Last updated 17 June 2007
In this document I’ve had a go at listing the skills I think might be used by a technical writer, to begin to get some idea of the full scope of our profession. Obviously no employer‘s going to expect all these skills—some of them are quite peripheral. My intention’s not to frighten off aspiring technical writers, but rather to begin to create a map of this ill-defined territory—one that can be modified and added to—in the hope that we all get a better understanding of who’s out there and so can maybe better represent our profession.
I left out generic skills like team-building, priority-setting, etc, that I thought didn’t contribute to defining the field of technical writing. I almost certainly also left out other important skills simply because of ignorance or oversightand I could well have misrepresented others for the same reasons. I intended this to be a collaborative document and I’m well aware that this first attempt is limited by my own experience. Please me your input and (polite) suggestions, if you want me to incorporate them here, or feel free to use anything here as part of your own document.
Please don’t assign any importance to the order in which I’ve listed the skills. Once we’re satisfied that this map adequately covers the ground, the next step would probably be to distinguish which areas in this map are the most important—which correspond to skills that should be in every technical writer’s repertoire—and which areas are right out on the boundary—corresponding, perhaps, to specialist areas that have little demand, or perhaps to specialist areas that may be in demand but properly belong in the map of another profession.
One important thing we could do would be to identify, and come up with names for, some of the most common groups of skills, to give both technical writers and employers a language to talk more precisely about skills and requirements.
Thanks to all those who sent email with suggestions and corrections—notably Daryl Colquhoun, Rhonda Bracey, Michelle Hallett and Irene Wong. I’m also very grateful for valuable input from members of the ACT branch of the ASTC, particularly Deborah Cross—though I can’t be sure I captured everyone’s comments accurately (please give me your input again if I missed it!). Hide