Re: "not technical enough"

Subject: Re: "not technical enough"
From: "Tammy Schroeder" <tschroed -at- wctc -dot- net>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2000 05:49:12 -0500

> For those that I haven't, including one that they said they were extending
> an offer to me but they just changed their minds, I've often gotten the
> feedback that I "wasn't technical enough".
> In the context of technical writing as the job, what the hell does that
> mean?

Although I agree that it's important for technical writers to pick up as
much technical knowledge as they can, especially in fields they hope to
write about, I don't agree that lack of technical knowledge is always a
valid reason for turning down an applicant. I started technical writing as
an English major with no technical background. (I even called my electric
typewriter an "electronic monstrosity.") Over the years, I've worked with
technical writers with varied backgrounds, including people trained to be
elementary teachers, high school teachers, pastors, and journalists. I've
found that those with less technical background can bring fresh eyes to
documentation. Many of us are writing for customers who have very little
technical knowledge, and writers who can see things through the eyes of
these customers can help us avoid leaving out information that our customers

I've found that technical experts often leave out steps or information when
they sketch out procedures. The missing information seems obvious to them,
but it often isn't obvious to customers. New technical writers without much
knowledge of a product or field can often point out this problem and ask the
right questions. They are also more likely to see which parts of a procedure
might give our customers the most trouble.

In my opinion, good writing, research, and interviewing skills are the most
important qualifications for technical writers. After that, I think the most
important characteristic is not being afraid to look stupid by asking
questions. :-)

Tammy Schroeder

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