What about Technical Writer vs Communicator?

Subject: What about Technical Writer vs Communicator?
From: "Hemstreet, Deborah" <DHemstreet -at- kaydon -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 5 May 2008 14:04:09 -0400

I am reading the posts with interest and have a few comments in general
response to several of the posts (none in particular):

1. When I was working overseas, I fought long and hard to have my job
title changed from writer to "COMMUNICATOR". This at the inspiration of
a well-known colleague.

2. My company was proud to perceive me as a "communicator" and not only
one who wrote - as reflected by the various tasks they began to give me.

3. On my return to the US I was stunned to find myself being returned to
the "writer" title again.

4. With regard to the Technical issue... For years I have considered the
broader meaning of technical, which is: "Characterizing or showing skill
in or specialized knowledge of applied arts and sciences"

Here is where I wish that I had bold fonts... Note KNOWLEDGE of applied

I strongly believe that our profession requires that we be able to
communicate (that is "transmit information").

Thus, our task is to transmit information about a specialized knowledge
of the applied arts and sciences to a specific target audience.

Who that audience is will define HOW we communicate that information.

Is the audience the CEO of a company?
Is the audience a customer trying to decide if they want to buy a
Is the audience a customer who already bought the product, but wants to
use it better?
Is the audience a customer experiencing problems with the product?
Is the customer an auditor reading a company's processes and procedures?
Is the customer a regulatory authority that will decide if a product can
be sold in a certain country?
Is the customer an employee who needs trained in developing the product?
Is the customer making a decision as to whether or not to issue a grant?

ALL of these audiences will need similar information, but that
information will be churned out differently depending on the audience.
In today's world, we need to be able to learn to work with multiple
tools in a variety of ways. We need to be aware of our own limitations.
Some people are better at writing for one audience as opposed to
another. Thus, a marketing writer, or a business writer or an API
Documentation Specialist, etc. Some people love working with graphics -
others don't; some have a special affinity for programming, or HTML, or
XML, others don't.

But ALL of those writers should be good technical communicators! When I
was doing my MA in tech com, I remember dissecting a horribly formatted
religious magazine as one of my tasks. The instructor had issues
(correctly) that while I was right, the formatting was awful - I had
failed to establish that a religious magazine should be written and
designed according to technical writing principles. I believe it should
be - but my case was based on the wrong issue - the issue, for all of
us, returns to just what is technical communication.

The religious journal qualified: Target audience, people with a common
religious preference. Goal? To transmit information on this specialized
art (religion is still in the arts studies in many universities). The
journal owed it to their target audience to provide their information in
a usable, readable format.

We limit ourselves when we think our writing is for only a certain
segment. Perhaps not in fiction or piety, but how many of you have
flipped through a menu at a restaurant looking and looking for a
specific menu item... And finally just asked the waitress, "Do you

Whether its missiles or menus, our job is to communicate information.
Today's world means we may be writing full text, creating graphics,
giving a lecture or filming a movie to communicate the same information.

Will someone die if we get it wrong? If I'm documenting a missile - I'm
sure they will. If I'm documenting the contraindications for a
medication in a drug insert - you bet. If I'm documenting a computer
game? I doubt it...

The fun of our profession is that it overlaps in so many fields. There
is room for all kinds of specialties, writing styles, and skill sets.

So, time to get back to work!

Deborah (Shapiro) Hemstreet


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity! http://www.helpandmanual.com

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit http://lists.techwr-l.com/mailman/options/techwr-l/archive%40web.techwr-l.com

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit
http://www.techwr-l.com/ for more resources and info.


Previous by Author: Re: What computer, what software for a lab?
Next by Author: RE: What about Technical Writer vs Communicator?
Previous by Thread: Re: Word Footnotes SOLUTION!!
Next by Thread: RE: What about Technical Writer vs Communicator?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads