“I don’t understand your job…” This is not the first time you hear this. Oddly enough, technical writing, which requires concision and clarity, is a profession that is difficult to explain.
The concept of technical writing is hard to comprehend from the start. Seen as a rather complicated job for the layman, writing seems to them more literary than it really is. On its part, the technical notion is absolutely not understood. So, we must learn to be more understandable. We could settle for saying that we write instructions, but it would trigger a derogatory response such as : “Like the ones for microwaves ? The ones that no one ever reads ?”
Indeed, but this job calls for more than mere writing abilities. There is a thinking part, so that the information is easily detectable, and then a layout part, in order, among other things, for the instructions to be readable.
“After all, anyone can do this job.” No, because otherwise there would not be any training for this job, and companies would not be so demanding during recruitment. And no, we do not steal the work of engineers, we cooperate with them so that they don’t waste their time writing.
But how can we explain our job in a clearer way ? That’s simple : we must explain writing in the easiest way possible, by conjuring up fields appreciated by the person we are speaking to. “I write user guides to teach everyone how to use a device.” We are aware that it is very reductive, but it remains effective.
There is no use in wasting time with too many details, like the fact that writing can be done using several complex programming languages, or that it is published in various file formats (web, PDF…) and various languages. Or even the fact that we collaborate with engineers, engineering and design departments and so on. Too many details destroy the information.
In the end, we must remain simple in our speech just as much as in our job.
Written by Julie Daval
Translated by Sarah Deville