Value of Technical Communication
Why do we need technical communication?
We all deal with a host of complex systems at home and at work – from computers to cars, consumer products to business procedures – and the need for accurate and accessible documentation to explain them has never been greater.
If people cannot use a product or service, or cannot find out how to solve problems they might come across, they are less likely to use or buy it. This means organisations need to create and manage content such as: Help pages, user guides, manuals, installation instructions, operating and safety procedures, business processes, training materials, chatbots, and even the text embedded into the product itself.
For more information, see this article:
Technical communication is all around you
It includes the instructional material in every day use that we often take for granted. Indeed, some of the most successful technical documentation is that which allows a person to use the subject almost intuitively.
Professional technical communicators are highly skilled people
They are experienced and trained in communicating technical information to their audience. They have:
- The ability to communicate clearly
- A understanding of how the subject can be used safely and efficiently
- Scientific or technical knowledge of the subject
- Skills in the tools used to create and publish the information
- An understanding of how we communicate
Technical communication is the art of exposition
This quotation is from the preface of the first book on technical communication:
“I was advised to abandon the idea of a special course in presentation and, instead use the laboratory reports as the basis for training the students in the art of exposition, going over each student’s report with him “sentence by sentence”.
These suggestions revealed a serious under-estimation of the magnitude of the problems that the executive engineer or scientist has to solve in the course of his professional work when he is presenting technical information or reasoned argument.
These problems simply do not arise in such elementary factual statements as are contained in a student’s laboratory reports.
They are too advanced for the school curriculum.
They are not problems in grammar and syntax.
They are rarely problems in literary style.
They are most often problems in logic and psychology.
Teach a man to think clearly, and he is likely to express himself clearly.
Teach him to think about the person addressed, and he will have learnt the first lesson in the art of conveying information effectively from mind to mind.
But teach him only how to turn out well constructed sentences and he may fail badly in the art of exposition.”
Professor Reginald Kapp, The Presentation of Technical Information (Constable and Co. 1948), p. ix.
Technical communication as a career
Technical communicators who are members of the ISTC have a wide variety of backgrounds, and they work in many fields.
- Graphic novel – The CEO and the technical communicator by Cherryleaf (PDF).
- A day in the life of a technical communicator – A series of articles in Communicator magazine.
- Careers in technical communication
- What skills and training do you need to be a technical communicator?
- Thinking of a career in Technical Communications?, by the ISTC (PDF).
- Technical Writer career factsheet for secondary schools and career fairs , by David Farbey (PDF).
Technical communicators in the workplace: Job titles
Technical communicators can appear under a number of different job titles in the workplace. These include:
- Information Designers
- Publication Managers
- Documentation Managers
- Technical Authors
- Technical Writers
- Information Developers
- Content Developers
- Content Strategists
- Technical Communicators
It can also be part of other roles, such as:
- User Interface Designers
- User Acceptance Testers
- Information Architects
- Quality Managers
- DeskTop Publishers
- Graphic Designers
- Multimedia Designers
- Software Designers
- Webmasters and more!
What technical communication is not
Generally, the term “technical communication” is not seen as the writing of:
- Academic papers
- Instructions for medicines (this is usually known as medical writing)
- Advertisements (this is usually known as copywriting)
Join the ISTC
If you prepare instructional information, be it documents, web pages or technical illustrations, the ISTC is for you.
See: Joining the ISTC