store’s area that will compete for the customer’s business. Identify your store’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Explain the strategies your business will use to compete with the competition while overcoming the identified weaknesses and threats...Develop a marketing plan that will create maximum visibility for your convenience store. Identify the signage you will use to attract customers. Explain how your store will create and maintain regular customers, as well as walk-in traffic. Explain the pricing that your convenience store will use for its products and services. Include a condensed products and services list in this section...Explain the convenience store’s organizational structure. Include an organizational chart for quick reference. Be sure to identify whether the staff are full-time or part-time employees. Include the salary information for each position, along with the costs for any benefits or training sessions...Provide details on your convenience store’s location and operations. Give an exact address if the location has already been secured. List the store’s hours of operations, including weekend and holiday hours...List the fixtures, equipment and furniture the store will need to operate efficiently, including cash registers, coolers and shelving. Identify the legal requirements that your store must meet and list them, along with their costs. Include requirements such as zoning laws, licensing and vending requirements, taxes and building lease information. List your supplier and merchandising information. Include each supplier’s costs, delivery fees and turnaround times...Complete a profit and loss statement, cash flow analysis, balance sheet and personal financial statement. Use forecast and projected figures if your store has yet to open for business. Make reasonable and attainable assumptions. Include easy-to-read charts of your projections for quick reference...Complete the executive summary and place it at the front of the business plan. Use this section to summarize the business plan’s information. Limit the executive summary to no more than two pages. Include a summary of the convenience store’s management team, mission statement and forecast sales goals."
Robert Simmons reports:
"One of the most important tasks a fire officer, or typically the company officer, must complete after an incident is to submit a complete and accurate incident report...So, what makes incident report writing a crucial aspect of our job?...An incident report is a legal document. In the event of an incident leading to some form of litigation, the incident report may certainly be subpoenaed. Gordon Graham, a popular public safety consultant, explains that avoiding civil liability requires two things: 'First, you must do your job right. Second[ly], after getting it done right, you must be able to prove it.' The only way to prove it is by properly documenting the incident...The better we are at documenting our strengths and weaknesses on emergency responses, the better the information will be when the chief looks at the future of the organization...Proper incident reporting helps us understand the fire problem in the United States. The National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) is a data collection initiative managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). All 50 state fire management agencies report emergency responses through NFIRS, and most require fire departments in their state to use NFIRS. Additionally, reporting to NFIRS is required if your department has received a grant under the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program...Complete incident reports can help us individually. Most incident reporting programs allow you to run queries on archived information. If we accurately record our actions in a report, we can use that information to build our resumes for promotions. Providing accurate and complete information in an incident report allows us to quantify our experience for promotions...[T]he company officer’s job does not end when the apparatus is in quarters. Rather, that is when the documentation part of their job begins. So, let’s look at three fundamentals of incident report writing...How can we write a proper and effective report? Here are three basic rules to follow...It is commonly taught in report writing classes that a misspelled procedure or finding in an EMS report is akin to not having done the procedure at all...Correct spelling and grammar in an incident report is essential in relaying information properly. The purpose of an incident report is to paint a picture of the incident for those with a need to read the report. If it is full of spelling and grammatical errors, it will be difficult to read and could land us in hot water if the report is used in a court case. Most incident reporting applications include a spell-check feature you can use to avoid spelling errors. However, this does not spot errors all of the time...Have someone else read the report prior to completing and submitting it...Write in a clear and simple language that can be understood...Exclude technical jargon and abbreviations that a layperson cannot understand...Incident reports should contain accurate information. One of the most common areas to put inaccurate information is timestamps. Often, we forget to report to dispatch when we have reached a benchmark, such as fire control or patient contact. This leads to not having accurate times in our incident reports. It is important to relay benchmark events to the people keeping track of our times. This could be the dispatch center or the incident commander. Regardless of how times are tracked, they must be accurately recorded in the report. Another area where accuracy is key is in the use of NFIRS codes. The NFIRS system uses a series of number codes [which]...assist us in analyzing response data both locally and nationally. It is important that we use the correct codes when completing our reports. FEMA has produced a Coding Questions Manual to assist us in selecting the appropriate codes...An incomplete report is of no use to the fire officer, the organization, or the court system. Additionally, since incident reports are legal documents, not providing all available information in the report can have legal or administrative ramifications. An NFIRS report has certain required fields. Often, we only fill in these required fields because that is all we need to do to submit the report. However, there is so much more we can do by providing all of the information we have available to us. By doing so, it keeps us in a safe, legal territory, provides more data for budget justifications, and allows us to better understand the fire problem in the United States."
