The Hi Tech Guru. Mastering technical writing with Frank A Hilario

clip_image002MANILA: If you're looking for a resource person to teach technical writing, I'm your Hi Tech Guru. And I'm available at a moment's notice. I bring my laptop; you bring your LED or LCD projector, and we're in business in 5 minutes. Your place, not mine.

If you're looking for actual experience behind my offer, let me tell you that I was the founding Editor in Chief of the Canopy, the popular/semi-technical monthly newsletter of the Forest Research Institute (FORI) in the mid-1970s, as well as the founding Editor in Chief of the Sylvatrop, The Philippine Forest Research Journal, the quarterly technical journal of FORI also in those years. These 2 publications were so successfully written, edited and produced that, along with the Habitat, the quarterly popular color magazine of FORI, of which I was also founder and Editor in Chief, they catapulted that Institute into international recognition.

Quality as well as speed characterized my outputs. I was never late with any of the issues of those 3 publications, and those were the years when the typewriter was still king and the personal computer was just beginning to make inroads into the writing, editing, and publishing industries abroad, not yet in the Philippines.

If you're looking for recent experience, let me tell you that I was the Editor in Chief of the Philippine Journal of Crop Science, which is published by the Crop Science Society of the Philippines based at UP Los Baños. The PJCS was coming out 3 times a year; when I came in as Editor in Chief in 2003, the PJCS was 3 years late. So, I worked on the issues from year 2001 until I resigned in year 2008. In 2006, or 3 years from when I actually started in 2003, I made the PJCS up-to-date, meaning that it was now appearing on time, in April, August and December. The next year, the PJCS became ISI, which meant the journal was now internationally recognized as world-class, that is, not only coming out on time but more so was well-reviewed, well-edited and well-produced. ISI is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval of technical publications worldwide; it's uncanny that ISI looks almost the same as ISO, the acronym for companies and institutions that have measured up to international standards of quality.

All that should be telling you that I know a technical paper from head to foot, and front and back. Because of my long experience, I can tell you in 5 minutes or less what's wrong with your technical paper, or even your thesis.

Formally, I have studied to be a teacher in high school; informally, I have been my own teacher in writing, editing, photography, desktop publishing, and bookmaking. I must explain further my ability to write and edit - it applies both to technical writing as well as creative writing, and both to technical editing as well as creative editing.

There are good technical editors out there, or at least good technical reviewers of papers submitted for publication, but I think there is only one technical editor who is good at it all - and who is well-grounded in technical writing, editing, reviewing, and desktop publishing all at the same time, using PC-based Microsoft Windows and Office 2010, especially Word 2010 as both as a high-end word processor and a high-tech desktop publisher.

So, if you asked me, I could conduct what I would call "An Experience-Based Technical Writing Workshop" good for 5 weekdays.

The experience is yours and mine. Your 5-day experience during the workshop is based on my 37-year experience (a) being Editor in Chief of the Sylvatrop, published by FORI, (b) being Editor in Chief of the PJCS published by the CSSP, and (c) having edited at least 100 theses and dissertations. With me as facilitator, you the participant will benefit from 90% hands-on, learning practical, results-oriented technical writing. During the workshop, as bonus, you will also learn shortcuts in the use of Microsoft Word, any version, for easier technical writing.

Requirements:
(1) Each participant brings own laptop or has total access to a desktop computer during the training.
(2) An LCD/LED projector is available for use all the time.
(3) Software: Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 or 2010

Expected inputs: Each participant brings either a draft manuscript or a research report that can be turned into a technical paper. Each also brings a flash drive for copying files.

Expected output: 1 new technical paper written, complete, until Draft 3, for each participant

Day 1, Handling The 10 Most Critical Elements of a Paper

With an actual draft manuscript or research report, I will point out to you the 10 most critical elements of a technical paper. The list is completely, originally mine, and I will reveal the 10 during the actual workshop, on Day 1. Suffice it to state here that the list contains what I have seen as the most neglected components of a manuscript. While you may know the traditional parts of a technical paper, you may not know what are the problematic elements in the Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, Conclusions, Recommendations, and Bibliography - not to mention tables, figures and other illustrations.

To give you an example, I almost always find that the Results reported in a technical paper, even in a dissertation, do not match or satisfy the Objectives! You will be surprised when I'll explain and show it.

For you the participant to maximize your experience, you either bring a draft of a manuscript of a technical paper you or somebody else has written, or the loose sheets of a technical report (no matter how thick) that can be transformed into a technical paper. Those 5 days will be enough to produce a paper worthy of you.

Day 2, Writing out Critical Elements of a Paper Separately

For your technical paper, you will write out the 10 critical parts discussed on Day 1. You will write these separately without organizing them, so that it will be more relaxing for you and you will slowly appreciate each part of the paper as you write it. I will be around to help you. I will copy your file from your laptop.

During the day, I will also give you the complete Contributors' Guidelines that I prepared for the Philippine Journal of Crop Science, to prepare for your work on Day 3. (Note that the formal parts of the technical paper listed in the Guidelines are not the same as the "critical elements" tackled in Day 1.) It will be to your benefit if you review the Guidelines in the evening.

Day 3, Writing Complete 1st Draft

With the separate critical elements of Day 2 discussed, you have actually already written out the difficult parts of your paper. Then, with the Contributors' Guidelines on hand, you will now write out the whole paper. You have the whole day to do that. I will be there to answer questions as they arise, to help as necessary. I will copy your output at the end of the day so that I can review your draft and write my comments for revision for Day 4, using Word Track Changes.

Day 4, Writing 2nd Draft

With my comments on the 1st draft, you will now compare your manuscript outputs with the Contributors' Guidelines and improve further your individual technical paper. In the afternoon, I will begin reviewing and commenting on your 2nd draft. You will go home with my comments in Word Track Changes.

Day 5, Discussing 3rd & Final Draft

In the morning, I will review your 3rd Draft and give you my final comments in Word Track Changes. In the afternoon, I will ask you what you think needs more work on your part and on my part. (If I think it's necessary, I will volunteer to final-edit your papers via email gratis et amore.)

Note: You will also learn correct English grammar during the workshop. I will teach you how to maximize the use of the Grammar & Spelling Checker of Microsoft Word after each draft. How good is it? Often, in my experience, the Checker saw a mistake that I didn't see even after making several drafts. If the paper is intended for publication, my advice is: Your office will be better off engaging the services of a good technical editor before submission, a consultant who can work offsite.

Happy Technical Writing everyone!

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