Photo of Dorcia Johnson, PSU AlumnaDorcia Johnson
Senior Technical Writer/Technical Editor

Pitsco, Inc., Pittsburg, Kansas
2000 M.A. in Professional Writing and Rhetoric

As a senior technical writer for Pitsco, I perform many tasks such as writing, coding, creating graphics, designing layouts, researching, and editing. I have the opportunity to exercise a variety of skills daily.

My primary responsibility is writing. I create online tutorials, user guides, marketing materials, project documentation reports, correlation reports, letters, and more. The parameters of the writing project define which skills are needed to complete the document. While much of my day is spent writing documents, I also spend a fair amount of time administering usability and beta tests, addressing editing notes, and doing product comparisons. Attending meetings with programmers, other writers, editors, and sales team members also keeps me busy.

My responsibilities also include technical editing for various projects. I edit reports, Web sites, letters, articulations, and correlations. Different levels of editing are employed for different documents. Proofreading, copy editing, and developmental editing are all part of my job.

From one day to the next, I don't know if I'll be writing or editing, working on a Mac or PC, or doing a little bit of everything.

A typical day begins with a quick check of my e-mail and a review of the corporate Intranet, which I helped create. Then, I review my project list and determine what the priority for the day is. I typically have two or three projects with the same level of priority, so I try to divide the day into equal sections. Sometimes, I focus the entire day on one project, especially when it can be wrapped up in a single day. Most days, I'm working on online tutorials or documentation projects.

After determining the day's projects, I begin working on my Dell or iMac. I may have to spend some time doing a Google search or reviewing product documentation before I can begin writing. Then the fun part begins. I draft a document for the project and then move on to another project. Taking time to let the first project sit - gaining some distance from what I've written - helps tremendously when I go back to revise. Everything I write is revised three or four times before it goes to an editor.

With a polished draft in front of me, I begin taking the necessary screen shots or writing descriptions of required graphics. Typically, I create and manipulate my own graphic files, but there are projects that I gladly hand over to a professional graphic artist. While taking the screen shots, I often find errors in the drafted document - something like a skipped or miswritten step.

At this point in the day, either I switch to a new project or I'm determined to get the screen shots and document combined before I leave the project. If I stay with the project, I start coding HTML and PHP to create a PHP file. I know just the basics of programming and often call one of the programmers to glean information or advice. They are happy to help because every line of code I write is one less that they have to write themselves.

Coding the file ends one phase and begins another one. At this point, I upload the file to a test server and begin the testing process. I test the tutorial myself before releasing it to anyone else. When I'm satisfied with it, the real testing begins. I find users to review the tutorial, and I send the file to be edited. The feedback generated from these two groups sends me back to the coded file to make corrections. Eventually, the tested, edited file is uploaded to the live Web site and is ready for use by the customer.

I typically complete at least one step of this process daily - but each step might be for a separate project. While one project is in testing and editing, I'm busy writing or coding the next one.

In short, a day in my life at work is spent writing, reading, and editing.