re: Technical Writer / Instructional Designer

Subject: re: Technical Writer / Instructional Designer
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 07:20:23 -0600

Valerie Brideau queried: "Might anyone comment upon the difference/s
between a technical writer and an instructional designer?"

... and various listers replied with similarities and differences.

I'd offer that clearly the jobs veer off in different directions at times,
but the important thing is that the training background for each ought to be
something pretty similar.

Clearly, I think, user manuals are or should be "instructional," and the
challenge in either case is, obviously, to "get the user up to speed." The
goal is that the user understand what you think the user should understand
and be able to perform tasks correctly. All of this involves some degree of
understanding things from the users' perspective and understanding what the
user wants and needs and also being cognizant of the goals set forth by the
course manager or just the company selling the product for which a manual is

So, all that stuff about "chunking" information, "ergonomic" presentation,
"don't get too technical/don't get too simplistic," etc. applies in both
instances. And, IMHO, manual writing and instructional design are just two
of several fields that perform much these same functions. I'd add in, for
one, marketing and sales as also a very similar information transfer task.

And, as has been stated here many times, the persons performing *any* of
these tasks ought to have some technical knowledge of the "product" itself
in addition to technical human behavior knowledge around information

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