Posts filed under Technical Writing

Tara M. Clapper: Technical Editor, Freelance Fiction Editor, & Creator of The Geek Initiative

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Name: Tara M. Clapper

Age: 34

College & Majors/Minors: I have a BA in English with a minor in music from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD.

Current Location: Mt. Holly, NJ (Greater Philadelphia Area), USA

Current Form of Employment: I'm employed full time as a technical editor (blog editor) at SEMrush. I freelance as a fiction editor and also manage my own website about women in geek culture.

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I'm a technical editor at SEMrush. In this role, I oversee the editorial direction of an industry recognized digital marketing blog. My background is in content management and digital publishing. Publishing isn't the most stable field, and I transitioned into the more robust tech industry by doing exactly what I love – managing a blog!

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My very first job out of college (2003) involved copyediting job references and applications. It wasn't a very satisfying job; the company was huge and it was too much structure for me. I immediately switched to a submissions representative position at Xlibris, a self-publisher. I was able to help writers achieve publication before this was done on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The staff soon discovered that I could copyedit manuscripts with a fast turnaround (the rest of it was outsourced to an overseas location), and I then offered input on the company's product and services catalog.

My position was outsourced; I was rehired and promoted to work on a pilot project, but that fell through. After that, I went through a few rough years of serving coffee at Starbucks (which doesn't pay a lot, though they treat their partners very well) and started freelancing on Associated Content, which later became the now-defunct Yahoo! Contributor Network. I explored academic publishing, marketing, and web copy writing in freelance and full-time positions, but my passion has always remained focused on geeky stuff like tech an entertainment.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

Freelancing. Even when I was serving coffee, I was moonlighting as a content writer. This allowed me to develop my craft, always state that I was a paid writer, and learn to take criticism from editors (which, in turn, made me a much better editor as well). Freelancing is appealing because you can be your own boss, but when you have editors or clients, you're working for them. Instead of one problematic boss, you could have many. That can really make you appreciate decent bosses when other people complain.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I was always interested in being 'in publishing,' but my school didn't offer editing classes. I took independent studies, worked on the college paper, and invested my time in the arts. Performing on stage made me a much more confident public speaker – like most writers, I was (and am) much more comfortable with written communication. Verbal communication is something I still work on and I'm currently active in a local theater group and a live action role playing game. I write plays and portray characters who face challenges; these extracurriculars are constants in my life and help me develop my leadership skills.

There's this big perception that the arts (including creative writing) provide no stability. When corporations failed and Google Panda destroyed most of my freelance clients, the arts were my constants and marketing was my day-to-day survival. Now I'm in a role that combines both; it feels stable and engaging since SEMrush is an agile company.

The most important thing I did during college was know myself and my beliefs. Running two blogs, I have to make editorial decisions that affect corporate and personal branding. The posts I approve are seen by household names and brands. Especially on The Geek Initiative, my own site, I need to determine the voice of the publication. I often consult with others whenever I come across a grey area. A good editor knows when to reference a style guide, dictionary, or policy. It's a strength to check yourself.

I wish I had taken the time to learn some practical things early: how to change a tire, how to balance a checkbook, how to sew, and how to manage finances for a small business. I should have picked up a minor in business as well.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

If you're not satisfied with your current job, keep looking. Stability is important, but most employers will outsource you, shut their doors, and offer little regard for your future. It's great to care about your product and your employer, but if your employer doesn't take an interest in your personal brand or consider your strong social media presence an asset, start looking elsewhere. Find an employer who values you for who you really are. I'm willing to give 150% for SEMrush and network for the company on the weekends because they support the development of my personal brand. Some of my previous employers were threatened by my creative pursuits and enthusiastic social media presence.

Practical advice: Become acquainted with a trusted lawyer, doctor, and accountant/financial expert, especially if you're like me and you're better at managing words and projects than numbers.

People will tell you that an English degree is too generic or useless. If you haven't found your esoteric specialty, do everything you can to find it. Cling to it. Know that it will evolve. Integrate it into your life. It will differentiate you from everyone else.

Always freelance and – especially for women – know your value (as "Agent Carter" says).

You can find Tara online at You can also connect with Tara on LinkedIn.


