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Technical Writing and Engineering

Mike Gascoigne, BSc, MS, CEng, MIChemE, FISTC.



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I am a freelance technical author with a chemical engineering background, based in Blackwater on the Surrey/Hants border in England, close to the M3 which runs from London to Southampton.

To contact me, send a mail message.

Availability

I can get involved in your documentation projects on a full-time or part-time basis, depending on my availability.

Group Support

Although I work mainly as an individual, assisted by my wife Fiona who does various administrative jobs, I also have the support of a wider network of qualified and experienced technical authors who are members of the ISTC Independent Authors' Special Interest Group. Collectively we are able to manage large and complex projects that may require the use of additional resources at short notice.


Mike


Low Cost Publishing for Industrial and Retail Markets

In addition to my technical authoring work, I have an interest in ancient history and have written and published some books that are featured on my other website under the name of Anno Mundi Books. These were formatted to print-ready condition using Microsoft Word for the pages and Paint Shop Pro for the paperback covers. Copies are produced using small volume digital printing, typically 50 or 100 at a time, although there is no lower limit to a print run. The printer, Lightning Source, runs a fulfilment service so that my books are offered for wholesale distribution and are available in retail shops by special order. When a book is ordered through the fulfilment service, a single copy is printed and sent to the shop, a process known as "print on demand". My Anno Mundi website includes eCommerce linked to PayPal, so that people can place orders and they are supplied from the copies that I keep in stock.

Small volume digital printing costs slightly more than offset printing, (about £2 extra per copy) but huge savings can be made by printing exactly the number you want, and there is no need for long print runs. The benefits are as follows:

I can also assist with the preparation of eBooks, which look the same as printed books except that they are distributed electronically and are read from a computer screen or hand-held device. Files downloaded from the Internet can be linked to the user's hardware or zip disk to protect the author's copyright and prevent redistribution.

For further details of the technical and marketing issues, see my article on eBooks and Print on Demand (PDF - requires Acrobat Reader, available free from Adobe Systems). This article was published in the Spring 2003 issue of Communicator, the journal of the ISTC.


Teaching and Training

In September 2003, I obtained a City & Guilds Stage 1 Certificate in Teaching Adult Learners. I can use this for training purposes and preparation of training materials.


ISTC Award Winner 1999


Production of Manuals and User Guides

I have a wide experience of technical authoring in a variety of industries, including computer software and engineering.

I write and publish manuals using appropriate documentation and graphics tools such as Microsoft Word and Paint Shop Pro, and I can prepare PDF output files for printing the finished manuals.

I can also produce documentation in the form of on-line help text.


Computing and Engineering Documentation

I have experience of producing manuals and help text for the engineering industries, where the products and systems are usually computer-based to some extent. My work has included the following:

Starting from either finished or development versions of a client's product, I evaluate and test it, and write about it from my observations and results. Since I initially approach a product as a new user, the documentation reflects the user's point of view. During the testing period, extensive consultation takes place with engineers, programmers and designers to make sure the documentation is correct. Sometimes I might recommend changes to the product if I think it might be helpful to the user.

Chemical Engineering Documentation

During my days as a permanent employee, I worked as a Chemical Engineer for British Petroleum on the following projects which were all safety-critical:

I am a member of both the Institution of Chemical Engineers and the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators. I will be pleased to hear about any documentation requirements within the chemical engineering industry, whether they are related to the above projects or otherwise.


Medical Industries

Doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners are among the most prolific users of instrumentation, from the simple stethoscope to the most sophisticated ultrasound scanners and radiological imaging systems. While these are becoming more complex, in terms of their features and capabilities, some of them are becoming increasingly miniaturised, portable and easy to use. For example, ultrasound scanners used to be large devices occupying about one cubic metre, but now they are available as a program running on a laptop PC with a handheld scanner which can be used by a doctor on a home visit. Blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors and a variety of other self-testing kits are available over the counter at pharmacies, for use by patients. These are becoming increasingly simple to use, for example blood pressure monitors have been reduced to an armband and digital display for easy self-testing, a feat that was almost impossible with the old manual kits that required simultaneous use of an armband and stethoscope.

While the instruments are becoming more sophisticated and at the same time more user-friendly, the documentation often leaves something to be desired, having been written by engineers who are too involved with the product and cannot see it from the user's point of view. I am a fully qualified fitness instructor and personal trainer, able to take clients on GP exercise referrals. I share some common ground with doctors, nurses, paramedics etc. in the sense that we all start with the study of anatomy and physiology and then go off in different directions. So I'm in a good position to understand medical equipment, and if you need any help with documentation, please let me know.


Renewable Energy

There has been much public debate about the benefits of renewable energy during the last few decades. On the one hand it's an inexhaustible supply of energy, and on the other hand there isn't enough of it and in some cases the supply is intermittent and unreliable (for example a wind turbine only works when the wind blows). The economic use of renewable energy depends on location and circumstances, for example a farmer might use it as a local energy supply and feed the surplus into the National Grid.

The major sources of renewable energy are:

I have always taken an interest in renewable energy. Please let me know if you require any documentation.


Help Text Authoring

A few decades ago, every product came with a large printed manual, but they have gradually got thinner or disappearing altogether, because of the increased use of on-line documentation.

Various types of Help system have been available since the earliest versions of Windows. They all have various features in common, including text and graphic hotspots so you can jump between topics, display popups and execute commands. There are also keyword searches, bookmarks, user-defined annotations and browse sequences. All of this makes is possible for you to find information very quickly.

I have worked on a number of different systems:

I can produce Help systems to suit all your authoring and publishing needs.


Web Page Authoring and Multimedia

HTML is the standard format for documents that are intended for uploading to the Internet. Send me your text and graphics, together with your instructions about links to other pages, mailbox fields and other special features, and I will make up your pages for you. I can also upload your pages to the Internet, depending on where they are being hosted.

In recent years, JavaScript has become increasingly popular, in combination with HTML, for making web pages more animated and dynamic, with the ability to process data and perform calculations. Please contact me if you require any web page authoring that uses JavaScript. See also the JavaScript topic.

Multimedia is the combination of different types of media including text, graphics, sound, video and animation. I have used the following multimedia tools although some of them would need updating now:


Other Technical Authors

In the UK:

ISTC Independent Authors' Special Interest Group

International:

Society for Technical Communication - USA, with Chapters in Belgium, France, and Israel.


Other Activities

Anno Mundi Books. History of the ancient world from a Biblical perspective.

MG Personal Training. Get fit and lose weight.


Copyright 1996 Updated February 2015

Mike Gascoigne