Jill Leviticus reports:
"A good job description provides information that helps both supervisors and employees understand what tasks the employee will and will not perform. Tasks are described in detail in the roles and responsibilities section of the job description. Taking the time to research individual tasks will help you ensure that the roles and responsibilities section is comprehensive and complete...Before you begin the final draft of the job description, you must first determine which duties the employee performs. If an employee is currently working at the job, ask him to describe to you the functions he normally completes in the course of a week or month. If you plan to create a new position, decide what duties the new employee will handle. Give each duty a description and place it on your job description task. List the most important duties first...Look at each duty on your list and write detailed information about the tasks needed to accomplish the duty. RecruitLoop.com suggests that you limit descriptions to no more than two or three sentences, and include an action, object and purpose. If the duty is 'Prepare Monthly Sales Reports,' write the steps the employee will need to complete the report...While you won’t need to include every minor step needed to complete a duty, the description should provide enough information to adequately portray the scope of the employee’s involvement...Include a roles and relationships section that explains how the employee will interact with other employees or departments. The roles section might say the employee will manage other sales representatives and be responsible for ensuring the department meets its quotas...If the employee is to serve as a mentor to other employees or provide training, mention these facts as well...Avoid using jargon when writing job descriptions. Write the description in simple language that clearly explains the tasks, roles and responsibilities. Be sure to include specific information regarding frequency of tasks. Write that the employee will spend 20 percent of the day updating the database, rather than noting that the database often needs updating. Don’t assume that the job will be performed by a certain gender. The U.S. Small Business Administration website suggests using 'he/she' in descriptions and advises that you find a way to write sentences that don’t require the use of gender pronouns."
Carol Cochran reports:
"Back in January 2013, Matthew Ross, a San Diego State University student, sent a now-famous cover letter to a Wall Street firm looking for a foot in the door...[Y]ou’ve got to read the happy ending [to it]. Then, if you’re a job seeker, get to work writing an honest cover letter of your own. Let’s set aside the much-debated topic of whether or not to even include a cover letter with your resume...Let’s also face the facts—an honest cover letter can help your application stand out to a recruiter who is looking through hundreds of applications. Whether or not you actually get the job depends on your qualifications matching the skills required and the strength of your interview...The tone of Mr. Ross’ cover letter wouldn’t go over well in all cases. He showed an understanding of the culture of the investment banking industry and the company he wanted to work for. The voice a job seeker uses to introduce themselves will give a recruiter a good feel for whether or not the personality will be a good fit for their company and culture...Address the elephant in the room and be courteous in requesting consideration. But don’t stop there. Quickly outline two or three ways that show how you fit the job description...If there are obvious questions a company will have about your application, talk about them. Explain why you’ve switched jobs every year for the past five years. Tell them how you’ve kept your professional self relevant during an employment gap. Highlight transferable skills that make this career change realistic...If you know you can be great at a particular job, but need a chance to prove yourself and learn from others, a willingness to be mentored or to take an internship can turn into a full-time job. Just ask Matthew Ross."
Using Extrapolation in Writing
Robin Hathaway reports:
"Some writers can’t write about anything unless they have experienced it [firsthand]. If they write about climbing Mt. Everest, they must climb Mt. Everest; if they write about escaping from killer sharks, they must swim with killer sharks; if they write about being stranded in the desert, they must become stranded in the desert, and so on and on. I am not one of these writers. And I’m sure I’m not alone. But take heart fellow cowardly writers, for there is an alternative. It’s called extrapolation. As defined by Webster, to extrapolate is 'to project, extend or expand known data or experience into an area not known or experienced.' Or, as my grandfather put it less elegantly, but more simply, 'You don’t have to stick your head in the garbage can to know it stinks.' Wise old grandpa. For example, most moms have experienced losing sight of their child in a crowded airport, train station or department store. The panic, the rush of adrenalin, the icy fear. And they have also felt the dizzy relief, the joy mixed with anger, when the tot shows up, peeking out from a rack of clothing. It is not too hard to extrapolate those feelings into what a mother feels when her child is kidnapped, and later returned...[In my novel] I was trying to describe the claustrophobic feelings of a young man on a submarine. I remembered playing hide and seek as a child when some smart-aleck kid locked me in the closet where I was hiding. Presto! That panicky, trapped feeling came back in a rush and I was able to give those feelings to my character. While working on another novel, I had to describe what it’s like to ride a motorcycle. A kind friend let me sit on his Harley, parked on a busy highway[,] and that was enough. I could imagine the rest—the throb of the motor, the wind in my hair, and narrowly missing an eighteen-wheeler. So—relax. You don’t have to risk your life to write. Extrapolate. That’s what we have imaginations for."
Nazvi Careem reports:
"Knowing how to write a news article is one thing. How to benefit financially from that knowledge is another. For editors, a freelance journalist can be an irritant and a savior all at once. They can be bothersome when repeatedly proposing story ideas at busy deadline times but they can also rescue a news desk that may be short of staff on any particular day. The key to freelance journalism is to keep plugging away with quality work so that the editor will always have time for you. To get a foot in the door of your local newspaper, a freelancer should know four things – the news, the editors, the newsmakers and the follow-ups...[Y]ou’d be amazed at the number of freelancers who have no knowledge of local issues but believe the quality of their writing gives them first right to premium column space. It doesn’t matter how well you write, [because] if your article is irrelevant to the publication’s agenda, it has little chance of getting used. Take time to read the paper. Go through the issues and gain an understanding of its editorial stance and what it cares about...[Editors] are the gatekeepers of your articles and they could drop your stories at a whim. You should know them, their names, positions in the company, demeanor and how they feel about certain issues, which can give you an idea on how to slant your articles for a better chance of getting published...It is crucial that you know who makes the news and who doesn’t. Go through newspapers in your area and identify which people are the ones who are quoted and to what issues they are often sought out for. Once you know that, go through the phone directory and get their contact numbers. Your ultimate aim is to get to know these people voice-to-voice, face-to-face on a professional, and even personal, level...[Follow-ups are] what will brand you as a journalist. And, significantly, this is not something you can read up on but it is what you generate from your own head. If an issue crops up, arm yourself with the knowledge required from the first three points and then work on a possible follow-up story. Remember, the in-house reporters will probably be doing the same thing, so you should try to think of a different angle. This will prevent you from stepping on toes and also raise your standing in the eyes of editors. Once you have all this in your head, call or email the editor and tell him or her your story idea. If it is topical, fresh and relevant to what the paper had in its latest issue, and it takes the story further, there is a good chance it will be used. If so, you have your foot in the door. This does not only apply to newspapers. There are magazines and online news outlets that can also be targeted. Follow these four rules and kick-start your freelance journalism career."
Lynn Anders reports:
"Landscaping businesses take little time to manage once you have the right tools and business license. However, you will want to establish landscaping contracts with all your clients and keep these updated. Without a written contact, property owners may not have a clear understanding of what services you agreed to provide or when the payment is due. Having a landscaping contract that lays out the services will prevent miscommunication between you and your client and help enforce your nonpayment procedures...Put the basic information about the property to which the landscaping contract applies at the top of the contract. This includes the property address, name of person responsible for the bill and a contact phone number...Measure and record the general area of the lawn, flowerbeds and other areas that are to be serviced by you. Then, make it clear in the contact that if the yard space increases, your fees will need to be renegotiated...Write down how often you agree to service the property, such as once a week or every other week...List the major duties to be completed during each visit. Duties may vary depending on the needs of the property owner...Add information about your services and duties during different seasons...Also, include if seasonal duties, such as leaf raking and spring flower planting, are part of the regular fee or will be done at an additional cost...List your prices for the agreed-upon services. You may need to list different prices for different seasons...Put a due date for the monthly service fee to be due and your accepted payment options. Add to this, that if the payment is not received by the agreed-upon due date, late fees will be added and all future landscaping services will be discontinued until the account is paid in full...Provide a place for both you and your client to sign and date the contract...Use a separate landscaping contract for one-time big landscaping renovations or projects. This contract can include information from your standard service contract with the added information pertinent to the project. In this contract, add the design and other details of the project, cost of the materials and labor, any deposits due, who is responsible for obtaining permits, your warranties or guarantees about the project, and a completion date."
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