Rachel Maleady: SEO Analyst

Rachel Maleady: SEO Analyst

Shin Yu Pai: Associate Partner @ Nonprofit

Shin Yu Pai: Associate Partner @ Nonprofit

Tiffany Aldrich MacBain: Associate Professor

Tiffany Aldrich MacBain: Associate Professor

Posted on September 7, 2015 and filed under Technical Writing.

Courtney Ginder: Content Manager


Name: Courtney Ginder

Age: 23

College and Majors/Minors: Purdue University, Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing, Bachelor of Science in Psychological Sciences

Current Location: Noblesville, Indiana

Current Form of Employment: Content Manager at LHP Telematics

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work for LHP Telematics as the Content Manager. I’m responsible for writing all product documentation, both user guides that are customer-facing and internal documentation, such as work instructions for our warehouse. I’m also responsible for designing and writing marketing materials, such as flyers, press releases, and brochures. I also manage our company social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, as well as write our e-newsletter that goes out twice a month. I manage the company website and make sure that all the information on the website is up-to-date and relevant, and I blog about our products and services and relevant industry news. Finally, I have some testing and support roles for our web portal – I test all of our new portal version releases for usability purposes, and I also provide web portal support for our customers. 

LHP Telematics is a heavy equipment remote monitoring company, founded in 2008. When I was hired, I was the first technical writer and as such, was able to design our standard documentation formats. When I moved into the role of Content Manager as I began taking on more marketing tasks and took over our online marketing strategies, I successfully tripled the traffic to our website, as well as grew our social media presence and started an email newsletter.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I found my job at LHP Telematics by attending Industrial Roundtable, which the engineering and technology career fair held every year in the fall at my alma mater, Purdue University. It may seem strange to hear an English major say she found her job at an engineering fair, but I knew I wanted to pursue technical writing, so the companies I wanted to work for were not going to be at fairs held by the College of Liberal Arts (which is where my major, Professional Writing, is housed within the Department of English). I marketed myself as a strong technical writer with a unique perspective on usability since I also double-majored in Psychological Sciences. That marketing strategy worked, and I was hired as LHP Telematics’ first technical writer.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I had an internship with Ovar’Coming Together, Indiana’s only non-profit for ovarian cancer patients and survivors, during the fall of my senior year. During my internship, I focused on research on survivor resources around Indiana, and designed the survivor resource handout that is used in the HOPE Packets given out to ovarian cancer survivors. This internship helped me grow my design skills, which in turn helped me design the documentation formats in my job at LHP Telematics. It also gave me some insights into the world of nonprofits, which ties into my role as Publicity Chair in my community chapter of the international service organization Epsilon Sigma Alpha.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

One of the things I loved about my Professional Writing major was that the classes provided a lot of outside-the-classroom experiences. My Research in Professional Writing class worked with a food bank in Lafayette, Indiana to create a needs assessment and design a newsletter for them. In my Multimedia Writing class, we helped redesign a local coffeehouse’s website, while my Advanced Professional Writing class was responsible for the user experience of the Spring Writing Showcase. Even though I only had the one internship, I had a lot of work that I did for real clients and events through my Professional Writing classes, which really helped build up my portfolio.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Don’t be afraid to take chances and reach out to different companies. When I originally talked to my now-employer, they weren’t sure they needed a technical writer, but here I am, a year and a half later! Also, own what you’re passionate about – I actually like to write technical documentation, which sets me a part from a lot of other people, simply because it’s something a lot of people just don’t like doing.

Connect with Courtney on LinkedIn, follower her on Twitter, and check out her personal website!

Angeline Evans: Digital Media Manager

Angeline Evans: Digital Media Manager

Rachel Wong: Content Specialist

Rachel Wong: Content Specialist

Brittany Shelley: Director of Content Marketing

Brittany Shelley: Director of Content Marketing

Posted on November 9, 2014 and filed under Writing, Technical Writing.

Rachel Wong: Content Specialist

Name: Rachel Wong

Age: 24

College: Taylor University

Major/Minor: I majored in media communication with an emphasis in writing. I also minored in music composition!

Current Location: Seattle, WA

Current Form of Employment: Content Specialist at a local consulting firm

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I work at Logic20/20 as a content specialist. Basically, I'm an editor for technical writing at a consulting company and it's great!

