Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication

Subject: Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication
From: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 06 Apr 2012 13:48:25 -0700

On 4/6/2012 5:42 AM, Phil wrote:

Seems to me the semantics of the two terms are clear.

If you primarily write stuff that is technical, you're no doubt best described as a 'technical writer'.

The "technical" in "technical writing" does not and was never used to describe the subject matter of the writing. "Technical" describes style of the writing, since what is primarily being conveyed is the technical aspects of the subject matter, rather than primarily marketing or business position of the subject matter. "Technical" in "technical writing" is probably best understood when we recognize that the use of "technical" in this sense is derived from "technique" and not from "technology."

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technical

On the hand, if you communicate with audiences using a variety of different media, 'technical communicator' would seem more accurate (or less misleading, whichever emphasis you prefer).

There is nothing misleading about calling the production of the technical communication in multiple media formats technical writing. Writing is what produces the content of the various media.

I feel the term 'technical writing' is a hangover from the days when the text-based medium was more-or-less the only way to communicate technical information (albeit with the occasional diagram or photo thrown in).
The term 'technical communication' reflects changes in both technology and philosophy — we not only have the means to communicate via different media but also have for some time recognised that other media can be equally effective at getting across technical information to our audience.

"Technical communication" is not a new term, though. Technical writing has always been a form of technical communication. What is new is that so many people are confusing "technical" with "technology" and using a sort of revisionist history to say that technology is the reason for calling the communication of technology, "technical writing."

There also seems to be some confusion that "writing" must invariably be words the audience will read, as opposed to content the audience will see in a slideshow, hear in a speech, or see in a video. If we were to accept the notion that "writing" can never be used to describe other media forms, then we would need to reject the use of "writer" in other disciplines that primarily use media forms that are not read, like speech writing and script writing.

I suspect that the reason most professional bodies in our industry are called societies for 'technical communication' rather than societies for 'technical writing' is to reflect the fact that there is now much wider scope for how we deliver technical information to various industries, and that there is a wider skill-set used and required by practitioners aside from being only or primarily 'wordsmiths'.

Here is a slideshow that describes the work of 6th century B.C. technical writers, http://news.discovery.com/history/ancient-building-greek-temple-do-it-yourself-photos.html.

The written work predates technology and it does not use printed and bound media, but it is still technical writing because it describes the technique for building a structure out of prefabricated building materials. The instructions are technical communication, but the production of the instructions is technical writing and not "technical communicating."

Lauren



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Follow-Ups:

References:
Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Cardimon, Craig
RE: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Cardimon, Craig
RE: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Dan Goldstein
RE: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)
RE: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Cardimon, Craig
RE: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)
Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Peter Neilson
Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Peter Neilson
RE: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Andrew Warren
Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Keith Hood
RE: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Cardimon, Craig
Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Keith Hood
RE: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Cardimon, Craig
Re: Post on Technical Writing vs. Technical Communication: From: Phil

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