Re: What does it mean to be technical?

Subject: Re: What does it mean to be technical?
From: Jan Henning <henning -at- r-l -dot- de>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 May 2003 17:26:01 +0200

But really, what does it mean to be technical?

If there is anything such as 'being technical' (as a kind of personal quality unrelated to any particular field of study), it seems to have little bearing on being able to do a particular technical writing job well. It would be more of a general advantage in learning to do the job, kind of like intelligence.

For a technical writer to do a particular job well, it is important that she or he understands the facts, principles and problems involved in the product - as far as they concern the documentation.

Example: When a spreadsheet is documented, the writer needs to know about formulas, user interfaces, printing issues, scripting and the like; but does not need to know C programming or PC hadrware maintenance issues.

In addition the writer needs to be able to communicate with the SMEs well enough to understand what they are saying and to ask them relevant questions.

What exactly this all means for a writer in a particular job depends very much on the job and can vary wildly between jobs. Sweeping generalizations on the requirements for all technical writers thus seem to be of little value - you have to look at each job or class of jobs to make a meaningful statement on what is required of a writer to do the job well.

Jan Henning

Jan Henning
Am Schlossberg 14, D-82547 Eurasburg, Germany

Phone: +49 700 0200 0700, Fax: +49 8179 9307-12
E-Mail: henning -at- r-l -dot- de, Web:


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