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February 27, 2008

Content creation isn’t just for tech writers

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.