Quick thoughts on useful skills for technical communicators

A question that comes up regularly on Linked in forums is “What are the most important skills for a technical communicator to have?” I used to have a quick answer for that, but I realize it was based on how I learned to technical writing. But now many people in techcomm won’t be using a complex desktop publishing program to write manuals designed for print. They won’t be relying on the work of editors, illustrators, and a production team.

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What I’ve learned in a week (and a bit longer than that)

After the great response to my previous post, I should probably write another post about something else that tech writers are doing wrong. And although there is a part of me that would love to write a purely contrarian article for the hell of it (“Structured writing: Threat or menace?”), the responses to my post were so intelligent and reasonable that I need to focus on positive contributions.

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Tech writers: The bard class of the corporate world

In D&D and related role-playing games (Dungeons and Dragons, and yes, I’m going full geek), the Bard character class gains a ton of skills: They’re a bit fighter, a bit thief (or rogue, if you prefer), and also have a bit of magical ability.

The point is: They’re flexible. They’ll never hit as hard as a fighter, aren’t as sneaky as a thief, and won’t cast as many spells as a wizard. But because they don’t specialize, they’re useful in many situations, and they’re often an asset to adventuring parties.

Lots of skills, very versatile, an asset to their team…just like technical writers!

Ok, I sense your doubt. Let me explain.

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