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Contract technical writer Paul MacMartin

 
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Contract technical writer overview

When you bring me in to produce quality documentation, you get an incorporated contract technical writer with more than ten years experience developing user documents, instructional materials, online help and marketing content.

Customers in the...

  • IT
  • Telecom
  • Financial
  • Health

...industries contract me project after project when they need specialized technical writing expertise.

Fitting into your team

My contract history includes significant responsibility as sole technical writer or another member of your technical writing group. I work closely with developers, users, managers and senior executives.

The right tools for the job

The authoring tools I use as contract technical writer include single-source editors including...

  • Author-it
  • FrameMaker
  • RoboHelp
  • Epic Editor

...in addition to tools such as...

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Acrobat
  • Visio
  • Snagit
  • Dreamweaver

These, however, are just tools. The key to productive communication is the capacity to understand clearly, express effectively, and do both of these quickly.

This is mind work. Mind work, A; tool work, B. It's one of many simple principles of the communication workflow.

Becoming proficient in the tech writing craft can take a while. And for me, it didn't happen overnight.

Discovering an aptitude for technical issues

In 1985, right out of university, I started as an advertising writer and client rep at Davis Communication, a mid-sized financial services ad agency.

With Davis, I developed and managed campaigns and content for clients such as:

  • Nortel
  • Bank of Montreal
  • TD Bank
  • Moore Business Products

Many of these projects focused on technical content. They required the ability to translate technical features and specs into understandable and usable benefits.

I enjoyed it. More importantly, clients liked it because -- most importantly -- it converted more prospects into customers.

The opportunity that made me a professional

I guess I thought I was a pretty good writer. That is, until I got the opportunity to be the first junior corporate writer to work with Hilton Tudhope.

Far above being the best writer I have known or worked with, Hilton is widely acknowledged to be among the most respected and most sought-after corporate writers anywhere.

When I began working with Hilton, I tried hard to show my best, of course. Even so, my drafts came back from his review with what looked like more red-penned edits than black words on the page. Ughh.

Over time, menace red receded and drafts made their way out to clients faster.

Today, when a client voices appreciation for how they benefited from the content I developed, I think back decades to Hilton and the red ink. Their satisfaction is due in large part to the key lessons I learned from Hilton about disciplined thinking and crafting succinct messages.

I'll always be grateful for these hard-gained lessons, Hilton, and for your strong friendship and support.

Starting my company

In 1989, I started my own writing business.

After months of pounding Toronto pavement to introduce myself, and with a lead or two from Hilton, I began to produce an interesting range of technical projects such as:

  • User manuals (printed) for materials handling equipment
  • Detailed leasing materials (printed) for premier office towers in Toronto, such as the iconic Toronto-Dominion Centre, the Royal Bank Tower, IBM’s super hi-tech headquarters at 3600 Steeles East
  • Bank product brochures (you know, those printed tri-fold brochures set in those plexiglass stands)
  • Trust company product brochures (yes, the same kind)
  • Pharmaceutical product name development (printed on "paper" and couriered for review)
  • Annual reports
  • Non-fiction book ghost-writing and editing (printed on a whole heap of paper, then couriered for review)
  • Documentary scripts for award winning traveling safety and off-road racing films (paper, couriered)

I list a few of these paper+courier projects from my early PMM Inc. projects because now they now seem too ancient and quaint.

Humble brag: I'm slightly old; old enough to remember setting movable type, backward letter by backward letter—and in reverse order—when I worked for a one-man printing company in the early '80s. It was just like Gutenberg did it in 1450, and I remember it like it was 550 years ago.

I'm not the fastest bus on the motherboard...

...but even after all the tech projects I had worked on, I hadn't clued in to the obvious fact that writing about technical content was a thing, a communication specialty.

Then in 1992 I read Nuala Beck's book Shifting Gears and I discovered the term technical writer. As Nuala explained what a contract technical writer did, I noticed that I was using tech writer skills, but mostly just for marketing.

So I returned to university for two years of night-school and earned my tech writing certificate.

Most importantly, I learned advanced technical writing principles, best practices and many authoring tools so I could develop higher quality manuals, training and marketing content faster and more affordably.

Helping you now

Today, I am a contract technical writer who produces user manuals, service manuals, training programs and marketing content for companies such as IBM, Cisco, Rexall, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Scientific-Atlanta as well as for smaller companies like yours that demand the same level of professional technical communication.

Thank you

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about me and about what I offer as a contract technical writer.

I hope you will look through my contract technical writer portfolio, and ask me any questions about the services I offer as a contract technical writer.

You can contact me by email, or by phone at
(416) 421-4710



 
 
Phone: (416) 421-4710