What is technical communication, actually?

As a technical communicator, sometimes it can be hard to explain to others what it is you do. In the olden days, it was simpler: you could say you wrote manuals. Then, in more recent times, you could say you wrote online Help and manuals.

Today, there can be uncertainty of what is and isn’t technical communication. It can be unclear if certain deliverables should be created by a technical communicator or by someone else. For example, if content moves from a Help page to an onboarding screen, is it still technical communication? If the text moves into the interface, should the technical communicator create it? Are walkthrough videos a function of training or technical communication?
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A day in the life of a technical communicator – interviews on YouTube

For the ISTC’s YouTube Channel, Ellis Pratt (Cherryleaf) is interviewing a number of technical communicators.

Here is Adrian Warman (IBM Cloudant):

Here is Brian Harris (Red Gate Software):

There’ll be more interviews in the coming weeks.

What it’s like to be a Technical Author

We’re planning to carry out a number of videoed interviews with a range of Technical Authors this week. This is to help promote the profession. We’ll be asking questions such as what their role is inside their companies, and how they became a Technical Author.

The videos will be uploaded to the YouTube Channel for the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, once we’ve edited and published them.

 

How many Technical Authors are in the UK? Here’s the answer

woman reading bookIt’s quite difficult to know how many Technical Authors there are in the United Kingdom. The profession doesn’t have its own Standard Occupational Classification code, so there are no official statistics.

We can estimate the number of Technical Authors in the IT sector. One way to do this is by looking at the total number people working in the IT and the percentage of permanent IT job vacancies that are advertising for a Technical Author.
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Getting started as a freelance Technical Author

One of the most common questions we get asked is for advice on becoming a freelance Technical Author. To help address that question in depth, we written an ebook, which you can purchase via the Cherryleaf website.

This guide answers the key questions people have when considering a freelance career as a Technical Author. It is focused on starting out as a freelance Technical Author in the United Kingdom, and in the IT and medical equipment sectors. However, many of the sections will also be applicable to other countries and other industry sectors.

See Getting started as a freelance Technical Writer ebook

What Technical Authors can learn from pole dancers

Pole dancer Flickr creative commons image by gophotodotcomThe conversation in a meeting yesterday went somewhat “off-topic” when someone commented on the difference between accountants and pole dancers.

Their comparison might apply between Technical Authors and pole dancers, as well: that pole dancers probably do a boring job (i.e twirling around a pole day after day) that’s seen as interesting, whereas Technical Authors (and accountants) do an interesting job that’s often seen as boring.

So what can Technical Authors learn from pole dancers? WikiHow suggests a pole dancer’s success is more to do their ability to gain rapport with the customer and keep their attention, than their dancing skills. This ability to “know” your customer and gain their attention, is perhaps a useful reminder to Technical Authors to do the same with their “performance” (that is, with the deliverables they produce).