Do Technical Authors do anything important?

Chatting at the Royal Institution just before Christmas, someone asked me “But do you do anything important?”. They were slightly embarrassed when they realised what they’d said, but it’s still a valid question to ask.

As it happens, there are a number of projects Cherryleaf is involved in that illustrate Technical Authors can do things that are important.

A recent project involved creating a four page user guide for military equipment that is being used by infantry soldiers in the British and Pakistani armies. If the soldiers don’t attach the equipment correctly, then it might fail in the field and leave them vulnerable. We changed a very wordy guide into something similar to an Ikea installation manual – containing pictures and arrows to explain, simply and clearly, how to install and use the equipment.

An upcoming project is for a charity that provides support for those who are feeling suicidal. They want to make sure their procedures are presented in a form that mean their volunteers can always find out the right action to take, should they ever be unsure of what to do.

Another project involves communicating to staff working in mental health, policies to ensure patient records are kept private and confidential – that they are never sent to or seen by the wrong people.

I could mention medical equipment we’ve documented, and software applications that fulfil important tasks, as well.

Often, the more important the job, the more important it is for people to have clear information to hand, explaining what to do and how to do it.

 

 

One Comment

Scott Abel

Of course, technical communicators do important work! But, the question I want to ask is ‘why we aren’t (as a discipline) leading the charge toward improving communication by selecting the best methods possible, instead of what many of us do, protect the status quo?’

Our unwillingness to move beyond writing and outdated practices and rules is seriously limiting our ability to be influential in many, many situations. And, that limits our ability to earn revenue. So many tech comm pros are unemployed or underemployed. And, that not going to change until we change.

As it turns out, maybe this is not such a problem as it is an opportunity to admit that many people are technical communicators, even those who don’t know that they are, and call themselves something else.

The next few years are going to be very interesting for our field. I can’t wait to see the changes that I believe are coming, like it or not.

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