Technical Writing: 10 Myths and Facts (Part 1)

There is a lot of misunderstanding about what technical writers really do. Many believe that writers do a cut and paste job. They do not realize that writing is not an easy task as it may seem to be. In this section we will discuss some myths and facts about technical writing.

Myth 1: It is a career for the language experts.

Most of the budding engineers view technical writing as an opportunity to enter an organization and then move on to other departments. They feel it is below their dignity to work as a technical writer, which has often made me wonder about my profession which has spanned for over a decade.

To appreciate the work of technical writers, people have to understand the skills and qualifications required by writers to do an excellent job. They should also understand the job profile and the career options available for a technical writer. Based on their understanding of the job profile, people have different perceptions about technical writing. It is a career for those who have a passion for language, style, and consistency. It is career for those who love technology but does not want to pursue a hard-core technical job.

Fact: It is a career for anyone who has a air for technology and writing.

Myth 2: Technical writers do not add value to an organization.

Wrong! Remember, technology/product is not widely used by the creators of the technology/product. It is used either by the common man or a specific group of people who want the technology/product. Apart from creating documentation for the product, technical writers can also help in the following ways:

  • In knowledge management activities. Most of the knowledge in an organization is in the minds of people in the form of experience and domain knowledge. Writers can document this knowledge to make it an organizational asset. This sometimes becomes a difficult task as it is almost impossible to capture all the information and knowledge, specially from hostile individuals. This is where a trained and communicative technical writer can create a positive difference.

Fact: Technical writers add value to the organization.

  • By being the bridge between the creators and the users of the product. They teach the users to understand and learn the technology. Documents help the users in understanding the potential of the technology or the consumer product. This makes documentation an important part of the product development.

Fact: Technical writers can add value to their role beyond the organization.

  • Creating information that is important for the organization.
    • Writers can help ISO, quality, administration, and human resources teams in documenting process and procedures.
    • They can also help marketing teams with collaterals, white papers, marketing materials, etc.
    • They can create newsletters—internal and external.

Fact: Technical writers add value to their role beyond the team.

Myth 3: Technical writing is a cut and paste job.

Technical writers obtain the information from different available sources to create documentation that is complete, accurate, and accessible. Thus they add immense value to the product/project developed for the customer by creating usable, useful, and effective documentation.

Fact: Technical writing is about creating effective documentation to add value to the product and hence to the organization.

Myth 4: Technical writing? Who cares? No one reads it anyway!

Companies cannot sell their products unless they are accompanied by the reassuring reference material called documentation. Would you prefer to buy a DVD player, a microwave, a CD Writer, or a handy-cam that comes along with an user manual or would you like to buy the equipments without it? You would prefer to have the user’s guide or a instructions manual so that you can refer to it when required.

Fact: Regardless of what people say, documentation is an essential. A product is NOT shipped without the document.

Myth 5: Become a technical writer if you want to relax at work!

The word “relax” is not available in the dictionary of the technical writers. They have to be constantly on their toes because of some factors like:

    • Last minute product functionality changes.
    • Dealing with un-idealistic situations.
    • Trying to reach unrealistic deadlines.
    • Sometimes scripts and/or tools refuse to work though they have worked well before.
    • Multitasking—working on different product documentation or projects.

This is especially true during the release phase. The period after the release stage before the next project starts is probably relaxing! If you have an optimistic view, you will find that this will actually keep your job interesting.

Fact: There is a high level of stress factor involved in this profession.

 To be continued…

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