Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Three Myths

When I hear people talk about not getting respect for being a technical communicator (or not getting paid enough) I wonder if the following three myths are holding them back:
  • Thoroughly described = adequately explained
  • Accurate = useful
  • Grammatically correct and correctly punctuated = well said
These are the "writer" myths, based on the belief that the value we bring is our ability to write. Technical communicators should be "sense makers" and "explainers." We should deliver timely insight that enables the user to act more like an expert.

Easy words to pen; hard ones to live up to.


robert Levy said...

Right you are!

I usually describe myself as a kind of translator. I take what developers say and translate them so that regular people can understand.

But of course, that's not the whole story. As you say, I have to make sense of it and explain it appropriately.

Good post.

Ted Kuster said...

Yes and no. The way I teach my team, your "myths" are the wheels on a car: without them you've got nothing; with them alone, you've still got nothing. "Sense making" and "explaining" is the rest of the car: the hardest, biggest and most interesting part, but without reliable wheels, crippled.

Michael Hughes said...

A couple of rules that make my point in a more assertive way

Viable trumps accurate. E.g., the "solar system" model of the atom is not accurate, but it is easy to understand and teach. If you believe that atoms work that way, you will make accurate predictions about electrical phenomenon and chemical reactions (thus it is a viable model).

Don't let grammar and punctuation get in the way of good communication. A guy dies and goes to heaven. He knocks on the pearly gates. "Who's there," asks St. Peter. "It's I" the soul replies. "Go to hell," says St. Peter, "we have enough editors here already."

But all things being equal, if you can be viable and accurate, that's good. And when well punctuated and grammatically correct result in plain speaking, that's good too.

But among you, me, and the lamppost, there are some who would rather be right and stilted rather than wrong and clear.