Content creation isn’t just for tech writers

Alan Pringle / Opinion4 Comments

We’ve seen an increase in the number of clients who need documentation processes that include input from part-time contributors (particularly engineers). XML-based workflows make it easier to handle this sort of input. Part-time contributors can enter their information into forms or can edit XML documents in an editor that doesn’t require them to know a thing about publishing tools.

UC Irvine seems to have picked up on this trend in collaboration: the school’s extension program just announced a technical writing class for engineers:

This course is designed to provide students with writing skills tailored for the science and engineering fields and to correct common problems, said Jessica Scully, M.J., instructor of the course. It covers the importance of writing for a particular audience, and applies journalism skills to help students effectively create a focused and concise document.

The benefits of such a program go beyond engineering. Improvement in the quality of developers’ writing would likely mean a reduction in the cost of creating a more unified voice in content (which in turn would lead to a smoother localization process). And last but not least, the end users (internal or external) would get better documentation.

This class could also help engineers gain an appreciation of the skill sets technical writers bring to an organization. That being said, it would be unfortunate if a company made the short-sighted mistake of thinking that sending engineers to a class like this would transform them into instant technical communicators.

About the Author

Alan Pringle


Content strategy consulting. Publishing (electronic and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). COO at Scriptorium.

4 Comments on “Content creation isn’t just for tech writers”

  1. Killer trend, Sarah. Thanks for bringing it up to my (and the rest of your readers’) attention.
    This would really help everyone in a win-win sort of way if it continues. My hardest task was in getting the SMEs to give me the data the last time I was in a strictly tech-writer role. We were working towards having an XML description populate daily, at least for the task descriptions for functions within the software.
    This was five years ago before blogs took off of course. 😉 Now I would just say blog it internally among other solutions.
    – C

  2. Having writing courses for engineers has been around for a long time. The impetus now for offering training of communication skills is critical because the Web and adoption of social media mean that more employees (engineers and developers) are communicating directly with customers and potential customers in an ever increasingly linked social network. Technical writing by specialists in writing is dead. Long live technical communication in the social network.

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