Core Skills for Technical Communicators

Subject: Core Skills for Technical Communicators
From: Alexander Adrian Szczepaniak <szczeaa -at- ANUBIS -dot- NETWORK -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 1996 10:34:51 "CST

Hi all! Did someone mention something about TC core skills?

I recently compiled the lists below. It doesn't cover everything (believe me; I
can go on and on) but I find it useful explaining what I do to my clients,
friends, the IRS and so on:


Ability to assimilate technical information quickly

Ability to use illustration, writing and other communication modes effectively

High interpersonal skills (dealing with clients and engineers)

Excellent adaptation rate

Familiarity with wide variety of writing approaches (journalism, reports,

Ability to quickly pull the most useful information out of technologies

Understanding of wide variety of worker/user attitudes

Excellent writing skills

Excellent interviewing skills

Instinct for spotting inefficiencies

Instinct for calling in experts and asking appropriate questions

Instinct for problem definition

Ability to manage dysfunctional folks

No fear of technology

Knowledge of roles in publications: proofreaders, illustrators, editors, et al.

Willingness to exploit all media to get communication done correctly

Knowing how to maintain consistency, use user cues, throw obsolete styles and
printing conventions out the window

Knowing that Writing does not equal Technical Writing. English does not equal
communication. Tools do not define skills or ability.

Knowing what level of detail is appropriate for your audience

Good at estimating metrics

and so on

Meeting with Core Team, Engineers, Marketers, Designers, et al. to establish priorities for documentation (i.e., manuals, guides, brochures and so on).

Lining up support resources: design specs, equipment specs, module specs, feature lists, library resources, CDLs, ECNs, marketing material, previous versions of the document being worked on, meeting minutes, and so on.

Interviewing experts: Engineers, Marketers, Designers, Testers, HelpDesk, Trainers, external experts, and so on.

Identifying primary and secondary functions of the system or machine being written about

Identifying the major stages in a Process being written about (examples include TQM, network management, and Re-engineering)

Developing a user or audience profile--who is using the system, machine or process?

Determining factors affecting physical production of document: internal requirements (such as part numbers, file location, printer deadlines), machine requirements (what graphic formats to use, system speed and memory limitation, what program to develop in)

Learning to use the machine, process, or system

Preparing an overview of the program, determining its flexibility and limitations

Brainstorming and developing document design ideas

Determining the logical arrangement of chapters and sections

Deciding indexing methodology (how to structure references and glossaries)

Deciding document conventions (how will it look, phrasing, formatting, assumptions about user knowledge level)

Establishing the interrelationship of document with helpfiles, marketing brochures, training materials

Determining Illustrations and tables needed

Providing time estimates

Obtaining approval for design and conventions of document

Establishing reviewers and reviewers list

Maintaining contacts list

Writing draft of document

Requesting or developing illustrations

Adding and editing illustrations

Verifying information accuracy

Managing internal affairs (incoming mail, departmental questions, telephone calls)

Printing and issuing drafts of manual

Routing drafts to appropriate personnel

Receiving drafts, contacting reviewers

Determining level and scope of revision

Getting approval on revisions

Dealing with equipment breakdowns, malfunctions, human error

Keying changes

Transferring electronic files

and so on, and so on.

This is why it can take three hours to finish something that simply says.

1. Attach Ethernet cable to Transceiver.

2. Attach Transceiver to Port A.

3. Verify that lights are green.

4. Double-click the program Icon.

Thanks for your patience.



Duties List:

-- Alex Szczepaniak

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