Foundations: The Role of the Technical Editor

Are you a writer that works with a technical editor? If so, consider yourself fortunate; many technical writers don't have the luxury of an editor's services. Writers on a project team often edit each other's documents, while writers who work alone may have no choice but to edit their own work. Writing and editing are distinct processes; each requires a different skill set and focus. Continue reading ...

Technical Writing Humor: From the Sidelines on Family Tech Support

About a month ago, my dorky little brother was in town. As usual, he drove to Colorado from New Mexico with a truck full of stuff. Once, after he left, I counted fourteen bicycles in my garage. Once, I ended up with a cat. Always, though, I get computer stuff. This time, though, I didn't get all of it. See, my mother lives maybe five miles away from me, and my brother gave her a computer, too. Continue reading ...

Multiple and Emerging Roles in Technical Communication: Training

Starting sometime in the early 20th century, technical writers were tree killers who wrote printed manuals about how to do things. The advent of the digital age has brought about several big changes in the field: technical writers are now “technical communicators,” proliferation of digital outputs has reduced tree killing, and the traditional technical writing profession has expanded to include many new roles. One of these emerging roles is that of the trainer. Continue reading ...

technical communication recap

TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for November 23, 2012

Around TechWhirl, we’re still enjoying the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, before facing the prospects of yet another frenetic holiday season. Leftover turkey and pumpkin pie is much more appealing to us than risking life and limb with Black Friday shopping. Smart technical communicators long ago learned the virtues of online shopping, which leaves plenty of time for reviewing and rereading the articles on TechWhirl... Continue reading ...

Undead Americans and the Need for Improved Audience Analysis

Undead Americans are a rapidly growing market segment, and are predictably attracting increasing attention from technology companies that have recognized the profit potential from this market segment. Before continuing, I should note that technical communicators must avoid using the dismissive abbreviation “UAs", not to mention the offensive epithet “zombies”, to describe these individuals. Such diminutives lead us to objectify these important members of our audience rather than treating them as individuals, leading to stereotyping rather than the effective creation of empirically derived, audience-focused personas. Continue reading ...

technical communication recap

TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for August 24, 2012

In many places around the US, the new school year is starting or just about to start, and those with kids are either joyful at the prospect of no longer hearing “I’m bored,” and other summertime complaints, or frazzled with all the preparations, from shopping for supplies to confirming school bus routes. Back-to-school season often brings a focus on back-to-basics, which could partially explain the underlying theme of this week’s technical communication feature articles on Tech Writer Today. Continue reading ...

Technical Writers and End Users: How Close Is Too Close?

As technical writers, our main goal often is to write instructions so the end user will understand how to use the product for their specific needs. This sounds easier than it usually is in reality, because the end-user point-of-view is ephemeral and hard to maintain. Many of us are familiar with the argument the longer we spend documenting product, the harder it is to see it from the end-user perspective. On the other side is another argument, if we have no contact with users, it’s infinitely more difficult to write appropriately for them. So this begs the question: How close should a technical writer be to an end user to properly write instructions for them? Continue reading ...

Why You Should Have Attended User Assistance 101 at WritersUA

WritersUA 2012 started with the basics in the pre-conference sessions on Sunday. Even with 17 years of experience in technical communications, I found the four content strategy sessions to be very valuable and informative, as a refresher on the basics of any technical communications project, and as applied to user assistance (UA). The Content Strategy track of UA101 included Writing Procedures by Leah Guren, Editing by Rhonda Bracey, Task Analysis by Leah Guren and SME Interviewing by Nicky Bleiel. Continue reading ...