Student Profile: David Leeding06/05/2015 15:36:53


(ACS graduate of Technical Writing, David Leeding, reflects on the path that led to becoming a published writer.)


Old computer programmers never die, they just become technical writers. I had been a programmer for nearly fifteen years, but was spending an increasing amount of time writing software documentation and technical specifications. So, I enrolled in the ACS Technical Writing course. I figured that the course would help consolidate my writing skills, and at the very least, the user manuals I write would soon be better than ever.



I was surprised to learn that ‘technical writing’ is a lot broader more than writing user manuals and design specifications. It includes: briefings, proposals, reports, letters, newsletters, policy documents and more. You could even consider the recipe for a salad sandwich as an example of technical writing! This broader view made the course even more relevant for me, and not just in relation to work. I maintain a website for the small hobby business I run. I write a newsletter for my daughter’s basketball team. I write emails every day. All of these require technical writing skills.


Although the course assignments were challenging at times, none were insurmountable. Often, the hardest part was getting started, but after I’d made a start, the rest would fall into place piece by piece. Writing the assignments reminded me of the old riddle, ‘How do you eat an entire elephant?’ Just one bite at a time. You just have to take that first bite.


My tutor, Tosca, was exceptionally encouraging throughout the course. Her comments were always practical and relevant, and she delivered criticisms in a manner that left me feeling enabled. One of the greatest moments of encouragement occurred when Tosca asked if she could publish parts of an assignment in the ACS online library.


Another assignment called for me to select a magazine, and write an article for it as though I were going to submit the article for publication. I couldn’t find a magazine that was a good fit for my particular area of expertise, so I chose to write about something entirely different. I wrote an article for children aged 10 to 14 years on how to improve their basketball shooting.


Tosca encouraged me to submit the article to the publisher. I sent the article off, half expecting it to come back with a note of ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ Imagine my surprise when I got a call from an editor to say they would publish my article. It was a small step forward, but for me, a significant one. The article will be printed in Issue 2 of Challenge Magazine, which is due out in April 2007.


I have gained new confidence as a writer, and I realise now that my writing need not be limited to computer manuals and design specifications. It need not be limited to policy statements and briefings either. Or even salad sandwich recipes! A whole avenue of possibilities now lies before me, and I doubt I would have considered these before doing the course.