Gaining Respect as a Technical Writer

Your value as a technical writer wholly depends on how you value yourself in the role. First and foremost, you have to respect the profession, the responsibilities you have, and the role you play. Only then you can demand respect from the others. The best part of being a technical writer is the mixture of creativity and technology. You can bring in a small amount of creativity in the way you present the information-that is where you can expand your thoughts.

But to expand your boundaries in this area, you definitely require staunch support of the management. Unlike the other professions, here you have to first prove your worth before you receive their support. The respect given to technical writers, or to documentation in general, depends on (at least) three interlinked factors: management support, processes, and technical writers themselves.

Management Support

In most organizations, the culture is usually influenced by the factors that are important to the management. If the management is really serious and committed to technical writing, that will be reflected in the way the documentation team is treated. Commitment and support from the management is very important. You need to make the management aware about the value addition you do. Let them see your contributions and recognize them as valuable addition to the product. If your organization is paying you well, remember that they are already respecting you by compensating well for your work.

Integrating and Formalizing Processes

Indifference of the SME towards documentation—giving information and performing the technical review on time is a common problem that most of the technical writers around the globe face. When assigning work to the engineers, the product managers fail to consider the time they spend in giving a demonstration of the product, providing information, and performing documentation reviews. So most of the time, these activities becomes an added burden to the engineers. There are some organizations which consider all these factors and account for the time in their product development plan, but most don’t.

  • If the documentation cycle is integrated with the product development cycle, then the engineers may become more cooperative because they are educated about the requirement to do the tasks and because the process says so.
  •  If the process states that the writers be informed of any decision about changes in software as soon as developers are, it will be done.
  •  Another way is to integrate these aspects (time for writers and reviewing the documentation on time) into the annual performance review of the engineers. This makes a lot of difference in the attitude of the SMEs who may think of documentation related work as waste of time.

When something becomes a process, it no longer remains personal and has to be followed by every concerned/involved.

Technical Writers Themselves

There may be an existing documented process or guidelines. But to start with, the writers can earn respect for themselves by being knowledgeable atleast about all the aspects of documentation—the product or technology they are writing about.

  • Be confident as a writer—Create error free documents and display outstanding and noticeable performance that will gain you respect. Others should want you to work on the documents of their product!
  • Do your home work—Always do the groundwork before meeting with the SMEs. Most of them will give time if you succeed in demonstrating that you have done your homework or made an honest effort to learn about what you are documenting.
  • Be proactive—In addition to creating documents, take active participation in suggesting usability changes to the user interface (UI), reporting software bugs before QA phase, and helping the developers create the functional specification.
  • Be friendly—At another level, be being friendly and courteous with the SMEs. Developing a rapport on a personal level with others helps.

 Always hold your head high, with the strength that comes from your conviction about your work, its importance, and your role as a technical writer!

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4 Responses

  1. I’m a PhD student in the Theory and Practice of Professional Communication program at Utah State University, and I really appreciate such a field-honoring post. Keep it up! I’ve reblogged your post to my blog.

    • No issues. Glad this topic was of some interest… many tech writers often lament that technical writers are not respected or that they don’t get their due. My take is that we need to gain the respect 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on ryan j price and commented:
    I appreciate field-honoring/respecting posts like this one, so I’ve reblogged it. Clearly from this string of reblogs, I’m looking scanning other technical communication blogs, and I’m really liking what I’m reading!

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