Sep 3, 2012 Ξ Leave a comment

How critical is a technical writer’s job?

posted by sukhjit

Most people consider technical writing to be mere copying content from functional documents or source documents, but the fact remains that a technical writer’s job is far more than the copy-paste routine and is very critical. It requires a blend of language and technical expertise. The skill set required for a technical writer is more complex than for other professions. The end users depend heavily on the documents. Badly written documents can be one of the reasons behind a product’s failure. For example, a badly written procedure may lead to loss of data or data corruption.

A developer handles a single module/feature of the product and has in-depth knowledge of a feature. But, a technical writer needs to have an overall knowledge of the product. A complicated, highly sophisticated product, which cannot be used by the user, is of no use. Technical writer makes it possible for the consumer to use a complex product with ease; thus, bridging the gap between the developer and the user. Various features and modules are combined to make a product and documents are written for the overall product with different objectives. These documents list all the features of the product, which makes a technical writer’s job critical. Thus, a technical writer must understand and know each and every feature listed in the document. In case of an enhancement, the writer must be in a position to do impact analysis and update the document. The writer must understand the relation between various documents intended for various audiences.

Approach of a technical writer must be from both ends of the bridge, where at one end is the developer and on the other end is the end user. Writer needs to step in the developer’s shoes to understand the technology and also needs to step in the user’s shoes to use the product without having much information about the product.

The writer’s mind has to be trained in such a way that when stepping in the user’s shoe, the writer must look at the product from the user’s prospective, who has limited or no product knowledge.

A document written by a developer may have many assumptions – like believing that jargons used in the document are well-known by the user, and vital information can be missed by the developer. The same document written by a technical writer will have no assumptions and all information necessary for the user will be covered in the document.

For example, the environment in which the product is developed and tested has all the prerequisites available. Due to this existing environment, many of the prerequisites may be over looked and missed in the document. When the user uses the product in his environment, the product fails due to the unavailability of the prerequisites. Such issues are easily identified and addressed by technical writers. While interviewing the SME (Subject Matter Expert), all these areas are covered.

Thus technical writers play a very crucial role for a product to be successful. And, the role is far more than mere writing.

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