ClickHelp Technical Writing Blog
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What if Technical Writers Disappeared

Posted by
Anastasia in Technical Writing on 7/13/20184 min read

Confused

In this blog, we’ve mentioned a couple of times that a lot of people out there don’t have any idea of what technical writers do. Let’s be honest, documentation teams can be underappreciated and even underpaid.

Of course, the whole community of technical communicators is doing its best to let the world know about their profession, their important role in the production and support processes. But, is the role of technical writing really that important? To figure this out together, we have decided to invite you to play a little ‘what-if’ game with us. What if all technical writers just disappeared one day. Went ‘puff’ without saying a word or leaving a note behind. What would’ve happened?

Rapture

End-Users

Imagine buying a new device, like a coffee machine or a vacuum cleaner. And, it has no user manual. Or, it has an outdated or a poorly written one which is just as bad as none. Of course, most of such devices for home are quite similar and, since you most likely already had some experience with a coffee machine before, you can deduce something. But, as much as these devices are the same purpose-wise, just that much they can be different feature-wise. Because their devs had to come up with unique features to make it in the competitors race. Anyway, you will probably try to contact support services just to find out the line is always busy - half of the world is calling support right about now.

Apocalypse

This already looks pretty bad for the end-users. But this could get even worse - there might be no vacuum cleaners anymore at all.

Production

First comes the question - who is going to write documentation now? Support would be perfect, one might think. They have experience explaining things, and they work with technical documentation a lot.

Firstly, you already know by now that support is going to be overflowing with customer calls/messages. Secondly, although support team members quite often contribute to knowledge bases and report bugs in documentation, they are no writers themselves. The thing is - creating a user manual is not an easy task. You need more than perfect grammar and common sense. There are specific rules you must follow. If a user manual is poorly written, it can cause a lot of damage. We are talking money, property, health… This is why, only professionals should author user manuals.

Also, production could just stop altogether. It is impossible to explain every product-related detail to each new employee. And, it would even be impossible to release new product versions. We’d have spend days and weeks on training every employee!

By the way, take a look at this article describing 11 skills of a good technical writer, being a tech writer can also require a very specific mindset and background.

Back to Where it all Began

In ancient times, people were looking for ways to pass down knowledge to the generations to come. Quite often the elders would teach the young people what they knew. But the necessity to explain everything anew every time was inconvenient. Besides, humans were evolving and their knowledge was constantly growing.

Old Books

So, the need to create a writing system arose. Of course, the ancient books were nothing like modern user manuals, and, you might consider this conclusion a bit far-fetched. But, if you think of it, technical documentation is actually nothing but a way to pass down experience.

Might Simplicity Be the Answer?

What shall we do without tech writers? We can probably try making UIs and devices in general not just user friendly, but take it to the extreme. So that anyone would understand how to use them. But, there is a “but”.

Have you watched the movie called ‘Idiocracy’ (2006)? This is a science fiction comedy film that shows what the future could be like where consumers wouldn’t have to think about anything but consuming. Taking ‘user-friendly’ to the extreme, yes.

For example, there’s a hospital scene where a patient in the ER comes up to a touch screen with childish-like drawings to pick what is aching: a leg, a head, a tummy… The issue is - however simple something looks, on the inside, it can still be a very complicated mechanism with complex software attached. That requires maintenance. Which, in its turn, is impossible without technical documentation . D’oh!

Conclusion

The world without technical writers will be a complete mess that is for sure. Technical writers keep making lives of all people easier day by day. The job they do might seem invisible, but it has a huge positive impact on our world.

Good Luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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