|— Quality Writing & Design for the Human Race|
What is a "Technical Writer?"
Well, to begin with, while a good technical writer is most certainly technical, he or she does a whole lot more than write. That said, the ability to write well is also central. Good writing is a fundamental skill, and a springboard into many other professional skills.
So once we realize that a technical writer does more than write, we need to look for a better term to define the profession and the people who practice in it. Technical Communicator makes more sense. After all, communication comes in many forms, not just writing. And many schools have recognized this by offering degrees not in Technical Writing, but in Technical Communication.
Yet even this is still incomplete.
Technical communication is an engineering discipline. Many schools put its technical writing program in the Arts & Sciences school, because of the "writing." But needing knowledge of sciences, or application of technologies, is a critical component of the profession. Not only do technical communicators write about science and technology, technology is also used, in many forms, in creating the communication.
Everything communicates, not just the words in a manual. Everything that people use, the knobs, the handles, the keys, the displays, everything, communicates. Disciplines that deal with designing the interfaces between hardware or software and people include industrial engineering and cognitive psychology.
Once we understand that the interface itself communicates, then we realize that the technical communicator must understand how to design those interfaces so that they communicate correctly to users. There is a blurring, then of the line between technical communicators and GUI or interface designers. In fact, there is overlap.
Ultimately, though, the focus must be on the users, and their needs in reaching their goals. Technical communicators can help create designs that assist users in reaching their goals, and then create documentation, of various types, that augment the design.
Perhaps, then, a better and more accurate job title for people who practice this profession: User Assistance Engineer, or User Assistance & Experience Engineer.
Regardless of the title, someone who has the writing/communication skills and the engineering knowledge is the best person to add value to a development team. That person can get up to speed quickest on the product, can understand the information coming from programmers and other engineers, and can produce to meet deadlines.
All content Copyright © 2002-3 Chuck Martin