RE: What tech writers "do"

Subject: RE: What tech writers "do"
From: "James Barrow" <vrfour -at- verizon -dot- net>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2006 06:28:49 -0800

I think that it's implied that this increasing list of items that tech
writers do (that have been listed in this thread) are items that a tech
writer *could* be expected to do.

When I worked for Avery Dennison years ago I was part of a five-person team,
and we shared responsibility for a lot of the items that have been listed
here. I recently found out that the five-member team has been reduced to
one, and the workload has remained the same.

I can't imagine why a prospective tech writer would become discouraged after
reading about all of the things a tech writer writes about. If I learned
that the only thing a car mechanic does is replace the driver's side front
shock absorber, I'd erase that career from my wish list.

And by the same token, any hiring manager who happens to read this and
assumes that all tech writers graduate from Tech Writer U knowing everything
is a fool. By the very fact that several tech writers have contributed to
this list of items shows that we are niche-based. Of course, I did work for
a global company and was the only tech writer for their L.A. location (2500

I actually think that this particular thread has done a great deal of good
for anyone considering tech writing as their career of choice. It's
certainly shown me the diversity of this field.

>Dick Margulis said:

I think there's an aspect of this question that has eluded folks so far
(although perhaps someone touched on it and I just missed it):

An individual tech writer is unlikely to be responsible for all of the
different types of deliverables listed so far, and an individual tech
writer is unlikely to be versed in all of the types of activity listed
so far. Rather, what an individual tech writer _does_ is _any or all_ of
the listed tasks, over the course of a career.

I only mention this because I can imagine someone listening to the
variety of things tech writers do and being discouraged from ever
starting on the path to becoming one. And I can imagine someone else
listening to the variety of things tech writers do and trying to hire
one person to do it all. Both would be making a false assumption.

Tech writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are capable of doing
fairly routine tasks, in a consistent way, year after year--and nothing
more. Others are capable of absorbing and digesting new technologies and
new organizational paradigms about as fast as the brain absorbs
caffeine. And most of us fall somewhere in between, finding it a
surmountable challenge to shift into a new aspect of the field every now
and then but content to remain in a comfort zone most of the time.

The point, then, is that tech writers have, to some extent, a _choice_
among many possible areas in which to specialize as well as a choice to
explore additional areas. That is different from the presumption that we
are all expert in the many diverse kinds of information massage that
fall under the rubric "technical writing."


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Re: What tech writers "do": From: Dick Margulis

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