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Intricate websites called complex and complicated information systems (CCISs) present a huge challenge to technical communicators. CCISs draw from multiple sources for their information, requiring the technical communicator who works with them to think about multiple types of content and delivery.
In a previous article ("Mythbusting 'Just Let the Engineer Write It!'" in the February 2011 Intercom), I explained how technical communicators use their training to achieve results that subject matter experts alone just can't produce. An engineer may use his or her technical training to make sure a mechanical machine runs correctly. Technical communicators use their training with writing and organizing technical information to produce greater efficiency, more safety, and fewer mistakes. The "machine" we use turns complex data into productivity.
Technical writers are often responsible for creating and maintaining multiple documents. In organizations where a formal editorial review is integral to the documentation process, technical writers who own multiple documents might need to address a huge volume of editorial input, often received late in the documentation cycle. What do all of those editorial comments, when taken as a whole, really mean in terms of the overall quality of the document? Lots of red ink might mean either that the document is in bad shape or that the editor loves to explain every comment, however minor, in great detail. On the other hand, a short comment buried on page 63 might turn out to be the single most important editorial value-add for the entire document!
Companies spend a lot of money finding appropriate emotional words to persuade prospective customers to buy their products or services. However, this word choice changes once you become a customer. When it comes to giving customers support and assistance, emotional words nearly always disappear; information suddenly becomes like Mr. Spock in Star Trek 'cool and unemotional.
As a relative newcomer to the professional workplace and the world of technical communication, I’ve experienced firsthand the difficulties of adapting to the role of technical writer. More recently, I’ve been dealing with less-experienced new hires adapting to their roles as technical writers. Because these perspectives are fresh, I feel uniquely qualified to offer the following advice on how to bring novice writers up to speed. Consider this a wish-list of sorts from me, the semi-amateur wordsmith, to you, the experienced editor.
Does this sound familiar? You’re sitting at your desk happily working on some tidy software documentation, testing and typing, ready to build your online help, when a two-inch binder labeled “RFP” lands on your desk filled with a dozen post-it notes.
The four generations in the workplace include the “Traditional Generation,” the “Baby Boomer Generation,” “Generation X,” and “Generation Y.” While definitions of the generations vary, the demographics generally fall out as follows:
While medical and technical communications share similarities in history and work contexts, medical writing has some unique challenges and ethical concerns as it strives to meet the needs of expert and lay audiences, commercial development, and government regulation. The authors provide an overview of their discipline and how medical and technical writers can pool their knowledge toward the betterment and expansion of our technical communication.