RE: training material and training sessions

Subject: RE: training material and training sessions
From: "Thomas Quine" <quinet -at- home -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2000 10:13:07 -0800

This is a subject that I think can help shed some light on the whole nature
of technical writing.
I think very few of us understand that we are all, trainers and technical
writers alike, in the business of performance improvement. In today's
economy, people need information in order to do their jobs. Our role is to
engineer a pathway from our audience to the information they need for job
The difference between training and technical writing is mainly where one
stores the information. In technical writing, the information is stored in a
manual, in online help, on a Website somewhere. If you want the job
performer to have more instant access to the information, you need to store
it closer to where the performer needs it - in their head. If you want to
store information in someone's head, so that's it's there for them to use
when they need it, you have to turn to performance-based training.
Building performance-based training requires a whole different skill set
than technical writing. The difference is a bit like the difference between
a playwright and a novelist - but even that analogy breaks down.
But I think that as a result of the different skill sets, people, even
professionals in the field, tend to see these as two separate activities,
when in fact they are both on the same continuum, with the same goal, to
make information available on an as-needed, when-needed basis.
The continuum goes roughly like this:
Training>Quick Reference Guides>Online Help>User's Manuals>Reference
Manuals>Detailed Specs or Parts lists.
This continuum moves from more performance-related to less
performance-related, from more hands-on to less hands-on, from more frequent
and more important to less frequent and less important, etc.
When I approach any information design project, my first priority is to
position the information somewhere on this continuum. To do that I need to
do a thorough task analysis. Out of that spills a pretty comprehensive
summary of the work I have to do.
My point, however, is that it's the same continuum, and if you don't see
that, you might be well-advised to take another look at your technical
writing and ask, "How relevant is this to the job the readers need to
Good luck!
- Thom

-----Original Message-----
Subject: training material and training sessions


I have some questions about training materials (as
opposed to users' guides) and training sessions for
customers. I searched the archives but I did not find
the right answer.

I am a technical writer for a software publisher.
Training materials are updates by the documentation
team. Originally the training materials were designed
by consultants but they did not have enough time for
it so it is now my boss' responsibilities. Consultants
or technical support guys are doing/delivering the
training sessions for our clients though. Management
now thinks we shoud perform the training as well (as
consultants still don't have too much time). I am
aware that is it of great help to tech writers for
material improvement, so I am willing to do it as an
assistant a couple of times but no more than that.
What I like most about my job is stucturing the
information, proofreading, indexing, revising
translations etc. but I don't consider myself an
expert of the product I am documenting: I don't have
the consultants' experience with the software. That's
why I am not too sure if I want/have to do it.

Here are my questions:
2) As a tech writer, is training a natural progression
in such a way that I do have to accept and add
training sessions to my duties (if my boss asks me
3) Are there Web sites that give hints for writing
training materials?

Thank you in advance.

Please email me as I am on a digest.


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