Technical writing

IT and medical devices

Low-fat technical writing

I have considerable experience as a technical writer in both IT and medical devices (IVDR and procurement).


I have over 20 years’ experience as a technial writer and editor. I have over 20 years’ experience as a writer and editor. I actually taught writing for five years, at Cornell University and then at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, before writing professionally myself. It was on the strength of my experience at Georgia Tech that I joined IBM’s Knowledge Factory in Atlanta, first as a technical writer, then as senior editor, starting in 1998. When I moved to the Netherlands the next year, I continued to work for IBM La Hulpe on a range of writing and editing assignments, most notably as Senior Editor on a project for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): I edited more than 800 pages of documentation on WIPONET, a VPN network that IBM had built for WIPO and that connected Member States to servers at the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva.


In 2002 I joined the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, as Senior Editor (P-4 on the UN scale). I revised the editing of two P-3 Editors (one of whom I also managed), self-revised my own work, and finalised and signed off on all official-series documents to be issued by the Secretariat. My CV provides further details on this varied role.

In 2008 I started at the European Patent Office (EPO) as Writer and Communications Coordinator for the Single Patent Process programme (later renamed the IT Roadmap). The twin objectives of the programme were to streamline the often-cumbersome patent-application process and to replace the EPO’s legacy mainframe computer with servers in the cloud. My duties included producing a weekly newsletter, writing articles for the EPO Gazette (which goes to all 7,000 staff and to the patent offices in all 37 Member States), and managing the ITR intranet area.



Since setting up my one-man business in 2013, I’ve produced long- and short-form copy for organisations in the private and public sectors—blog posts, commercial brochures, press releases, articles for corporate magazines, internal communications, one-pagers, social-media posts, Web pages, and intranet content. Past and present clients include Smurfit Kappa, a world leader in the production of paper-based packaging; Delft Hyperloop (now Hardt Hyperloop); SEUSS+, a life-sciences consultancy; the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology; EXIN, an exam and certification institute; Mammoet World magazine; Euroports, a provider of maritime supply-chain solutions; and Europol.


As I mentioned when we spoke, the model under which I’ve worked for the last 10 years or so is as follows: I work on a full-time freelance contract for as long as it’s available–whether tha’s six months, a year, or longer, and, alongside that, I take on smaller assignments or press on with the translation of a book, generally chapter by chapter.


Thus I have had a number of full-time contracts at organisations such as at ASML (a year), ITS Global at KPMG International (five contracts since 2016), Philips (just over a year), and medical-device companies Elekta (a year) and Sakura (originally six months, extended to fourteen). The first two of my five years of service at the EPO were on a full-time freelance contract. (For the remaining three, I was offered a non-renewable staff contract.)



Technical writing can make for the most boring reading ever—until you’ve got to fix a technical problem in a software application or a production line, or follow a detailed set of installation instructions. Then the procedure you’re reading becomes the most devilishly interesting thing there’s ever been.
The best technical writing cuts out as much fat as possible and focuses on getting the reader where they want to go—to the end of the procedure.
There are a lot of less than helpful ways to do this, such as chatting away idly to the reader. For instance:
Idle chatter:

“The first thing to do once you’ve opened the application is choose the standard installation, and then go to the next button and click on it to go to the next screen, where you can decide where to install Linguation.”