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 23:40:53 +0200

For example, I am working on the docs for a cool software product that polls
all the hardware on my network for information and inventory.

There are three categories of technical knowledge associated with technical writing:

1) Subject matter knowledge. You need to know about the stuff you're supposed to document. (Duh :-) You do not need to know every last thing, but you need to know everything that goes in thedocument and most things directly related. And you need to know enough to recognize areas where you need additional information from SMEs.

2) Tool usage. You need to be able to use your tools so that you can create professional documents (whatever that means in your job - it can vary).
(Note to Connie: To be a good tech writer, you do not need to know about resizing graphics when your work does not involve it. But when that IS one of a writer's tasks - say, inserting screenshots and finding the optimum size for them for your chosen output formats - and she or he does not know how to do it, then I do not think that this is a good writer.)

3) Tool repair. Knowing how to fix broken tools, is in my opinion, useful for a tech writer but not required.

Now the above example about a problem with polling PDAs falls under category 1 - it's subject matter-related knowledge. If you are going to document software that polls networked hardware, you better know something about networked hardware.

This has little to do with being able to fix the tools you are using - the only link is coincidental because the tools are at the same time part of the documented system. For a writer with different subject matter, the same knowledge would be entirely nonessential.

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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