8 Sep 2002 lmjohns3   » (Journeyer)

technical writing in Austria

I'm learning quickly here that my education as a Franklin Scholar helped give me one exceedingly valuable skill : technical writing. There are literally millions and millions of people in the world who :

  1. do not speak English as a native language, or perhaps are native English speakers but lack solid grammar skills,
  2. are working in technical disciplines, e.g. computer science or mechanical engineering, and
  3. have to write papers or documentation in English to publish their work.

Now most people, for the most part, do a really good job of communicating their ideas. However, they often need help with pesky prepositions, difficult sentence constructions, or common usage problems in their English writing. English is not an easy language to learn well ! In addition, the only editing help the people from the above lists have usually comes from one of two sources :

  1. colleagues who have concentrated in English studies and don't know much about the technical side of the papers they are proofreading, or
  2. colleagues who have concentrated in technical disciplines but are not native English speakers or do not necessarily know English that well.

This is really not intended as a self horn tooting. My own language and technical skills can always use work ! But because I am a native English speaker and have studied both a technical field and a more language oriented one, my colleagues at work have found this combination of skills to be quite valuable for them.

Actually, I intend this mostly as a challenge to all students to search outside your chosen discipline, in whatever language you want. Broad educations might never be finished, or they might be socially abnormal, but if you can help someone (even a native speaker !) proofread a technical publication in any langauge, they will truly appreciate an editor that can combine knowledge of a technical field with the ability to communicate that knowledge.

USB rocks

On a completely unrelated note, I just bought a USB optical mouse and got it to work with minimal hassle under X 4.2. Yay ! All I needed to do was "mkdir /dev/input" and "mknod /dev/input/mice c 13 63" after installing the kernel modules.

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