TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Defining your role From:Jean Weber <100241 -dot- 2123 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 4 Dec 1996 14:24:21 EST
In my extensive experience (16+ years as writer, editor, team leader and
consultant), a great many managers, programmers, and others have no idea what a
technical writer does or can do. Or they have an idea, but it's very limited and
often *wrong* (often along the lines of a glorified typist). (Other people's
idea of what a technical editor does is usually even more limited and wrong.)
So I always try to give a presentation to a new team or project, to tell them
what I can do and expect to do to add value to the project (including what's in
it for them, as well as what I need from them, and various other issues covered
by other responses to this question; Susan Gallagher covered some particularly
important points). This is by no means a "defend myself" exercise, but an
educational one. DO NOT assume that people know what your job is or should be,
until you have spelled it out for them. Do not even assume they know what the
words "write" and "edit" mean; they may have an entirely different idea of
what's involved. (This isn't a criticism of others; their past experience has
led them to have these limited ideas; how will they learn otherwise if someone
doesn't tell them?)
After you have spelled out your view of your job, be prepared to negotiate a bit
around the edges, especially if the techwriter position is new and/or you have
pointed out things that weren't in your initial job description (if you have
I envy anyone who is asked to do this sort of education, rather than having to
demand the chance to do it.