Before Logic20/20, I worked as a scriptwriter/researcher at an SEO company. That was a pretty interesting job, because I basically wrote infographics and came up with the stats for cool data visualizations. I never even realized such a job existed before landing it!

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Like any good writing/English major, I was involved in the school paper. I wouldn't say I was a model student in the major because I was so involved in other parts of college life (residence life, played on the soccer team). For me, my best career-related experience came in the form of internships. I landed a summer gig at Backpacker magazine which was amazing, and I also volunteered my time for a newspaper in Vail, Colorado right after college (I was a ski bum for a season who had to appease the parents in career aspirations). Vail attracts big-name artists and entertainers for the tourists but the newspaper staff was pretty small, so I got to interview lots of famous people! To note: Oscar from "The Office" is exactly like his character in real life.

Shoot high when applying for internships. When you offer to do work for free (both of mine were unpaid), it's easy to get your foot in the door just about anywhere.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). 

My first job was a copywriter at zulily (where I met DearEnglishMajor herself!). I found it online and was persistent as heck. I even called some higher up on the phone just to get the name of the recruiter. The next job I found on Craigslist and had a good recommendation. My current job was also found through a connection and also being persistent again. I took writing tests in two of the three jobs and each test was basically work that I would actually be doing. Employers are looking for a range of writing samples! Lately, I think a hot skill set is any work in email marketing, SEO stuff, and the Adobe suite. The interview process really varies— some took a week and some took six months! Be persistent, keep writing in the meantime, build up your portfolio and then just give the interview your best shot!

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Woo! Yes. As a writing/English major, you're competing with a pretty large group for a very limited amount of cool jobs. Do your best to bulk up your technical skills (can you mock up a great InDesign layout? Do you know what SQL is? Can you write white papers? Can you speak HTML/CSS? Can you mesmerize with your Excel skills?). Employers love to see those hard skills, especially coming from writing folks. It gives them something tangible to go off of, and you're speaking more their language. I'm guessing you've mastered your English skills by now, so equip that career quiver with some technical prowess.

In her spare time, Rachel writes a personal finance blog for people in their 20s called Sage & Mint. Connect with her on LinkedIn

Posted on March 30, 2014 and filed under Blogging, Communications, Editing, Technical Writing, Writing.

Chrystal White: Technical Editor

Name: Chrystal White

College & Majors/Minors: I graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno as an English Literature major with a minor in Linguistics and Language.

Current Location: California

Current Form of Employment: Technical Editor

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

Currently, I work as the sole Technical Editor for an engineering consulting firm. My duties involve assisting the engineering staff with review of the documents they produce for our clients, correspondence and reports for corporate staff, and editing of confidential documents and correspondence for members of the Board of Directors. During my first year I was tasked with creating a style guide for the Western Region; five years later the guide is still used as a reference by administrative staff and others in lieu of specific style direction from our clients. Recently, I was asked to try my hand at developmental editing, which included working with the engineers at the beginning of a project rather than seeing the report just before it is to be delivered to the client. This has been an interesting challenge and I continue to work to develop that skill.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first “official” editorial job was the result of discovering a need shortly after being hired as a seasonal employee to perform data entry of information collected from the field. I overheard some of the scientists complain about how their manuscripts were rejected even before being read because they hadn’t complied with the journal’s publication policy, so I offered to review their documents on their behalf and study the different journals’ style requirements to ensure all style guidelines were met. This worked very well and I was able to convert a summer job into a 10-year permanent assignment until I eventually moved on.

My current job was the result of a cold-call by a recruiter who saw my resume on I had just been the victim of a reduction-in-force at my previous company due to the collapse of the housing market so this was very fortuitous.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

Right now I work as a volunteer editor/proofreader for my church’s two newsletters (one weekly and one monthly) and only recently have been asked to give writing a try. This is a challenge as I have not been asked to write since creating the style guide for my current company. It is forcing me to develop my writing skills and is also teaching me a new form of writing. This has the added benefit of helping me appreciate the process from a writer’s point of view.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

In college I started by offering my services as a typist for students requiring assistance with their research and other class papers. It was a way to earn a few extra dollars (something every college student needs), and I found that some of the students I typed for suffered from poor spelling and sentence structure. So I began offering, for an additional fee, to correct spelling and sentence structure errors and to help with clarity when needed. Word of mouth referrals kept me quite busy and helped me to hone my editorial skills. At the time I had not considered editing as a career. As it turned out this was one of my best learning experiences; not only influencing my future career choice, but teaching me how to tactfully work with writers.

Once I determined my career focus I took advantage of other editors in the company– asking questions; seeking their expertise; and offering to assist with editorial backlog just to gain more experience. Soon I was sent on details (short-term work assignments) to offices nationwide that were in need of editorial assistance with report completion for a study or to publish the proceedings of a symposium. This taught me how to “hit the ground running” because to be effective I had to quickly get up to speed on the project, learn the objective, and become productive in a short amount of time.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

My best advice is to know your strengths and look for opportunities where one might not be advertised or readily apparent. It is how I got my start.

Connect with Chrystal on LinkedIn

Posted on March 12, 2014 and filed under Editing, Technical Writing, Writing.

Carol Ayer: Technical Writer & Freelance Writer


Name: Carol Ayer

Age: 51

College & Majors/Minors: UC Berkeley, B.A. in English

Current Location: Northern California

Current Form of Employment: Technical Writer and Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I've worked on and off for the last 25 years for a company that produces travel-training software. I'm currently telecommuting for the company part-time. My title is Technical Writer, although I spend more time on editing and proofreading than on writing. Also, a lot of my job is ensuring that the program is working correctly. I work on lessons, quizzes, tests, and workbooks (the latter is in physical form; everything else is online).

I also work as a freelance writer. I've sold poems, personal essays, and fiction to magazines and ezines. A small epublisher published my romance novella in 2009, but I have since gotten the rights back and have self-published the book on Kindle. I'm currently working on a cozy mystery, which I hope will become the first in a series.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.

Well, I have to confess that my technical writing job is with my brother's company. So I didn't have to take any tests and I didn't have to interview! (I'd like to think that I was hired partly because of my English degree). My first job after college was not a writing job at all. I worked at a storybook park called Children's Fairyland. I was going to be a teacher, and I needed a summer job before I started student teaching, so I applied to Fairyland. I ended up not becoming a teacher after all, and stayed at Fairyland for several years. Although I didn't use my English degree, I later found my time there to be quite fruitful. Many of my short stories and books are set at a storybook park.

What's a storybook park?

Storybook parks are rather rare these days. They're also called fairytale parks, and were the precursors to theme parks. Walt Disney actually visited Fairyland before he built Disneyland. In the 50s, there were a number of them around the country. They aren't as popular anymore, what with the proliferation of theme parks, but there are still 10 or so left.

They are built around works of children's literature. So any given storybook park might have sets based on Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Three Little Pigs, The Owl and the Pussycat, etc. Live animals are often part of the sets. At Fairyland, we had goats (Three Billy Goats Gruff) and pigs (Three Little Pigs), for example. Usually there are a couple of small rides, too, such as merry-go-rounds or Ferris wheels.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I worked at a local newspaper part-time during my college years. The job consisted mostly of proofreading and filing. I was working on the day that Reagan was shot. The newsroom went crazy. It was scary but exciting, and fueled my desire to work in journalism. I later realized that I was way too shy to be a reporter. I also work much better on my own.

 What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

As just noted, I was interested in journalism for a time. I wrote a freelance article for the Daily Cal, but that's it. I wish I had done more with creative writing during that time.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

My problem was that I didn't think I could make a living as a writer, which is what I'd wanted to be since I was a child. So I thought that journalism would be a good fit for me. When I realized otherwise, I flailed around quite a bit. It was suggested to me that I could become a teacher, but that wasn't right for me, either. I wish I had just overcome my practical side and attempted to write way back when. Thirty years after getting my English degree, I'm finally doing what I'd always dreamed of— writing. So my advice would be to follow that dream if that's why you've chosen English. Being a writer is difficult in many ways--not least of which, it *is* hard to earn a living at it--but it's the best job in the world. My other job satisfies my urge to catch spelling mistakes and typos, which I would guess is pretty typical of those of us who majored in English. If you're like that, too, I would suggest looking for an editor position of some sort. Actually, *any* company should be happy to have someone who is good at writing and who uses grammar correctly and knows how to spell.

Visit Carol on her website, and connect with her on twitter @storyparkgirl.